I have been on Team “Night Owl” for as long as I can remember.
Sure, I remember waking up as a kid to watch Mr. Wizard before taking the bus school, but as I grew older I shifted my daily routine further and further back. By high school, I was struggling to get out of bed to get to school on time, and all through through college an “early” bed time was 2 am.
Even in my adult life I struggled to get to bed before 1 am. During my nearly six years of writing articles for Nerd Fitness, I’d guess that 90% of my writing was done after 10 pm.
And I wanted to be a morning person, but I just couldn’t do it. I remember asking on Twitter:
“I can’t seem to get myself to focus during the day, and do my best work at night. How do I become a morning person?”
And the responses all came back saying the same thing: “You’re a night person, just learn to live with it.”
But as we explained in our comprehensive article on sleep, just two in ten of us are true “night owls.” The rest of us are morning people (larks) or somewhere in the middle (hummingbirds).
Little did I know that I fell where most people do – somewhere in the middle! I wasn’t a true night owl – just someone with bad habits! And I was missing out on all sorts of stuff as a result – namely quality sleep, sunlight, and a social life!
So, I stopped making excuses, and over the past six months, I’ve turned a corner.
Today, I’m going to talk about HOW I became a morning person and why you should consider it too.
If you’re somebody working weird hours, don’t worry, we got you covered there too.
Why Become a Morning Person?
You might already be thinking, “Steve, I’m a night person too, and I like it that way. Why mess with a good thing?”
However, you might also have realized: “Hmmm, I never seem to exercise after work, I wake up feeling like crap, and I drag myself through the first half of the work day before finally getting my act together around 2 PM.”
Why should you switch teams and give the morning a chance? I’m glad you asked:
1) Your willpower bar is fully charged in the AM. Remember our talk about willpower, and how it’s a finite resource? Like in any RPG game (sleeping in the Inn recharges your health meter), getting a good night’s sleep recharges your willpower. If you’re somebody that tends to get bogged down and busy at work and never has the energy to work out after work, use some of that willpower BEFORE work on getting to the gym and you’ll never miss it. Your willpower is most full in the morning.
Hat tip to my buddy James Clear for this one 🙂
2) Get your sh** done before anybody can bother you. I realized that the reason why I was so productive at night wasn’t because it was night… it was because there was nobody awake to distract me! Once I discovered that I could do the same thing early in the morning, my life changed.
If you’re somebody with children, or hectic roommates, you may find it difficult to get anything done AFTER work, try getting it done before.
3) Actively prepare for the day rather than stress the f*** out! Prepare your lunch. Sit down and eat breakfast (or don’t eat it at all). Go through your morning ritual. Get in the groove…instead of snoozing a million times and then running out the door with a bagel in your mouth.
4) Stop leaving things hanging over your head. When I worked only at night, there was always that looming feeling of “I have things that need to get done” hanging over me. It was stressful – it’s tough to relax when there are things that need doing.
HOWEVER, when you exercise in the morning, or get your work done early, you can close up that laptop at the end of the day and say “I’m done.” Now I truly enjoy my evenings.
There are two main components of becoming a morning person: getting to bed earlier, and then waking up earlier.
Let’s tackle them both.
How to get to bed earlier
When I decided to transition into a morning person, my first thoughts were “this is going to be tough.”
You see, we can lie, justify, and rationalize anything and everything to ourselves. It’s actually quite impressive. So, I started by accepting the fact that I can get to bed earlier, and wake up earlier.
Here’s how I did it:
1) Focus on small incremental changes. When most people decide to “get up earlier,” they go from waking up at 8:30 am to waking up at 6:00 am. They set a few alarms, go to bed at their usual hour (probably midnight or later), and then struggle for a week to get up at 6:00…or they snooze and have to start over.
Instead of going from 8:30 to 6:00, I went from 8:30 to 8:15 for a week. Then from 8:15 to 8:00 for a week. Then from 8:00 to 7:45, and so on.
By SLOWLY adjusting my sleeping schedule, my body didn’t freak out, and I could actually let it happen.
