Even if you’re not a morning person, it’s hard to resist wanting to wake up earlier.
If you find yourself imagining what you could accomplish with a few more hours in the day, you’ve probably considered waking up earlier and maybe even given it a try. But our sleep patterns aren’t as simple as just waking up earlier and getting to our day.
The body’s biological clock is unique to each person and determines circadian rhythm, so it’s not your fault if you’re not a big fan of mornings – it’s just biology. Even so, you might see some big benefits to waking up earlier. It can allow you time to ease into your morning, help you get out the door in a more timely manner, even work in some time for a mindfulness practice.
A few more ways that waking up could benefit your day:
- Getting an early workout in – it might even be more beneficial to your health to exercise in the morning.
- More time to plan out your day.
- Get some sunlight. A short walk or spending some time outdoors in the sunshine can boost your mood and make mornings a little easier.
- Eat breakfast – it actually is the most important meal of the day.
Weigh the benefits
Becoming an early riser takes time and dedication, especially if your body is already programmed to want to sleep in later. If you want to wake up earlier, it’s a good idea to develop a plan that’s tailored to you.
First, consider the reasons you want to wake-up earlier. Sometimes we don’t have a choice. Jobs, classes, and meetings can pull us from a slumber much easier than our own will, but that’s sort of separate from wanting to get an earlier start.
Whatever your reason is, ask yourself a few questions:
- Will I be able to adjust my sleep schedule to get enough rest?
- What can I reasonably get done with the extra amount of time?
- What priorities can I shift to those hours?
- How will those extra hours benefit my day overall?
All of these factors can determine the best way you should go about waking up earlier and maybe even motivate you to keep the habit going. Knowing the benefits will jumpstart your progress.
Listen to your body
As good as waking up earlier sounds in theory, there are times when it’s important to recognize that you need sleep. You can’t pour from an empty cup, so make sure you’re getting enough rest so that you can function at your best.
Waking up earlier always sounds great in theory, but remember to take it slow if you need to.
Sleep experts recommend that adults get between seven and nine hours of sleep each night, so if you find yourself lacking, it’s time to adjust your sleep schedule to make some time for rest. Sleep deficiency can result in a bevy of chronic health problems, from heart disease to depression and increased chances of injury during daily activities.
“Sleep deficiency can interfere with work, school, driving, and social functioning. You might have trouble learning, focusing, and reacting,” the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute explains. “Also, you might find it hard to judge other people's emotions and reactions. Sleep deficiency also can make you feel frustrated, cranky, or worried in social situations.”
A number of sleep or circadian rhythm disorders may also play a role in it being more difficult to wake up at a set time. If that’s the case, it’s best to address your health with a medical professional.
Make the habit stick
Just like any other habit, waking up earlier requires some planning and devotion. Simply setting your alarm and getting out of bed at 6 a.m. when you’re used to waking at 7:30 a.m. is easier said than done. More often than not, the snooze button will win.
Instead, follow these tips to create a healthy routine:
Stay consistent: This is one of the most important things you can do for your sleep hygiene. Staying consistent will help your body acclimate to the routine and make it easier to fall asleep and wake up earlier. Even on the weekends when the temptation to sleep in is greater, plan to wake up at the same time so your body keeps the same rhythm.
Ditch evening screen time: Falling asleep with the television on or scrolling in bed is the norm for many of us, but screen time can really hinder sleep quality. It also stimulates the brain and makes it harder to fall asleep. Both can affect your ability to adapt to an early-morning wake up call. Experts recommend cutting off screens one to two hours before your bedtime. An added bonus is that cutting off technology before bed really helps create a relaxing nightly routine. Do some stretching and grab a book to round it out.
Prioritize exercise: Squeeze in a work out at some point during the day. One of the many benefits of exercise is that it can improve sleep! Whether you prefer a soothing yoga class or something with a little more intensity, getting your body moving throughout the day can help you find deep rest at night.
Move the alarm clock: Hitting snooze is really tempting. Move your alarm across the room so that you’ll have to get up to shut it off. Getting out of bed can be the most difficult part of this new routine, but once you’re up, it’s a little bit easier.
Change gradually: Even if you follow all of the other tips, it’s not enough to change your sleep habits over night. Think of this as a marathon, not a race: Setting a pace will pay off. Try to wake up 15 or 30 minutes closer to your desired time each week. Giving yourself some time to adjust. After all, it’s easier waking up 15 minutes earlier than two hours.
Written by Kara Mason.