Let’s start with the bad news: Only about 1 in 10 people is a true morning person, according to The Body Clock Guide to Better Health. The good news is, only 2 in 10 fall into the category of night owls, while the rest fall somewhere in between. Better still: Even if you operate best in the wee hours of the night, you can still train yourself to be an early riser. Here’s how.
Morning Person 101: Plan Ahead
“Hitting the snooze button a couple times before getting up is a clear sign of sleep deprivation.”
Waking well-rested starts with getting enough sleep. “Hitting the snooze button a couple times before getting up is a clear sign of sleep deprivation,” says Nathaniel Watson, MD, president-elect of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. “If you are getting enough sleep, you should be able to wake up on time without a morning alarm.” Sounds easier said than done? First, follow these tips for catching the zzz’s you need to wake refreshed.
1. Practice good sleep hygiene.
“Keeping a consistent sleep schedule is one of the best ways to ensure you’re getting quality, restful sleep,” says Dr. Watson. If you need to shift your schedule earlier, start moving your bedtime forward by just 15 minutes at a time. Adjustments more drastic than that will keep you rebounding between early and late bedtimes rather than creating lasting change.
2. Take your time.
Balancing your own well-being against other personal and professional responsibilities is tough. Often, finding the right work-life equilibrium starts with saying “No,” and so does getting enough sleep. Pare down your evening commitments so that you’ve got an hour completely blocked off to wind down before bed.
3. Implement a routine.
Establishing a schedule can help clue our bodies in to what’s to come. Maintaining a regular evening routine will help chill you out and let your mind know that it’s nearly time to fall asleep. For example, that could mean drinking a cup of (decaffeinated) tea and reading for 20 minutes each evening before bed.
4. Nap cautiously.
If you have a sleep debt to repay, it’s better to nap during the day than to mess up your nightly sleep schedule. That said, you don’t want a daytime snooze to keep you up at night. (For more napping tips head here!)
5. Eat (and drink) smart.
Some experts caution against going to bed too full or too hungry, as the discomfort may keep you awake. The same goes for drinking: Sipping too much before bed can cause mid-slumber trips to the bathroom, and caffeine and alcohol in particular have been shown to disrupt sleep.
6. Power down.
Any kind of light can shift circadian rhythms, making it harder to sleep at night. And if you’re constantly plugged in, you’re even less likely to hit the hay right away. Research has shown that the blue light emitted by electronics like laptops and cell phones disturbs sleep even more than natural light. Turn off those electronic screens at least an hour before bed to make dozing easier.
7. Prep before bed.
Wondering what to do with that electronic-free hour? Use the time to get together anything you’ll need in the a.m. — like a healthy lunch, make-ahead breakfast or a gym bag. Shortening your morning to-do list just might make it easier to roll out of bed.
8. Get cozy.
Temperature, noise, light and comfort can all impact your ability to sleep well. A cool, quiet room (around 65 degrees) has been shown to be an effective sleep environment. And if your mattress leaves you achy, you’ve got a good excuse to upgrade — your health may depend on it! The National Sleep Foundation offers even more recommendations for tweaking all of these for better sleep.
The Morning Person’s Guide to Waking Up with Ease
You’ve set yourself up for success and slept like a boss. But the battle isn’t won just yet. Here’s how to skip the snooze button and hop out of bed when that alarm starts buzzing.
9. Set your motive.
As with any change, it’s important to have a tangible reason for waking up early. Come up with a meaningful goal you’ll be able to achieve by starting the day earlier, whether that’s being able to fit in a morning sweat session or having some extra time to cook a healthy breakfast.
“When you wake spontaneously, you’re likely in a light sleep stage.”
10. Play a mind game.
The alarm goes off, and the immediate temptation is to hit snooze. Go ahead, do it — but then stay out of bed for those next nine minutes. The idea of the so-called “inverted snooze” is to ease the pain of waking up by telling yourself you only have to stick it out for nine minutes. Move around, stretch, start brewing coffee — anything to keep yourself awake. By the time the alarm goes off again you should be awake and alert enough to start your day rather than still grumpy in bed and (likely) hitting snooze again.
11. Bite the bullet.
If you naturally wake within minutes of your alarm, it can be tempting to close your eyes and relish in a few more minutes of rest. But you’re better off just getting out of bed. When you wake spontaneously, you’re likely in a light sleep stage, explains Dr. Watson. Going back to sleep could send you into a deeper sleep stage, making it harder to wake up and start your day.
12. Make moves.
Finding the right alarm and where to put it can have a big impact on whether you wake in the morning. Try experimenting with the sound, timing and location of your alarm clock to help yourself get up when you need to. For example, some alarms wake you gradually with pleasant sounds to make the transition into daytime less jarring and more relaxed.
13. Seize the day.
Waking up with a groan and thinking about all the things you don’t want to do is a terrible way to motivate yourself to get out of bed. Instead, think ahead to the best things you’ll do all day to fuel your desire to get up and at ‘em.
14. Try an app.
There are several apps that promise to get you out of bed in the a.m. For example, Wake n Shake makes you shake your phone in order to turn off the app, while Better Me shares your failure to your Facebook every time you hit snooze. There are also apps, like Sleep Cycle, that use motion sensors to monitor your movement and determine the best time to wake you within a preset window.
15. Brighten up.
If you need to draw shades at night to make your room dark or — shudder — you need to wake before it’s light out, you can’t always rely on the sun to wake you. Fortunately, there are gradual light-up alarm clocks that promise to lull you out of sleep less painfully than your standard alarm.
How to Power Through the Morning
You’ve made it! You’re out of bed. Now, here’s how to get out the door without starting the day in grouch mode.
“Early in the a.m. your willpower stores are at their highest.”
16. Pare down to-dos.
You’ve already pre-packed your lunch or gym bag, giving you one less thing to worry about before coffee. Look for other ways to streamline your pre-work routine (including taking advantage of your coffee maker’s automatic timer!) so you can spend less time rushing through those early hours, and start enjoying them instead.
17. Amp up your productivity.
If you’re a regular snoozer, cutting out that extra nine minutes (or nine minutes times four or five) earns you bonus time each morning. Many creatives swear that early morning is the best time to write or think deeply and creatively about projects. Try taking a page from their book and dedicate even just a few minutes first thing in the a.m. to a project of your choice. You may be surprised at how rewarding it feels to start the day with a few tasks already checked off.
18. Eat a healthy breakfast.
To be your best self, it’s helpful to eat a good breakfast (trust us, morning meetings are better when you’re not hangry). Whole grain carbs plus protein give you a quick hit of energy and keep you going all morning. For an all-in-one solution that you can prep ahead, try these homemade protein bars or overnight oats.
19. Exercise in the morning.
Early in the a.m., your willpower stores are at their highest. By the evening, we get too busy and find too many excuses not to exercise. Plus, morning workouts will give you an extra shot of energy to carry you through the day ahead. Consider it your secret weapon as a newly initiated morning person.
Originally published September 2014. Updated October 2017.