Become a Morning Person
Do you have a “love-hate” relationship with the morning? Yeah, yeah, you already know that getting up early can make you more productive, focused and motivated — which is why successful entrepreneurs like Sir Richard Branson and CEOs of multi-billion dollar companies like Tory Burch and Indra Nooyi (CEO of PepsiCo) wake up before the sun rises.
Daylight Saving Time ends at 2 a.m. on Sunday, Nov. 1 — which means you’ll get another coveted hour of sleep that night.
Sure, it’s tempting to use the time change to curl up in your cozy bed for an extra 60 minutes. But this year, we suggest using it for a more productive goal: becoming a morning person.
Why is it good to be a morning person? Well, the research shows no shortage of benefits — early risers report feeling happier and healthier than their snooze-button-hitting, night-owl counterparts, for instance.
If you love the idea of creating a success-propelling morning routine but hate the thought of facing the day once your alarm clock sounds, don’t worry. Here are simple strategies you can follow that will make climbing out from under the covers and starting your morning much easier . . . and even somewhat fun.
Here’s your step-by-step guide for taking advantage of the time change to become a morning person:
Adjust your sleep/wake time slowly. To successfully wake up an hour earlier and stick with it over the long haul, it’s best to gradually shift your sleep/wake time.
Trying to completely overhaul your mornings, by (for example) getting out of bed at 4 a.m. when you normally sleep until noon, can make it difficult if not impossible to stick to your new routine.
Instead, work at making small changes that you can build upon. Taking this route makes you more mindful and gives you higher levels of enthusiasm. It also increases your focus, makes you feel calmer and helps you learn the right way to go about making changes that stick.
Adjust it by 15-minute increments over a few days. So if your usual bedtime is 11 p.m., aim to head to bed at 10:45 p.m. the first night, 10:30 p.m. the second night, 10:15 p.m. the third night, and 10 p.m. the fourth night.
Don’t hit the snooze button. How many times do you hit the snooze button on a typical morning? Once? Twice? Five times? More?
Although it might seem that getting a few additional minutes of sleep every time the alarm goes off is a good thing, the opposite is actually true. Hitting the snooze button makes you feel more tired. It screws up your sleep cycles, so you wind up dragging your feet all day long.
On top of that, when hitting the button is the first action you take in the morning, you are starting your day off by procrastinating. This sends a message to your subconscious mind that you don’t even have the self-discipline to get out of bed in the morning. Not a great way to start your day.
Drench yourself in bright light right away. Within five minutes of getting up in the morning, the best thing to do is expose yourself to bright light, which tells your brain that you should be waking up. Try exercising outside, such as going for a run or walking your dog, to get 15 to 30 minutes of light exposure from the sun. (Bonus: A 2014 study shows that exposure to bright morning light is linked with having a lower body mass index, so those morning rays are also doing your waistline a favor.) But if there isn’t much sun when you get up in the morning, you can get the same effect by turning on bright lights while you get ready for work. You can also try using a light box (which you can buy online); Kushida recommends looking for one that delivers 10,000 lux, a measure of light intensity. Stand or sit about 18 inches away from the light box for about 30 minutes to make you more alert. If you suffer from seasonal affective disorder, the light box can also boost your mood.
At night, do the opposite. Light delays sleep onset by suppressing melatonin, the hormone that helps regulate sleep. So avoid bright light two to three hours before bed to help you fall asleep earlier and wake up earlier. Smart phones, computers, and other electronic screens are particularly bad because they emit blue wavelength light, which is highly effective at suppressing melatonin, making it harder to fall asleep.
Time your coffee drinking wisely. If you’re feeling a bit groggy while adjusting to getting up earlier, chugging a cup of Joe first thing seems like an easy solution. The way caffeine works best is you want a little bit many times over — you don’t want a lot at one time, which can make you jittery and give you heart palpitations. Your body will digest through the caffeine and the stimulating effect will become less and less. In fact, naturally stimulating cortisol levels are highest in the morning, so you’re less likely to feel caffeine’s alertness-inducing effects. A smarter strategy is to use coffee as a pick-me-up when those cortisol levels start to dip, such as sipping a half cup of coffee around 10:30 a.m.
Step away from the electronics. . If you just can’t give up your smart phone or computer at night, there are other measures you can take to limit that blue light: You can download software, such as f.lux, which changes the color temperature of your computer screen to reduce the amount of blue light it emits. For smart phones and tablets, you can also download software that helps block blue light, such as Twilight for Android phones. Don’t fall asleep with the TV on. Turn TV off at least 30 minutes before sleep, read a book in place of TV.
Read a book. Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates reads an hour nightly (mainly biographies, historical books and intellectual periodicals) to help him fall asleep easier.
Install dimmer switches in your home. “The brain isn’t supposed to have a lot of sun exposure after sundown. So lower the dimmer switches in your bedroom and living room when you notice the sun setting. You can also use special bulbs in your nightstand lamps, such as Lighting Science’s Good Night LED light bulb, which emits less blue light than regular bulbs.
Pop a melatonin supplement. “Melatonin can help move your clock backward. Take a 0.5-milligram or 1-milligram melatonin supplement 90 minutes before you want to fall asleep. So if you need to wake up at 6 a.m. and want to go to bed at 10 p.m. to get 8 hours of sleep, take melatonin at 8:30 p.m.
Stick with a sleep schedule. It’s tempting for night owls to stay up late Friday and Saturday nights and then sleep in on Saturdays and Sundays, but that throws off your internal biological clock, making it harder to wake up early on Monday. It’s called social jet lag. Have a consistent sleep and wake time and keep up that consistency, even on the weekends. It’s OK to give yourself a 30-minute buffer, meaning you can snooze a bit more, but going past that amount makes it harder to keep up with your new earlier-bird ways.
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