... and You Can Become an Early Bird!
You’ve heard 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 a great majority of who have never thought of themselves as morning people are simply doing things that disrupt their natural sleep cycle without being aware of the consequences. Using electronics that emit blue light at night can delay the release of melatonin, for example. Some 25% of people are true night owls and do their best work at night, and if that’s you—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.
Before you begin—develop a comfortable sleeping environment
Ensuring that you have good air circulation, low lighting, and the best mattress that is custom 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. Side sleepers find memory foam toppers to be game changers for comfort. If you’ve tried it all and just tend to think most store mattresses uncomfortable, don’t give up! A little research into what the custom options for mattresses are will meet exactly your needs, including size, shape, material, and level of firmness.
The benefits of being an early riser
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.
Wake up earlier without being cranky and miserable
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—but you can. Head to bed early, even on weekends, and get your full night’s sleep, every night
Set yourself up for success: get to sleep
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. It’s incredibly tempting, but hitting the snooze button and then falling back asleep greatly delays your ability to be alert in the morning.
Retrain your sleep brain and change your chronotype
In fact, resisting hitting the snooze button is the first of six methods in the R.I.S.E. U.P. method developed by the sleep researcher Doctor Harvey. 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.
Think through the routines that support your goal
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.
Be patient with your progress
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!