The old trope of the ‘night owl’ versus the ‘lark’ is a persistent one, partly because it is rooted in a degree of truth. After all, we all have different circadian rhythms, which are our natural sleep and wake cycles that largely determine the times of day when we feel most awake and alert.
For ‘night owls’ – that is, those of us who find ourselves naturally staying up late and sleeping in – struggling to get enough sleep and shake off that morning grogginess so that we can navigate a world seemingly designed for ‘larks’ can be more than a little frustrating.
These categories are referred to as ‘chronotypes’, and are partly genetically determined. However, there is also an extent to which you can influence your chronotype through deliberate actions, so all is not necessarily lost for ‘night owls’!
In fact, here are no fewer than seven tips for how you can transform yourself into a morning person within just two weeks or so.
Set a consistent wakeup time
One of the biggest mistakes that ‘night owls’ make when trying to become a morning person, is obsessing straight away about going to bed at a certain time each night. As a result, they often become stressed about their inability to doze off then, and give up attempting.
So instead, simply focus at first on always waking up, exercising and eating at the same time each morning. This will allow your body to anticipate and settle into the new routine.
And as you will probably be quite tired those first few nights as a result, this will help you to naturally go to sleep at a good time each night, instead of simply forcing yourself to go to bed when you aren’t actually sleepy.
Start moving as soon as you wake up
We dedicate so much time and effort to making our bedrooms places of relaxation, that they can sometimes be a little too good at keeping us buried between the pillows when the time does come for us to get up.
So make sure that when your alarm sounds, you do get up, and quickly leave your bedroom entirely. Place your alarm at the other side of the room near the door, so that you’re forced to walk there to turn it off... instead of clambering back into bed with your smartphone to scroll through your Twitter feed.
Get some exercise in the morning
With the writer and editor Judy Koutsky having observed for Prevention that insisting on working out every single morning for a month enabled her to lose four pounds, there’s certainly informal evidence of the benefits of morning exercise.
Indeed, researchers at Appalachian State University have also backed this link, describing 7am as “probably the best time to exercise” for those wishing to improve the quality of their sleep. And of course, scheduling some fitness pursuits gives you something to look forward to on a morning, too.
Make time for genuinely enjoyable morning activities
Building on the point we made above about having something to look forward to on a morning, that thing doesn’t always have to be exercise. Perhaps it could be something as simple as a peaceful 30 minutes to yourself in the kitchen with your favourite coffee, or as ambitious as using that time to start a side business you’ve ‘never got round to’?
Even scheduling such exciting activities for later in the day can help to motivate you to hop out of bed, as it’ll add colour to what might otherwise be dull weeks. In a nutshell... don’t wait until Fridays to indulge in activities you enjoy.
Banish the negativity
Let’s face it; you probably want an excuse to not be so glued to Twitter or Facebook and all of the doom and gloom of recent news headlines. So why not make your quest to turn yourself into a morning person that excuse?
Even during terrible and stressful times of life, we have things to be thankful for. But it’s actually an evolutionary thing for our brains to constantly keep a lookout for threats to ensure our safety. Combine this with present-day 24-hour news culture, and your brain may easily become loaded with negative thoughts that interfere with your ability to relax and get to bed earlier.
We’re not suggesting that you never read the news, but instead, try to set yourself a limited amount of time in which to do it. Then, turn your attentions to something else – preferably something that will fill you with much more cheer.
Up your morning protein intake, and lower your carbs
It’s so easy to reach for high-carbohydrate foods on a morning, such as cereal bars. However, given that carbs promote sleep, they might not help you to feel alert and raring to go on a morning.
Instead, have egg or yoghurt for breakfast, as their protein content will facilitate wakefulness. Protein naturally boosts your levels of dopamine, which – as research has demonstrated – regulates motivation, helping individuals to initiate and persevere. That’s certainly the kind of thing a ‘non-morning person’ could do with at 7am.
Remove all screens from the bedroom
OK, so this may not be entirely practicable given that some of us use our smartphones as our alarm, and it might seem a bit drastic to take your TV out of the bedroom as well.
The point we’re making with this one, though, is to at least minimise the number of screens in your bedroom, and the scope to end up looking at them immediately before going to sleep. After all, many of us look at screens all day, and the way certain cells in the eye process ambient light from the likes of computers and tablets can interfere with our internal clocks.
So, try to limit the contact you have with screens at least an hour before going to bed, and swap those late-night tablet browsing sessions for other activities like reading print books, listening to music or enjoying a warm bath.
None of these changes need to be drastic ones for most of us. In any case, any discomfort you do experience during the transition is likely to be more than repaid in the form of better-quality sleep and the ability to get up and feel so much more alert and motivated on your mornings.