Becoming a Morning Person
A quick Google search is all you need to find out just how many high-achieving early risers there are out there. From Apple CEO Tim Cook to lawyer and writer Michelle Obama, Virgin Chairman Richard Branson, former PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi, former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, and author John Grisham, plenty of well-known people seem to thrive by getting up at the crack of drawn.
So – we’re asking whether being a morning lark and being successful go hand in hand…
One study in particular carried out by the Huffington Post recently concluded that rising earlier will provide an opportunity for greater productivity and can even help you lead a less stressful day. But if you’re not already, can you become a morning person?
Becoming a morning person
Some of us naturally lean towards being an early riser – we thrive in the early hours and smash the majority of our to-do list entries before 11 am, gradually losing motivation later in the day. However, the other half of us gravitate towards working later in the day – we gain motivation and energy later on in the afternoon or evening and often stay up late to make the most of our most productive hours.
Did you know that your ‘chronotype,’ influenced significantly by your genes, plays a crucial role in whether you identify as a ‘morning lark’ or a ‘night owl’? In fact, this predisposition is further shaped by factors like age, hormone activity, sunlight exposure levels, and even geographical location. So, there really is more to it than just finding it easier to get up earlier in the morning or stay up later at night, and what’s more, your chronotype can change over the course of your lifetime…
Chronotype changes throughout your life
Many people experience changes to their sleep/wake cycle during their lives. With the onset of puberty, teenagers naturally tend towards a later sleep/wake cycle. This lasts about five years – so there’s a real, scientific reason why getting teenagers out of bed can be so difficult!
On average, women tend to be more morning-orientated earlier in life. During pregnancy, the hormonal activity women experience often shifts their chronotype to an even earlier sleep/wake cycle during the first and second trimesters and back to a later cycle during the third trimester. As women approach their middle years and the amount of oestrogen in their bodies reduces, their sleep/wake cycles generally shift to later in the day.
On the other hand, most men tend to be late risers early in life. Then, as they grow older, their chronotype tends to shift as a result of hormonal changes, making them more morning-orientated.
Although you might currently be a morning lark or a night owl, it doesn’t mean you’ll always be this way.
Away from the shifts in our sleep/wake cycle relating to the phases we go through during the course of our lifetimes, many people also have varying sensitivities to the changing seasons and fluctuations in light, which can influence our sleep/wake cycles.
Can you change your chronotype to become more of a morning person?
Given that your chronotype is, to a greater extent, governed by your genetics and the stage of life you’re experiencing, is it possible to influence your sleep/wake cycle to change into a morning person and get those early-morning hours working for you?
If you’re not naturally a morning person and you feel like your genetics are working against you, trying to chameleon yourself into being a comfortable early riser may take some effort and probably won’t result in a permanent switch for life. However, the good news is that it can be done!
Circadian rhythms: Your master body clock and the influence of routine
We all have an internal master body clock known as the circadian rhythm, which plays a critical role in regulating our wake-up time, how alert we feel during the day, our increasing levels of fatigue as the evening draws to a close, and our sleep.
Our daily routines can greatly influence the regulation of our circadian rhythms, so changes to our routines throughout the day and evening can significantly impact our sleep/wake cycles.
DID YOU KNOW?
DID YOU KNOW?
The two most powerful forces that influence the calibration of our circadian rhythm are natural light and regular mealtimes.
Our top tips for becoming a morning person
1. Go to bed earlier if you want to get up earlier
It seems obvious advice, but it needs to be stated – if you want to get up earlier, you need to get to bed earlier! It’s recommended to start changing the timing of your sleep-wake cycle slowly, in incremental stages (e.g. 20 minutes). For example, if you usually sleep from 11:00 pm – 8:00 am, change your schedule to 10:40 pm – 7:40 am for the first few days of your new routine, then 10:20 pm – 7:20 am for the next few days, and so on. This way, there is no trade-off between an earlier morning routine and a good amount of sleep – you’ll be giving your body the time it needs to adjust.
It’s important to consider that opting for an earlier bedtime could potentially impact the timing of your dinner, creating a ripple effect backwards into your routine. Remember: meal timings play a crucial role in regulating your internal body clock, so tweaking them in light of the adjustments you’re making to your sleep/wake cycle is essential.
2. Light your way towards waking up earlier
The level and type of light you are exposed to during the day also have a powerful influence on the timing of your circadian rhythm. The bright light of sunrise naturally stimulates you to wake up, whilst the amber or red tones of sunset signal you to wind down. Try giving screens a miss at least an hour before bed, as the blue light that comes from them can often cause a restless night’s sleep. To help you shift your wake-up and sleep times, try using natural light by positioning your bed facing the window with your curtains open, so you benefit from the morning light gradually increasing, which will stimulate you to wake up naturally. Alternatively, you might like to try a sunrise alarm clock or dawn simulation light, where an artificial light source is integrated into a standard digital clock and is timed to gradually wake you up at a selected time by mimicking the steadily increasing light of sunrise.
3. Create a night-time routine
The night owls amongst us will know that it’s not that easy to override a lifetime’s habit of staying up late, as your body clock is programmed to run a late sleep/wake cycle. Here again, changing your routine can help. Switch watching late-night thrillers for relaxing night-time routines – this might include stretching, meditating, doing some breathing exercises, listening to relaxing music, or reading before bed. A relaxing night-time routine will help you wind down and relax into an earlier start to your sleep/wake cycle.
4. Exercise in the morning
Research has shown that making time for regular daily exercise, particularly in the morning, can help shift you towards an earlier sleep/wake chronotype.
5. You are what you eat
Studies have revealed that evening people tend to skip breakfast, eat their dinner late, and consume more alcohol and caffeine than early morning types. These may be difficult habits to lose, but focusing on reducing alcohol and caffeine intake, eating earlier, and having a healthy breakfast will not only help you shift your sleep/wake cycle earlier but will support you towards an all-round better sense of health and wellbeing.
6. Trying to change your chronotype is challenging!
If you’re really serious about trying to shift your sleep/wake cycle, set some positive action points from the advice above and commit to giving them a go for a good month or more. Begin slowly, taking small steps, noting the positive impact on your well-being along the way, and rewarding yourself for all your achievements! We are all creatures of habit, and if you objectively observe your daily routine, you’ll notice that, to a great extent, these habits shape the rhythm of your day, which in turn influences your master body clock. Making small, incremental changes and sticking to them will support your quest to gradually shift your inner clock. Change won’t happen over night, be patient and persistent!
7. Find a goal and let it motivate you
Having a personal goal may help motivate you to achieve the shift towards waking up earlier. Whether you’re intent on creating some precious early ‘me time’ minutes to just potter around first thing in the morning, making the time for some exercise before work, generating extra time to fulfil another personal goal, or giving yourself just 20 minutes to organise your day better – whatever it is you want to achieve, big or small, let this motivate you to stick to your plan!