Are you a night owl? Turn into a morning lark with these top tips

Illustration of a morning lark in the sun and a night owl at night

Do you pop out of bed bright and early, ready to take on the world? Or do you find yourself making friends with the snooze button after staying up all night?

How to become a morning person

Like most creatures on Earth, humans come equipped with a circadian clock, a roughly 24-hour internal timer that keeps our sleep patterns in sync with our planet, at least until genetics, age and our personal habits get in the way. Even though the average adult needs eight hours of sleep per night, there are so-called “shortsleepers” who need far less, and morning people, who, research shows, often come from families of other morning people. Then there’s the rest of us, who rely on alarm clocks.

For those who fantasise about greeting the dawn with a smile, there is hope. With a little focus, discipline and patience, you have the ability to reset your internal clock. But be warned, it’s not easy. Changing your sleep pattern requires commitment, and it means changing old habits. No more TV-watching marathons late into the night.

Changing your internal sleep clock requires inducing a sort of jet lag without leaving your time zone, and sticking it out until your body clock resets itself. And, most importantly, not resetting it again. Here’s how to become more of a morning person.

1. Set a goal for your wake-up time.

2. Move your current wake-up time by 20 minutes each day. For example, if you regularly rise at 8am, but really want to get moving at 6am, set the alarm for 7.40am on Monday. On Tuesday, set it for 7.20am, and so on until you are setting your alarm for 6am.

3. Go to bed when you are tired. Avoid extra light exposure from computers or TV screens as you near your bedtime.

4. When your alarm goes off in the morning, don’t linger in bed. Hit yourself with light – open your shades, turn on the lamp.

5. Go to bed a little earlier the next night. In theory, you should get sleepy about 20 minutes earlier each night. A word of warning: While this method works for many, it doesn’t work for all. Very early risers and long-time night owls will find it hard to make a permanent change.

How to wake up

If you’re struggling to wake up in the morning, sleep experts suggest a few simple ways to train your body.

Buy a louder alarm

It may sound silly, but if you regularly sleep through your alarm, you may need a different alarm. If you use your phone alarm, change up the ring tone and set the volume on high.

Sunlight

One of the most powerful cues to wake up the brain is sunlight. Leaving your blinds open so the sun shines in will help you wake up sooner if you regularly sleep late into the day.

Eat breakfast

Eating breakfast every day will train your body to expect it and help get you in sync with the morning. If you’ve flown across time zones, you’ll notice that airlines often serve scrambled eggs and other breakfast foods to help passengers adjust to the new time zone.

Don’t blow it on the weekend

Besides computer screens, the biggest saboteur for an aspiring morning person is the weekend. Staying up later on Friday or sleeping in on Saturday sends the brain an entirely new set of scheduling priorities, so by Monday a 6am alarm may feel like 4am. It’s tough, but stick to your good sleep habits, even on the weekends.


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