Are you a night owl?
Would you rather be a morning person, either because of personal aspiration or because you have a job that requires you to wake up early? It can be pretty rough to have to wake up early when it’s literally painful to hear that alarm and get up, head still foggy, wanting to stay in bed.
I was that way for most of my life. I naturally was a night owl who preferred to get to bed at two or three in the morning and get up around nine or ten. I hated, hated, hated to get up early and just couldn’t go to bed much earlier than midnight. The alarm was physically painful and triggered an adrenaline dump, causing me to always be grumpy in the morning.
At this point I get up at five for most of the week, and maybe six or six thirty on days off, but rarely later than that. I feel pretty good and I’m nearly as grumpy as I once was. I do go to bed at ten, but I fall asleep right away and get proper rest.
If you’re interested in doing this too, here’s how I did it!
First, I grew up. I don’t mean I’m more mature and that’s why I get up early, but rather that my brain developed to the point that I wasn’t quite as predisposed to be a night owl. People in their teens and early twenties naturally need a little more rest and physiologically will sleep late if given a choice. However, that wasn’t all, as I still had trouble getting up early in my mid thirties.
I tapped in to what motivates me. My job got dramatically better and so I didn’t hate the thought of getting up for that reason. You don’t have to get a new job though, because even when I had a terrible job it was easier to get up on days when I had a personal project that interested me.
I found a less disruptive and jarring way to wake up. In this case, since I have to wake up in the dark, a light-based alarm clock with a dawn simulation really helped. The light starts out soft and gets gradually brighter, triggering my brain to wake me up gently and naturally, and there is an alarm at the end that in case I manage to sleep through all the light. This is the one I use, I like it because it’s rechargeable, inexpensive and not hard to use.
I kept my sleep schedule consistent. That is a good idea anyway, and your brain will learn to fall asleep earlier if you stay with it and don’t ‘cheat’ too much. You will also get better quality sleep.
I started my new routine at a time when my life was disrupted anyway, and I was unusually tired and ready to go to bed early anyway. When my life settled out I was already on my new schedule.
I don’t wake up right before I have to leave. I give myself a little extra time to wake up and work on things before I have to be out the door. This gives time to be creative, or to have breakfast if I want it, and it is a peaceful and often productive period. For me, this lasts about an hour.
I don’t use ‘snooze.’ That little bit of extra sleep is rarely truly restful. When I wake up early, if I don’t have at least forty five minutes more to sleep, I just get up for good.
I also sometimes have some tea or coffee in the morning, and I also sometimes have a balanced, light breakfast. Those are both good ideas that can help you but I have an easy time in the morning even when I don’t do them, so I can’t trace my success to those activities. I also have a shower first thing, which helps a little, but that doesn’t explain this new behavior either.
Though it pays to know yourself and understand your own personal needs, if you want to acquire a new habit like this it’s well worth it. The traffic is better early in the morning, the grocery shopping quicker and easier with fresher produce and full stocks, and for many people, a creative peak occurs in the morning!