If you're someone who feels most productive long after the sun has set, the idea that you could become a morning person might seem impossible. Perhaps you've tried in the past to get your day started early, only to find yourself hitting the snooze button so many times you lost count. Or, if you did make it out of bed, you felt yourself dragging for a few hours before your first cup of coffee finally hit.
If being a morning person is something you aspire to, know that it's important to go about the transition the right way to avoid burnout and a grumpy start to your day. These expert tips will help you become the morning person you've always wanted to be.
1. Skip the traditional alarm.
If the standard "honking horn" doesn't motivate you to jump out of bed, maybe it's time for a different approach. Personal trainer John Fawkes suggests waking up to a playlist of your favorite songs instead. "Keep that playlist on while you go through your typical morning motions, like getting dressed and making coffee," he explains. "Music is such a great mood lifter, and by having a playlist packed with your favorite songs ready to go, you immediately help awaken and uplift [your spirits]. We use playlists strategically throughout the day for so many other things—to help power through work or amp us up during a workout—why not try it right away in the morning, too?"
2. Love your morning routine.
Life coach Laura Gray points out that it's more tempting to hit the snooze button when the first thing you need to do in the morning is something you dread. "Make the first thing you do each morning something that helps ease you into the day while also making you feel good," she suggests. "This could be yoga, exercise, meditation, journaling, reading or listening to a podcast. Do something for yourself and treat it as sacred time to get you in the right headspace for the rest of the day."
3. Quit the caffeine.
Gray suggests this as an effective way to adjust to waking up early. "Without caffeine [in your routine], you will sleep better at night," she asserts. Although a moderate amount of caffeine daily (equal to three, 8-ounce cups of coffee) does not pose a health risk, more can affect the quality of your sleep. "Once you get over the hump of caffeine withdrawals, you will no longer spend the first hour of your morning groggy and cranky [while you wait] for your caffeine to kick in. A great alternative would be to drink decaf coffee or herbal tea instead." Gray says she quit caffeine and it completely transformed her morning routine.
4. Early to bed, early to rise.
David Foley, founder of Unify Cosmos believes there are no shortcuts to becoming a morning person. "You need to make adaptations to your sleep schedule gradually until waking up early feels natural," he advises. Foley suggests going to bed 20 minutes earlier every day until you've reached your ideal morning wake-up time. In just three days, you will have reduced your bedtime by a whole hour. "By doing this incrementally, you aren't shocking your body into an unfamiliar pattern; you're slowly changing an existing one in a way that your body barely notices. Before long, you'll find that you can't help but be an early bird."
5. Reexamine the evening routine.
If you can change your routine in the hours leading up to bedtime, you have a much better chance of disrupting the sleep/wake cycle. "To do this, start by eating dinner a little earlier—no later than 8 p.m.," says Jack Anderson, founder of Sports Fitness Advisor. "Turn your electronics off around this time, too. Try reading for an hour or so before bed instead of staring at your phone." The more habits you can incorporate that slow the body down and help you relax, the better. Things like late-night sugar and too much screen time can make falling asleep challenging, so replace them with journaling or a calming tea to let your body know that it's time to calm everything down. Anderson's best advice is to simply stay consistent. "Your body will never fully adjust if you keep switching things up. As humans, our bodies crave routine."
6. Let there be light.
"Light has a crucial effect on the circadian clock, as it relates to energy and alertness," explains clinical psychologist Sabrina Romanoff. "It [releases] signals from your brain to the rest of your body regarding melatonin production, and in turn sleep regulation." Circadian rhythms are the changes in your body that follow a 24-hour cycle. Most living things respond to light and dark within this cycle, as humans naturally sleep when it’s dark and awake when it’s light. Romanoff suggests getting rid of blackout shades, sleeping near a window and, if it's dark when you get up, turn a light on right away.
7. Cut yourself some slack.
Inevitably, there will be days when the alarm goes off and you hit snooze—sometimes more than a few times. That might mean you miss a workout or other early morning planned activity; other days you might not be feeling your best or after a late night and just need a little extra shut eye. Life happens, so do your best today, and tomorrow, aim to do better. The best way to prevent it from becoming a pattern is to think about why it happened, what you can do differently next time, and then give yourself a pep talk to get back on track. Consider a mantra such as “I’m doing this for me” or “Progress, not perfection” to help you get right back at it.