I used to be an early riser as a kid and into my early teen years. Nowadays, my natural wake time is around 8:00 a.m. My soon-to-be-eight-year-old wakes up between 5:30 and 6:00 a.m. every morning, so I’m trying to reclaim myself as an early riser. Here are a few tricks I’ve found to become a morning person.
First, make a plan for the extra time you’ll have with waking earlier and use that as motivation. The rush of getting out of the door on time, the cajoling to get on socks and shoes, and the stress of being late could very much (but not entirely) be remedied with an earlier wake-up time. Of course, the goal of “getting out the door sooner” is a bit abstract and requires lots of steps from everyone in the household.
Instead, start small, set the alarm for 10 minutes earlier, and plan on getting breakfast on the table with 20 minutes for everyone to eat and digest versus the rushed 10 or 5 minutes. Reward yourself with an extra minute or two in the shower. If you don’t have small people to get ready in the mornings, have a cup of coffee or tea and read a few pages of a book before getting yourself ready for the day. Set small, achievable goals and build in some rewards for that earlier wake-up alarm.
Even if you are able to wake up earlier, you don’t want it to be a struggle, so setting a realistic bedtime is key. You go to bed earlier, you’ll wake up earlier, easy peasy, right? For those of us with a million to-dos to remember and have trouble “shutting off,” we can go to bed, but we may not be able to fall asleep. Having a winding down routine in the evening helps relax the body and the mind. Turning off screens, some aromatherapy, a warm shower, and maybe even a melatonin chewy can help you hit the hay sooner rather than later in order to have you feeling refreshed come morning.
For kids, we plan activities that have them moving around as much as possible to “tire them out” come bedtime. Works for grown-ups as well. Regular exercise can help you have healthier sleep and make getting to sleep easier. On the flip side, moving around first thing in the morning can also help you wake up, as well as kick start your metabolism. Walking the dog first thing, stretching, or “rewarding” your early wake-up with a low-impact workout can foster a better sense of alertness to dive into your day.
Shifting mealtimes earlier can affect your circadian rhythm, which dictates multiple functions in the body, like sleep, appetite, and body temperature. If you get up earlier, you’ll eat breakfast earlier, which means your lunchtime will shift, as will dinner if you pay attention to eat when your body is hungry versus standard mealtimes. I know it may not be feasible to have an early dinner, but if you can put a stop to late-night snacking, you’ll find your body will adjust better to an earlier morning routine.
Use light strategically, especially during these shorter days. Natural light is a limited commodity currently, but you can still crack open curtains and blinds to let in as much sunlight as possible in the mornings. Exposure to light in the mornings is considered one of the best ways to become more of a morning person. You may also want to invest in a light therapy lamp that you can turn on at the same time you may hit the snooze button on the alarm. Sound can also help, like having the radio or a playlist come on for your alarm.
And, of course, there’s coffee. Or, as I like to refer to it, my anti-depressant. There are some days I’m about ready to do murder until I have that morning cup. Coffee is not the only reviving morning beverage; there is tea, and vitamin smoothies, pressed juices, and good old water can help revive a sleepy head. But be careful. Too much coffee or any of the above (besides water) can have a negative impact on sleep. Try to avoid consuming more than three cups of coffee daily and schedule your last bit of caffeine at least six hours before bed, that includes soda.
It can be hard to alter your natural sleep rhythm, especially with the time shift and the winter weather ahead. Be mindful of Seasonal Affective Disorder during the upcoming season; while some of these techniques can certainly combat those symptoms, you may want to consult your physician. And if you’re having major problems getting to sleep and staying asleep, a professional remedy may be required — looking at you, CPAP!