2) Go to bed earlier. I’ve covered this in our extensive guide on How to Not Suck at Sleeping, but I’ll lay out the basics here. For starters, the reason I was always up so late was because I was sitting at my computer staring at bright lights until 10 minutes before bed, or watching TV/playing videogames and then struggling to fall asleep.
So, I set myself up to win by upgrading my batcave:
- I installed Fl.ux on my computer. It automatically adjusts the brightness of your computer screen after the sun has set, so you’re not staring at glaring lights at night (which can mess up sleeping patterns).
- I used Self-Control to block specific time-wasting websites after a certain hour. I found that I was sitting at my computer doing NOTHING at the end of the day. So I blocked those sites (gmail, facebook, etc.), and suddenly I had no reason to still be at my computer.
- Commit to no video games or TV after 10:30 PM. Assassin’s Creed IV kept me up until 2 am for too many nights. Damn you, Edward Kenway. I also set alarms and committed to turning off my TV after 10:30 pm. That has since shifted to 10 pm, and now even earlier. Oh, and I know if I watch Cosmos before bed I’m going to lie awake questioning my existence…so instead, I read.
- Reading [fiction] in bed. This one was Steve-specific, but I realized I couldn’t read nonfiction (I get too excited and come up with ideas). Instead I read fiction that wound my brain down and puts me to sleep. For me, that was The Martian.
I realized my struggle was not with getting up, but rather going to bed earlier. Making a commitment to get to bed early is a crucial part of the process.
So, stop staring at bright screens! Put the phone down. Turn off the TV. Get off your computer. Read a freaking book 🙂
Now, let’s focus on the other half of the equation: getting up earlier!
How to wake up earlier
First and foremost, DON’T RELY ON YOURSELF. Remember how I said we’ll justify anything? You know those mornings where you wonder why you snoozed without even waking up? If you’re not used to waking up early, your body might refuse to do so. So we’re going to use our batcave to set us up to succeed.
1) Put your alarm clock across the room. Remember how we talked about building a better batcave to help you get to sleep earlier? You can do the same thing for getting up earlier. If you can reach your alarm clock while still lying in bed, the chance of you hitting snooze is approximately 1000000.33333% higher. That’s a fact. So, put your alarm clock across the room! Make it SUPER loud and annoying, so your only option is to just get out of bed and turn it off.
In college I had my alarm clock across the room and on my dresser. I fell asleep one night with both arms behind my head, and woke up to a blaring alarm at 7 am…with both of my arms dead asleep. As my roommate looked angrily at me, I had to swing my arms, Ace Ventura style, until I knocked it off the bureau and broke the damn thing.
2) Wake your ass up! The toughest part about waking up earlier than normal is that fogginess we all experience first thing, which can affect our productivity, mood, etc. So, the first thing I do is splash cold water on my face, and then go through a basic mobility warm-up and handstand practice exercise.
Another great option is to use this time to go for a brisk 5-10 minute walk. You know, like a Morning Mile. In fact, 5-10 minutes of walking every day will eventually get you to Mordor if you follow through!
3) Caffeine is your friend. Instead of using caffeine to stay awake later playing more video games, use it as part of your morning routine to wake up earlier. We’ve already covered caffeine extensively on the site, so I won’t dig in too deeply. The goal: enough caffeine to give you focus, but not too much that it becomes less effective with each increased day.
4) Use technology to your advantage: If you couldn’t tell already – I’m a big fan of using technology to remove willpower from the equation and actually force ourselves to do stuff. Now, we don’t need to shock ourselves to get out of bed (though if you want to, my buddy Maneesh can help)…but you can use technology to make your wake up easier:
- Use Twitter scheduler: Schedule an embarrassing tweet to go out the next morning, 10 minutes after you’re supposed to wake up. If you don’t get up and go to your computer in time, the tweet goes out. Hat tip to Thomas Frank.
- Try a sunrise alarm clock: Part of the reason we struggle with earlier mornings is the grogginess, and that can stem from being woken up while we’re in deep sleep. By using something like a sunrise alarm clock, we can gradually come out of deep sleep into light sleep, and then be woken up.
- Check out the Sleep Cycle App: Not only does it track your sleep, but it can also tell when you’re in deep sleep or light sleep, and will wake you up when your sleep pattern is least likely to make you groggy. It’s been fascinating for me to track those stats…when I can actually remember to set it up!
