How to Train Yourself to Be a Morning Person
How to Train Yourself to Be a Morning Person

Life

How to Train Yourself to Be a Morning Person

5 min read

Essential Takeaways

  • While some of us are more genetically predisposed to be a morning person vs. a night owl, it is possible to train yourself one way or the other.
  • We're counting down 6 science-backed steps to building the habit, so you can take back your morning.

Being a morning person versus a night owl isn’t just a relatable cultural phenomenon—believe it or not, our DNA actually predisposes us one way or the other (1). The good news? Even if you consider yourself unfit for social interaction before your second cup of coffee (thanks for the cranky genes, mom and dad!), research actually tells us that there’s a buffer zone for training yourself to be more of a morning lark.

Now, let's be clear about one thing: If you historically can't relate to being a morning person, then you're not going to become an early bird overnight. Like any good habit, it takes a lot of practice, patience, and figuring out what works best for you. But a great place to start is knowing what science tells us about taking charge of your morning.

Be consistent about your sleep cycle.

The key to a good night’s sleep (and in turn, a smooth wakeup call) isn’t just cozy linens, a noise machine and a dark room—it’s all about your circadian rhythm, which can best be described as your body’s internal clock. Basically, it’s the way your body responds to different cues to regulate sleep and wakefulness. Light is a major cue, which is why we tend to feel sleepy when it’s dark and more alert when the sun streams through our windows.

But research shows that one of the best things you can do to regulate your sleep cycle is to make sure it’s consistent—that is, trying to go to bed at the same time every night and waking up at the same time every morning. (Pro tip: Your wake up time should ideally be 7-8 hours after your sleep time—because this is all kind of irrelevant if you're not getting enough sleep to begin with.)

Some experts recommend allowing natural light into your bedroom, which is another instinctual clue for your body to wake up. Either way, by training your body’s circadian rhythm into habit, with time, you’ll find yourself getting tired at the same time every night, and feeling more alert as soon as your alarm goes off. And yes, you should be doing this on weekends as well.

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On that note, kick your snooze button habit.

We get it—the urge to get just a few more minutes of sleep is too real. But some scientists and experts argue that hitting snooze on your alarm clock can actually make us more exhausted. Why? Because when we drift back to sleep, we might be easing back into the beginning of a new REM cycle, which is our restorative sleep state—and that’s actually the worst time to wake up, since our brain thinks that it was gearing up for a good rest again (2). (Talk about a rude awakening.)

Our advice? Even if the first few days are rough, vow to get out of bed the moment your alarm goes off.

Start slow.

If waking up early is a struggle to begin with, then front-loading your day with a ton of activity probably isn’t going to make things any easier. To the contrary, a lot of the self-described “morning people” we speak to have one thing in common: They very intentionally start slow, so that they can take some time to really ease into their day.

What does that look like? For some, it’s taking their cup of coffee outside and just being alone with their thoughts for a few moments. Some will journal or write a few thoughts down; others use their breastfeeding time as an opportunity for quiet meditation. One even recommends menial chores like emptying the dishwasher—it’s a low-stakes activity that helps wake her mind up while she’s still groggy.

The point? Rather than pressuring yourself to hit the gym as soon as your feet hit the floor, maybe consider easing yourself into a morning routine with small habits that double as quiet opportunities to get back to yourself and start the day on a positive, centered note.

If you can, avoid social media and your inbox for at least a few minutes.

Putting off the realities of your day isn’t always a possibility, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take a little bit of time to just be alone with your thoughts, no matter how busy you are. And besides, checking your phone first thing can kind of put your brain into overdrive, which isn’t necessarily great if you’re trying to kick off your day feeling calm and collected. (Scientists have linked smartphone use with raised cortisol levels, a key marker for stress.)

Move your body.

We probably don’t need to remind you that exercise is a science-backed mood booster. That’s all thanks to a boost in endorphins, which are neurotransmitters in our brains associated with feeling great. And you don’t have to log an intense morning workout reap the benefits, by the way—research tells us that even just going for a walk can suffice (3).

Log a nutritious breakfast.

We’d be doing your mom a disservice not to remind you that it really is the most important meal of the day. And that’s true not just for the physical benefits, but the mental ones as well: "It sets the tone for the rest of your day and can be integral for sound nutrition. It gets your mind and body going in a healthy way," says dietitian and maternal nutrition expert Jessica Diamond, MPH, RDN.

As for what to eat, studies point to a spread rich in protein, whole grains, and healthy fats (4) for lasting energy (read: no 11am energy crash at the office). Diamond recommends overnight oats or a smoothie with fruit, greens, and seeds or nuts.

References:

  1. Se, J., Jm, L., Ar, W., Vt, V. H., J, T., Rn, B., … Mn, W. (2019). Genome-wide association analyses of chronotype in 697, 828 individuals provides insights into circadian rhythms. Yearbook of Paediatric Endocrinology. doi: 10.1530/ey.16.1.1
  2. Missone. (2019, March 8). Is Hitting the Snooze Button Bad for your Health? Retrieved from https://newsroom.clevelandclinic.org/2019/03/08/is-hitting-the-snooze-button-bad-for-your-health/
  3. Harvard Health Publishing. (n.d.). More evidence that exercise can boost mood. Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/more-evidence-that-exercise-can-boost-mood
  4. Harvard Health Publishing. (n.d.). Breakfast and your health. Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/Breakfast_and_your_health

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