Why You're Not A Morning Person (And How To Become One)

Most people struggle to even reach for a cup of coffee at 6am. Mornings may be rough, but hold off on sleeping in. There are perks to waking up with the sun, and we've got some tips on making it easier.

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 9am and night owls who get more stuff done once the sun goes down [1]. One survey found more than half fall into the morning category, saying they’re at their “personal best” from 5am to noon. And it may get easier to greet the day at dawn as we get older, thanks to body clock changes as we age [2].

It turns out the early bird may get more than the worm. According to self-reports from university 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 high-distinction average 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 [3]. 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 9am are more likely to be stressed, overweight and depressed than those who get up at 7am. 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 [4]. 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

Night owls aren’t totally out of luck. One study found evening lovers are more productive than morning people are at night [5]. Still, being a morning person may be more advantageous for most people’s work schedules and routines, since the workday typically starts around 9am, 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 7am but stuck at 8? 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 [6]. A simple solution is to keep the blinds open during the night. Or greet the day and brush your teeth outside!
  • 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. [7]
  • Treat yo’self. Have a reward waiting in the morning 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.

Hey, Sleepyhead! How To Be a Morning Person [Greatist]

Laura is the Growth Director at Greatist, and when she's not hanging at HQ with my best buds (aka co-workers) you can find her training for marathons, writing or searching for the perfect bloody mary. She has an odd obsession with mountains, and is passionate about helping others become happier and healthier.


Comments

    Invested in a Phillip alarm clock. Comes with dual alarms. Ripped it open, and physically removed the snooze button. Second alarm is set for 10mins later. Now if i want to sleep in, i need to wake, and set up the alarms whilst half asleep. Works wonders.

      I have a Panasonic alarm clock that had a CD player built in and two alarms, and the snooze button was flush with the top of the unit, unlike every other button. I quickly became pretty good at resetting the alarm for ten minutes by touch, and have used the snooze button probably less than ten times in as many years.

    The cited survey appears to imply that coincidence equates to causality in a particular direction. If there's causality at all, it may be that those OTHER conditions result in the desire or not, to wake up early. In my case, forcing myself to be a morning person doesn't work. My brain is structured to do its absolutely best work in the evenings, and my day is structured to take advantage of that. When I had to get up at 6am to get to work far away by 8:30am, that was sure a miserable 18 months. And no, it was far from the best work experience of my life. Ranks as one of the most forgettable. I do best when I'm free to come in at a reasonable morning hour and work into the evening.

    " creativity may flourish when we feel groggy, "
    This might help explain WHY I tend to be more able later in the evening rather than first thing in the morning?
    I struggle every day to get up for work at around 7:45 regardless of how much sleep I've had during the week or what time I get to bed.
    I have found that my natural cycle seems to be go to bed around 2am and get up around 10 or 11am.
    I am the definitive night owl it seems.

    The early bird may indeed get the worm...
    but THE EARLY WORM GETS EATEN.

    NIGHT-WORM FO' LIFE!!!!

    My advice for those who aren't morning people is; work in health, emergency services, any industry that can involve shift work really... and join the REAL fellowship of the Night's Watch (Ha!) where you don't have to vow to celibacy and if you don't like it you can leave...

    Perks include:
    Night-owls (used to/usually) get penalty rate$$ (cheers IR-reform, jerks),
    Parking is piss-easy on night-duty,
    YOU CAN SLEEP ALLLLLLL DAY, (and when yr neighbours or door-knockin' aus-post courier types give you some smart-lip for looking half asleep at midday, you can give em a smile and say "Well if it really bothers you, stay home till 9am next time your wife/kid is giving birth/spewing blood in the middle of the night.." and if that's too sharp, "I work night-shift at the Royal Melbourne." will do. [In fact, I think everyone should use that excuse regardless of whether you're a nurse, or just taking the day off cause you got mad bombed the night before.])
    Working around kids' school/kinder times and having available partner/mates/family with whom the kids can sleep-over, is usually easier.

    My only warnings would be that you only have from 3-5pm ish to get business-hrs errands done, and in winter time (excluding this Feral-Apocalypse 'winter'..) you have to be careful to make sure you get enough sunlight and dont end up crazy depressed, or SAD (as in Seasonal affective disorder).

    I'm not a morning person, because I have worked nights for the last 5 years. So no, not a "morning" person - for me "morning" is my night time.

    I actually have a lamp attached to a timer. It turns the lamp on about 10 minutes before the alarm goes off. My body naturally wakes up to the light and I am wake fr when the alarm (backup) goes off)

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