How much do you enjoy early mornings and sunrise? Do you need just one alarm to wake up, roll out of bed and start the day? Does the smell of freshly toasted bread or a newly brewed cup of coffee get your heart racing with delight? If you said yes to all that then you are a morning person.
You're the type of person who sees each morning as a fresh start and is when you’re feeling most awake and productive.. Early risers, also known as morning larks, who do not dread their alarm clocks and are ready to kick goals.
If you can’t relate to any of that, and shudder at the thought of being an early bird then you might be a night owl, someone who struggles in the morning but is the most alert during the evening.
With the world still being pretty stuck to the 9-5 lifestyle, you might find yourself struggling, or your boss not being your best friend.
Compared to early risers, night owls are more mentally active, able to finish lots of tasks and are more creative and productive all during the latter hours of the day.
Is being a night owl a bad thing?
Turns out, there are a lot of reasons why being a night owl isn't that good for us. Besides the exhaustion that comes with staying up way past our bedtimes, people who stay up late suffer disadvantages when compared to morning people.
Starting with the obvious, night owls are more prone to certain diseases and health problems. Likely as a result of not getting enough sleep, there is a 10% risk increase of general illness compared to early risers.
Diabetes rates are 30% higher for people who prefer night time when compared to people who love mornings. The trend continues with other health problems like gastrointestinal and respiratory ailments.
Sadly, that statistic doesn't refer only to physical ailments. Research shows that there are links between having a later bedtime and onset of certain mental health problems. Namely, that the risks of developing such problems doubles for later sleepers.
What makes hating waking up early so problematic?
It turns out it has a lot to do with our internal clocks, also known as chronotype or the circadian rhythm. Experts believe that we all have a sleep cycle that is genetically set and this dictates our hours of sleep and when we get them.
Because of technological advances, we have the ability to be active 24/7, but most aspects of life, like work and school, remain in that 9-5 lifestyle. When your productivity thrives at night, your working or schooling hours become affected.
It’s common for uni students in particular to develop night owl habits when they have a lack of structure with their classes, leaving them staying up all night to study, watch Netflix or even go out partying. This can stick around for a long time, leading to bad habits later in life with full time work or a more structured schedule.
Since their sleep schedules contrast that of normal working or school hours, night owls often get less sleep. They have less time to achieve REM or rapid-eye movement sleep compared to people with earlier bedtimes.
Getting minimal sleep is obviously better than nothing but it’s hard to be productive in the morning when you’re lacking sleep, let alone change your sleep schedule. However, if our circadian rhythms are determined by genetics, is such a change possible?
Turns out, sleep patterns, like most things in life, are prone to change. If you want to excel at your day job, making the switch is necessary, or at least make some adjustments so you can be a functioning person in the morning. But how can we do that?
Luckily, there are ways to change sleep habits.
Embrace the morning
Learning to love mornings is easier said than done for most night owls. Maybe aiming for love is too ambitious, so try to like mornings, or just not hate them.
Early mornings can be daunting for most late sleepers, so the challenge in trying to be a morning person is to learn how to get over that hump.
So how to go about liking mornings?
At first, you need a reason or some kind of motivation to wake up earlier. You can’t always rely on motivation though, so it needs to become habit; something you stick to and do every day
If work or school aren't compelling reasons, then what is?
Finding a hobby or an enjoyable task that you can do before going to work can help you feel different about hitting snooze on your alarm. Having something to wake up to besides the usual routine of work is a good motivation.
Scheduling most activities earlier in your day also helps in tricking the body to wake up earlier. Ticking off tasks on your checklists can cause the brain to release serotonin, a chemical that is associated with positive feelings. Even something simple like a delicious breakfast or watching your favourite show can be reasons to get up earlier and enjoy your morning,
While genetics play a factor, the time of day that you are active comes down to personal preference. By stacking all the things you look forward to early in the day, you're more likely to relish waking earlier. And if you’re hell bent on staying up all night, there’s not much we can do to convince you otherwise.
Changing the time you hit your snooze button doesn't have to happen overnight. You can start by setting your alarm 15 minutes earlier, and when that feels good, increase it to 30 minutes, Small steps are a great way to get progress. Besides, maybe all you need is that extra 15-30 minutes in the morning to really see a difference in your sleep, mood and energy levels.
Aim for a good night's sleep
To wake up earlier, you also need to go to sleep earlier, which can be even harder than getting up.
One way to help work towards an earlier bedtime is creating a bedroom environment that will make you more susceptible to sleep.
You can start off by allowing more natural light in. While heavier curtains may make you sleep easier, they may prevent sunlight from filtering into your bedroom. If you’re not too bothered by a little light when sleeping, keeping your curtains ajar can allow the morning sun to help wake you.
Aside from Vitamin D, exposure to sunlight is known to reset the body's circadian rhythm, allowing late sleepers to adopt a different sleep schedule than they’re used to.
By allowing bright lights to enter your bedroom, you allow yourself the chance to adapt to a sleep pattern more in tune with daytime.
Another way to sleep earlier is to refrain from taking daytime naps. No matter how tired you get, fighting the urge to nap will help you hit the sack and fall asleep easier later on.
Also, limiting your coffee intake later in the day helps in making your body relaxed and ready for bedtime. Maintaining regular sleeping time also helps in training your body to sleep and rise earlier than you're used to.
Create morning habits
You managed to wake up early, now what?
Morning people are believed to be more proactive compared to night owls and there's a reason for that. Having a body clock in rhythm with a standard schedule is a definite plus.
One of the ways you can convince yourself to become an early riser is by curating a morning routine that you can stick to.
You might decide to fill that time with cooking breakfast or fitting in a workout. Reading news articles or listening to the news to keep yourself updated on current events is also a good way to start the day.
Exercising in the morning also helps you sleep easier and earlier at night as your muscles are relaxed and loosen first thing in the morning. The early workouts can also help you feel more energetic throughout the day.
Not all parts of your routine need to be beneficial. Taking the time to admire the sunrise or generally having a slow morning are still habits, as is enjoying a good cup of coffee while taking in the fresh morning air.
To make this work, you need to ensure that one of these habits can only be experienced during the daytime, otherwise you may be less inclined.
From good nights to good mornings
At the end of the day, if you’re seeing issues with your current routine and feel like making a change, you need to be dedicated. The lifestyle of waking up earlier sure has its advantages, so making a switch from being a night owl is definitely worth the effort.
Remember your “why”. Do you want to perform better at work? Are you concerned about your sleep health? Your “why” can be your motivator when you feel like dropping off from the challenge.
By taking on some of the advice, you may slowly shift into being a morning person. Good luck!