If you’re not a morning person, it’s not your fault – but that doesn’t mean you can’t become one.
It’s true that our sleep patterns are ingrained in our genetics, but as scientists learn more about sleep, they’re discovering that there are ways you can hack your brain and actually become a morning person, or at least more of one than your biology leads you to think you are.
“Your circadian rhythm tendencies are genetic and can’t really be changed,” Dr. Ilene M. Rosen, a sleep medicine doctor at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, tells the New York Times.
The good news? Rosen says you can give your internal clock some cues to influence a bit. So, yes, even if you’re genetically prone to want to sleep in later, you can become a morning person. It’s possible!
While some of us aren’t granted a choice in waking up early because of school, work, or other engagements, it can still be difficult to actually enjoy like natural early risers do.
First, know that there are some surprising benefits to becoming a morning person:
Improved mental health: Some research has indicated that those who sleep in later and stay up later tend to feel more anxious, and a recent study showed that participants who shifted their sleep schedules earlier by about two hours reported lower levels of depression and stress compared to those who did not shift their sleep schedules, according to the Sleep Foundation.
Make healthier decisions: How you start your morning can really influence the rest of your day! Waking up earlier may give you more time to take a walk, stretch, workout, or eat a balanced breakfast. These can potentially impact the rest of your day for the better by helping regulate blood sugar, releasing feel-good endorphins, and creating a reliable routine.
Improve cognitive function and productivity: Scientists say that the morning is a great time to work, and you actually might be more productive. This could be a variety of reasons, including because early risers feel less stress and anxiety or that they have a reliable routine – both are a good foundation for being proactive and focusing on your to-do list.
Need some more help enjoying your early mornings? Try these tips and enjoy getting up earlier a little more.
Start the day with something enjoyable
One of the best ways to make mornings more bearable is to put something in your schedule that you’ll enjoy. Whether this is an activity that you can do right out of bed, like stretching or working out, or having the time to savor a good breakfast, you’re giving yourself a little bit of motivation for waking up earlier.
Easing into your day, spending time with a loved one, reading, or journaling are more good ways to spend those first moments of the day. You don’t necessarily need to feel productive – just that you’ve enjoyed it.
Rethink your day
A little shift in perspective can go a long way – especially if early mornings aren’t really your thing and you have to endure them often. Instead of dreading the part where you climb out of bed, start thinking about all of the ways your day changes for the better when you do.
This could mean you get to call a friend after you finish your work for the day, or take an afternoon walk because you aren’t as stressed for time. You might notice that when you wake up early, you seem to find productivity earlier than when you don’t, or you get more done in the day.
Even being able to see the sun rise and feeling grateful for a quiet moment can reframe your relationship with the day.
Get lots of natural light
Speaking of sun, you’ll be surprised how important this is when it comes to waking up early, and there’s science to back it up.
“A brisk walk outside in the morning is a pretty good way to start telling your internal clock that it’s time to do this,” Dr. Rosen says. The morning sun is a big reason why.
Sunlight is a crucial part of the body’s circadian rhythm, so that morning light is important – as is getting plenty of light throughout the day. In the winter, when it’s hard to come by, try a lamp or alarm clock that’s specifically made to mimic sunlight. This can help you wake and fall asleep more easily because it signals to your body when it’s time to start the day and when it’s time to fall asleep. These little cues seem simple, but they play a big role in the body’s routine.
Ease into it
Don’t expect yourself to become a morning person overnight (though getting enough sleep does help!) It takes time to build a routine, just like any other good habit. Repetition is key, so if mornings are still tough for the first few weeks you make the switch, don’t beat yourself up.
You may also want to try waking up a bit earlier – say 15 minutes earlier – each week, if you have time to make a slow conversion. It’ll take a month to wake up a whole hour earlier than you usually do, but the gradual change can be helpful.
Prioritize routine (even on the weekend)
When you’re forced to greet the day pretty early all week long, it can be tempting to pull the blinds and enjoy a few extra hours of shut eye on the weekends, but if you truly want to make mornings easier, it’s important to stick to a consistent routine.
Similarly, you should try to aim to go to bed at about the same time as you do any other day so that your body keeps that same rhythm. This might be the hardest thing to do, but it’s also the best – and after a while it won’t seem so hard, it’ll actually feel pretty natural.
Written by Kara Mason