If you've battled with the warm comfort of your bed despite your best intentions to get an early start to your daily grind, you might be wondering what planet morning people actually come from. While getting enough sleep is vital to performing well at work, in spin class, and life in general, there are clear advantages to not hitting the snooze button.
While getting up on time when you need to is rarely an issue in adulthood, feeling energized and refreshed, ready to take on the day, is not as easy for many. To learn how to become the morning person you wish you could be, we spoke to Andreas Michaelides, the chief of psychology with Noom, and Michele Henry, an entrepreneur, CEO, and founder of Face Foundrié.
Meet the Expert
The Benefits of Being a Morning Person
Becoming a morning person might actually make you happier, healthier, and more productive. Research published in the Journal of Sleep Medicine shows that people who switched to becoming earlier risers reported being happier and less stressed. The same study participants also reported being more productive, a trend observed in other research on morning people.
Past research has indicated that early risers are more productive and energized at work compared with those who hit their stride later in the day. However, the most critical factor is consistency rather than timing, according to Michaelides.
"Consistency, not timing, is where people will see the most benefit in their lives. A stable sleep schedule can help improve and stabilize energy levels, leading to fewer lulls throughout the day, fewer cravings for high-calorie foods, a boost to your immune system, and reduced irritability," explains Michaelides.
So, while you're working on shifting to an earlier wake-up schedule, keep in mind that consistency and getting the correct amount of sleep that helps you function optimally are top priorities. "If you are looking to set a goal around consistency, for adults, regularly getting seven hours of sleep is a good place to start," recommends Michaelides.
Tips for Becoming a Morning Person
If you've previously tried to stop hitting the snooze button too many times, you might realize that becoming a morning person is easier said than done. Sometimes the excitement of a new goal creates a frenzy of motivation that spurs drastic change. But often this initial motivation wears off. The key is not trying to change too much at once, but instead making small, manageable shifts to your routine that are easier to maintain long-term. Here are some tips on how to start.
Improve Your Sleep Hygiene
Several factors can influence your sleep quality and quantity, including age, sex, and genetics. However, incorporating a few healthy habits to create a solid bedtime routine goes a long way toward improving sleep quality and waking up feeling rested.
"One of the most effective ways to wake up feeling rested in the morning is actually to get a good night’s sleep. While simple in theory, for a lot of people, getting a good night’s rest isn’t as easy as hopping into bed and turning off the lights at a certain time," says Michaelides.
Strive for consistency with your routine. "Our brains like patterns, so even putting on your pajamas and brushing your teeth at the same time each night can start to signal to your brain that it’s time to start preparing for sleep," says Michaelides.
Henry uses a solid bedtime routine and consistency to help her wind down for the night. "Winding down at night for me always starts early. I typically eat dinner at 5:00 p.m. and will swim or take a bath before bed. I try not to look at my phone after 8:00 p.m., and I typically am asleep by 9:30 p.m. The alarm is always set for the same time every day, including the weekends: 5:55 a.m.," she says.
Other ways of improving your sleep hygiene, according to Michaelides, include moderating your caffeine intake, especially in the afternoon, and skipping any late-day naps until you find a steady rhythm of falling asleep at bedtime for several weeks.
"In the evenings, try unplugging from electronics 30 minutes to an hour before heading to bed, dimming the lights, or avoiding bright lights in the evening (they can hinder your body’s natural production of melatonin), and only getting into bed once you’re really ready to sleep," adds Michaelides.
If you have trouble falling asleep, Michaelides recommends getting out of bed after 20 minutes and participating in a calming activity that doesn't involve screens, such as relaxing yoga, gentle stretching, or reading. "You don’t want to give your brain a reason to wake up, so avoid activities that will stimulate it, such as eating," he adds.
Set Manageable Goals
With any goal, it’s important to have a clear vision of where you’d like to be long-term and why this goal is important to you. "Ask yourself what it would look like to be more consistent in your sleep schedule and how that would benefit your life. At Noom, we ask our users to come up with a 'why' statement around the change they’d like to make," explains Michaelides. Here are more of his tips for goal-setting:
- Find your why: To help you better visualize your “why,” you can even write it down or find another way to make it more tangible. With any attempt to change behavior, it’s natural for motivation to wane at some point, so having a clear reason for wanting to stick with it will help you stay the course when you’re tempted to press that snooze button or stay up and binge just one more episode.
- Make small changes: Once you’ve honed in on your long-term vision, it can be tempting to try to change everything all at once, but changing too much, too quickly, can lead to discouragement and eventually burnout before trying to make any change at all. This is especially true when it comes to resetting your biological clock, a change that will happen on your body’s own time. Instead, take your larger goal and break it down into smaller, more manageable ones.
- Visualize success and break it down: For example, if you eventually visualize yourself waking up early, going for a morning run, showering, and making yourself a smoothie before work, start by incorporating one activity at a time every few weeks instead of trying to fit everything in on day one.
- Keep your goal front of mind: Henry uses visualization to help her stick to her goals: "I am a big manifester and am constantly thinking about my goals for the day, the week, and year. This starts when I wake up, and one rule of thumb is always practicing gratitude before your feet hit the floor," she says.
Make waking up easier by starting to plan the night before. "When it comes to new habits, the less resistance or obstacles you have to overcome, the easier it will be to stick with your goals. For example, if you know you’d like to work out the next morning, lay out your workout clothes the night before so all you have to do is wake up and get moving," suggests Michaelides.
Henry recommends planning a refreshing sip for when you wake up. Her go-to? "Beet juice! I swear, beet juice is magic and it gives me a natural energy boost in the mornings. If you don’t like the taste of beets, add some OJ to lighten the flavor,” she says.
Don't Give Up
Ditching all-or-nothing thinking and focusing on your long-term goals is vital for creating and sticking to new routines like an early wake-up. "The truth is, behavior change is rarely a linear journey, and it may take some time before the habits stick. If you slip up, view it with curiosity instead of viewing it as a failure," says Michaelides.
Use any backsliding to take an assessment of why you broke consistency and what might be standing in your way to becoming a morning person. "Use this new information to revisit and reset your efforts. Also, pay special attention to turning small misses into big problems. Getting to bed an hour later than planned and showing yourself some grace will still be more effective than getting to bed an hour later and being so upset with yourself that it takes another three hours to fall asleep," suggests Michaelides.
The Final Takeaway
Becoming a morning person doesn't happen overnight; it can take several nights. To reap the benefits of increased productivity, better moods, and a potentially healthier lifestyle, consistency, planning, and evaluation are essential. Work on improving your sleep hygiene by developing routines that meet you where you are. Build on them slowly while allowing yourself some slip-ups.
Facer-Childs ER, Middleton B, Skene DJ, Bagshaw AP. Resetting the late timing of “night owls” has a positive impact on mental health and performance. Sleep Med. 2019;60:236-247.
Randler C. Proactive people are morning people1: proactivity and morningness. Journal of Applied Social Psychology. 2009;39(12):2787-2797.