In all of these instances we are taking the decision making process out of your hands and putting it in the hands of technology or a third party. The fewer decisions you need to make, the less willpower you need to use, the more likely you’ll be to find success in becoming an early bird.
build a morning routine
The last piece of advice for you: build a morning routine around something you’re looking forward to doing. I used to love my
quiet nights spent yelling into my computer or at my TV playing games, but now I honestly look forward to my quiet mornings, waking up with the sun, and going through my full morning routine in a silent house.
Here’s a morning routine that works for me:
- Wake up with sunrise alarm clock, which wakes me up gradually.
- Put on water to boil for tea.
- Perform a basic mobility routine.
- Five minutes of handstands.
- Sit down at my computer, put on my epic trance playlist (thanks PM!)
- Spend 10 minutes checking ESPN, Yahoo, scanning for any important emails.
- Jump into writing mode, and block all big sites.
- Take over the world.
That’s my routine, but I’d love to hear yours. How do you crush your mornings? What’s your morning routine?
And if you’ve transitioned from night-owl to early bird, what was your favorite tactic?
If you’re trying and failing to transition, what’s your biggest hurdle?
photo source: Michael: cheerios, Reji: morning sky, Kevin Dooley: sleeping cat, Khalid Almasoud: lonely place
80 thoughts on “How to Become a Morning Person”
My cat seems to have learned when my alarm goes off at 5:15am. Now she starts mooing and being a pain in the ass about 5am. Works out great. Ha.
Great pointers here. I think I really wanna try out the sleep tracking apps.
I’m mildly desperate to be LESS of a morning person.
I tend to wake up on my own at 330 AM.
And it doesn’t seem to matter what time I go to bed.
Wow! Do you feel tired afterwards, or is your body mostly okay with it?
Totally enjoyed this article. But what can somebody do who can’t be a morning person due to work restraints. I understand that being a morning person and running your life according to the natural rhythm of the day is an optimal lifestyle choice but what happens when your livelihood requires you to work an off schedule like a swing or grave? How do you live a healthy lifestyle when you can’t be a morning person?
I’ve gotten used to it. I go the gym. It’s kinda nice. There’s no one else there.
The human body is remarkably good at getting used to things.
I’m exactly the opposite with books, fiction gets me super excited and I start imagining a thousand stem-stories ^_^ I also tend to be a night-owl because that’s when my creativity’s the highest, I love that melancholic inspiration around 3AM. HOWEVER I feel a lot happier when I can see the sun rise.
What really helped me shift my habits is meditation. After only a few days of meditating 30-60 minutes every morning upon rising my sleeping pattern is regular and follows natural daylight. If I stop meditating for a while, it goes back to night owl, but that’s soon fixed again.
PS: I find that A LOT of morning fogginess is due to bad eating at the previous dinner. High carb intake, processed foods… when I clean my diet, waking up’s a lot easier!
I think these are all great and practical tips. I would also like to recommend one other tip that worked well for me and my 70 year old night owl mother who always complained about waking up at 4am and not being able to go back to sleep for an hour, then sleeping until 9 or 10am and feeling groggy when awaking.
For 1 week go to bed at the same time and wake up at the same time. Even if you can not sleep at 11pm, STILL wake up at 7am. You might be tired for the first day but after a few days your body will get used to this and you will not only fall asleep faster, but you will be waking up feeling more refreshed. It will get easier. It’s all about consistency! So, try it for a week and see if it works! It’s only a week out of your life and isn’t consistent good sleep for a lifetime worth it?
I’ve always been a night person, how do I find out if I really am or just an in betweener? I work from home on my own schedule, no day job – so is there any reason why I can’t be a night person? I just feels more right to me. Even since a small child I slept in past 9am, 10am even as a 5 year old.
This is a fantastic article, while I’m a lot better at mornings now, it’s still a bit of a struggle. Getting a routine down will be another fantastic way to make it stick. Thanks Steve!
I used to be a night owl for too long and simply couldn’t go to sleep/wake up early to save my life. However, I realized that it became surprisingly easy once I adapted the right mindset.
