You Can Teach Yourself To Be An Early Bird!
There is now some evidence that being an “early bird” or a “night owl” may actually be genetic, meaning some people have a naturally delayed circadian rhythm. But many more people do things that disrupt their natural sleep cycle without being aware of the consequences, like using electronics that emit blue light and delay the release of melatonin. For the 25% of people who are night owls and do their best work at night, keep doing you! But for the rest of us, there are real benefits to becoming early risers and there are actionable steps you can take to wake up earlier without being cranky and miserable.
We all know that getting 7-9 hours of sleep each night is vital for maintaining a healthy functioning immune system, and also improves our mood and overall mental health. Studies show that morning people may get up earlier, but they also go to sleep at earlier times as well, meaning they are more likely to get the full recommended 7-9 hours than their night owl peers, who go to bed later and typically have to wake up for school or work before they are able to achieve the recommended amount of sleep. The night owls can’t catch a break!
Before learning how to become an early riser, make sure you have a comfortable sleep environment that is not negatively impacting your ability to fall asleep and maintain your natural sleep cycle. Ensuring that you have good air circulation, low lighting, and a good mattress that is suited to your body type and works for your preferred sleeping position should be first on your checklist. For example, if you tend to sleep on your back, you probably want a firmer mattress than someone who sleeps laying on their side. If you find most store mattresses uncomfortable, consider buying a custom mattress that can be made exactly to your preferences, including size, shape, material, and level of firmness.
If your room is great and your bed is comfortable, why not sleep in late and enjoy it? Well, perhaps because society is set up with early risers in mind. Studies have found that early birds are less likely to procrastinate, and are on average healthier and happier and more able to solve problems than their late night counterparts. Simply put, getting up earlier gives you more time to eat, workout, watch the sunrise, and be productive at the time of day when your brain naturally tends to be at its most alert.
Techniques To Make Yourself An Early Riser
Half of the battle to become an early riser is won or lost the day before. If you drank caffeine later in the day, took a long nap, stayed up late looking at your computer or cell phone screen, ate a heavy meal close to bedtime, or drank alcohol late at night, these are all contributing factors that can be significantly detrimental to your sleep. And if you’ve had a bad night of restlessness and insomnia, you are far more likely to hit the snooze button the following morning. Which leads to our first actionable tip:
DO NOT HIT SNOOZE! It’s incredibly tempting, but hitting the snooze button and then falling back asleep greatly delays your ability to be alert in the morning. Follow the rules of the R.I.S.E. U.P. method developed by the sleep researcher Doctor Harvey instead. Refrain from hitting snooze, Increase your activity in the first hour after waking, Shower/wash your face, Expose yourself to sunlight, play Upbeat music, and Phone a friend to force yourself to be coherent in the morning! This is not an all or nothing method, either. If you’re not comfortable doing one or more activities on the list, move on to the next one, or mix it up by picking a few you want to try each morning.
Besides the R.I.S.E. U.P. method, there are some basic changes you can make to your routine that will help you wake up earlier. Store and charge your electronics in a separate room so you are not tempted to use them late at night, and invest in an alarm clock so you don’t become dependent on your phone. Placing that alarm clock a few feet away from your bed also forces you to get up to turn it off, at which point your body is well on its way to becoming fully alert! You should also develop a consistent routine, like waking up around the same time every day, including weekends.
It’s important to realize that changing your chronotype is not an easy process and it won’t happen after one or two days. Instead of trying to force your body to go from waking up at 11 AM to waking up at 6 AM, instead ease into the process by setting your alarm 15 minutes earlier each day. You should also make sure that you are only laying in bed when you intend to go to sleep, and doing your work in a separate area to help your brain recognize that bed = sleep time. Follow these tips, and pretty soon you may be wide awake and going about your day at 5 AM!