At 6 am, we're lucky if we have the energy to reach for a cup of coffee. Mornings may be rough for some of us, but hold off on sleeping in: There are perks to waking up with the sun. (And we have some tips to make it easier, too!).
(Check It: How to Never Be Late Again)
Snooze and Lose — The Need-to-Know
The old “I’m just too tired” complaint may be more than a sorry excuse for waking up late. Research suggests there are biological differences between early larks, who wake up at the same time every morning and feel most active around 9 am, and night owls, who get more sh!t done once the sun goes down Chronotype influences diurnal variations in the excitability of the human motor cortex and the ability to generate torque during a maximum voluntary contraction. Tamm, A.S., Lagerquist, O., Ley, A.L., et al. Human Neurophysiology Laboratory, Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation, Centre for Neuroscience, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB, Canada. Journal of Biological Rhythms, 2009 Jun;24(3):211-24.. One survey found more than half of Americans fall into the morning category, saying they’re at their “personal best” from 5 am to 12 pm. And it may get easier to greet the day at dawn as we get older, thanks to body clock changes as we age Age-related decline in circadian output. Nakamura, T.J., Nakamura, W., Yamazaki, S., Kudo, T., Cutler, T., Colwell, C.S., Block, G.D. Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, University of California, Los Angeles, California. Journal of Neuroscience 2011; 31(28): 10201-5..
It turns out the early bird may get more than the worm. According to self-reports from college students, those who wake up earlier feel more optimistic and proactive than those who rise later. Other studies have found morning larks tend to be harder working and conscientious than night owls. (Still, it’s not clear whether waking up early actually makes someone more productive or optimistic.) And perhaps the secret to a 4.0 isn’t only hitting the books: Another study of university undergraduates found those who said they function better in the morning received higher grades than those who preferred the evening Circadian phase preference in college students: relationships with psychological functioning and academics. Taylor, D.J. Clay, K.C., Bramoweth, A.D., et al. Department of Psychology, University of North Texas, P.O. Box 311280, Denton, TX. Chronobiology International, 2011 Jul;28(6):541-7. That’s possibly because morning risers are more likely to get to class on time or to forgo late-night partying. Researchers also suggest memory may improve during sleep, so getting to bed earlier in preparation for a morning alarm could help those exam notes soak in.
Being a morning person may actually be good for our health, too. When UK researchers questioned adults about their sleep habits, they found people who stay under the covers on the weekdays until 9 am are more likely to be stressed, overweight, and depressed than those who get up at 7 am. Another study found teenagers who went to bed and woke up late were less inclined to hit the gym and more likely to be overweight than those who went to bed and woke up early Sleep duration or bedtime?Exploring the relationship between sleep habits and weight status and activity patterns. Olds, T.S., Maher, C.A., Matricciani, L. Health and Use of Time (HUT) Group, Sansom Institute for Health Research, University of South Australia, Adelaide, South Australia. Sleep, 2011 Oct 1;34(10):1299-307.. Talk about waking up on the wrong side of the bed. (Again, remember it’s not clear that waking up early causes stress, depression, or weight gain.)
Good Day Sunshine — Your Action Plan
But night owls aren’t totally out of luck. One study found evening lovers are more productive than morning people are at night Homeostatic sleep pressure and responses to sustained attention in the suprachiasmatic area. Schmidt, C., Collette, F., Leclercg, Y., et al. Cyclotron Research Centre, University of Liège, 4000 Liège, Belgium. Science, 2009 Apr 24;324(5926):516-9.. Still, being a morning person may be more advantageous for most people’s work schedules and routines, since the workday typically starts around 9 am and the office is (usually!) not open at midnight. Regardless of the situation, there are ways to reset the body clock and happily greet the day:
- Get enough sleep. It may seem obvious, but getting those recommended seven to nine hours will make getting up earlier easier. Pro tip? Keep the laptop and other work out of the bed to sleep soundly.
- Stay consistent. Try to set the alarm clock for the same time every morning — including weekends. A constant wakeup call may make it progressively easier to jump out of bed.
- Start slowly. Pick a new wakeup time and gradually work towards it. Want to wake up at 7 am but stuck at 8 am? Start by setting the clock for 7:45, and move down in 15-minute increments until that new time goal is reached.
- Skip the snooze. Disrupting sleep an hour or so before actually getting out of bed may disturb our REM cycle, which helps stimulate brain regions linked to cognition. Don’t want to mess with that (or bug a roommate with multiple alarms!). Set one alarm for when it’s time to rise — and maybe another a few minutes later in case you snooze through!
- Set some happy sounds. Skip the beeps and blares and set an alarm tone to something soothing or fun. Need an idea? Here are 10.
- Let in the light. Research shows a little light may be all we need to reset the body block Jet lag and shift work sleep disorders: how to help reset the internal clock. Kolla, B.P., Auger, R.R.Mayo Center For Sleep Medicine, Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, Rochester, MN. Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine, 2011 Oct;78(10):675-84. doi: 10.3949/ccjm.78a.10083.. A simple solution is to keep the blinds open during the night. Or greet the day and brush your teeth outside! (While waving to the neighbors…)
- Eat breakfast. Sleepiness doesn’t disappear just from drinking a cup of coffee. Having enough time for some green eggs and ham (or maybe just a yogurt parfait) will also provide energy, not to mention it’ll boost that brainpower, too.
- Hit the gym. Those tired eyes may go away once a morning workout routine is in order. Exercise will definitely boost energy — give these early-bird exercises a try Physical activity and feelings of energy and fatigue: epidemiological evidence. Puetz, T.W. Department of Kinesiology, University of Georgia, Athens, GA. Sports Medicine. 2006;36(9):767-80.!
- Treat yo’self. Have a reward waiting in the a.m. to motivate climbing out of the covers. Dive into some freshly baked fruit and nut bars, or slide into a warm bath instead of taking a quick shower.
- J.F.D.I. Sometimes we need to bite the bullet and “just f’ing do it.” Researchers have found that creativity may flourish when we feel groggy, so don’t let a little drowsiness interrupt seizing the day!
Need a bigger push? Check out our super comprehensive (and fun!) How to Become a Morning Person guide!