Not wanting to wake up early, but a general growth mindset (bit.ly/VHOAD1). Suddenly, all habits and parts of my life I struggled with suddenly became much easier. Next day, I woke up at 5:59 WITHOUT an alarm clock. I was perplexed. But after a few days, I’ve gotten used to it. Consistency is the key.
You can start a new habit with baby steps, but sometimes it’s better to go all out. Sometimes, drastic and extreme decisions based in the right mindset will have better results than baby steps dipped in mediocrity (bit.ly/1tsrblc).
Good luck everyone!
Thank you for the suggestion! I’m planning on getting an Android tablet very soon, and I’m definitely going to try that out. I found a couple of similar apps for iOS, but turns out iOS alarm apps don’t work unless the device is unlocked and the app is running, which is nutty (and would kill the battery in my ancient ipod before morning). I’m hopeful that this will work.
I think #2 is the best reason! There is no better feeling than to get everything done before anyone has the chance to speak to you. And no better feeling than getting everything done and it still being early in the AM!
Yeah, I’m a big one for sleeping in. Really helpful article, thanks !
i read your post, and im using this product called thrive. and it helps me to sleep better, and wake up and have me energized for the day. its a great product.
I absolutely loved this article and this blog. It gives great advice on things I don’t always think are fitness related. You guys are great. Keep it up.
My biggest hurdle is my schedule. It varies. Most days I have to work at 7am. Then I’ll have to work a night shift until 10pm or even 12am. How is one supposed to get into a proper sleep schedule working with that?
The best part is get a high paying job that startat 7am for PT and 9am Coffee line up confrence to the coffee pot!!!!
Ever since November 2014, I’ve tried to pretend I’m one of “them”—those chirpy, cheerful folks who rise effortlessly at dawn to go after that proverbial worm. I’ve also spent few months suppressing the urge to complain bitterly about a world where night owls like me suffer grievous discrimination at the hands of those ubiquitous “normal” people.So those who know me best are always startled—no, make that shocked—to find out that I do most of my exercising in the early hours of the day, anywhere from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m using an android app named, Rewire-Habit & Goal Tracker. They’re even more astonished to discover that when I first started tracking habits my habit-related tasks were categorized as my work and personal ones.Rewire-Habit & Goal Tracker lets you set them for any time you want. You can also set reminders to occur on specific days of the week,at regular intervals (every three days, say), or a certain number of times per week. For habits that need to be obeyed only on certain days, you won’t see them on your list until the designated day. For example, I’m trying to read about Yoga-a physical, mental, and spiritual practice or discipline that denotes a variety of schools, practices and goals, popular in India every Saturday;that reminder doesn’t show up on my habit list until Saturday. An added statistic screen also shows percentage by week and for all the time. Change in color for a color blind like me made it easier to use. This has really helped me a lot, hope it helps you too. 🙂
Morning Exercises That Will Make You Feel Great :- http://www.healthcuretips.com/morning-exercises-that-will-make-you-feel-great/
Great post, thank you
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Thank you for having this article here for the world’s reference. I looked back at it just now so I could improve my sleep even more. I just got flux (it’s already making me tired) and I’m ordering the new sunrise alarm clock! Can’t wait!
I recently decided to make the switch to a morning person. This post is old, so shortly: I used Headspace and other meditation apps to meditate in bed before going to sleep. I often fall asleep halfway through the meditation, which is fine by me. Has done wonders for me. Also, I listen to podcasts instead of reading a book.
Great article. I am gradually working on becoming a morning person. I love the sunrise clock idea; ive just seen one of those…. I am in college and made my first class piano! this is my first semester where I havent fallen asleep in a class 😀 my grades are really reflecting it too.. i think its increasing my concentration or something… plusss… my smooozies in the morning are my LIFE… helps me save time in the morning while still being maintain my health and cravings <3
I’ve been trying to fix my sleeping cycle for a while and couldn’t do it. I was just about to accept that I just wasn’t a morning person when I came across your post and decided to give it a shot. Today, I managed to wake up an hour earlier than usual and just jump out of bed. It’s 10 am and I already walked my dog, had a good breakfast and cleaned the house. Thank you SO MUCH for the tips!