If you can’t form a coherent sentence before your third cup of coffee, you’re probably not a morning person. As a kid, your parents may have reacted to your early a.m. crankiness by handing down an earlier bedtime.
We’re guessing that didn’t fix the problem.
It’s widely believed that our chronotypes determine at which time of day we shine our brightest. It’s determined by genetics, and thus mostly out of our control. And while our chronotype can evolve naturally over the course of our lives, it’s resistant to external forces.
So I’m stuck being miserable in the mornings?
Not necessarily. It’s unlikely you’ll transform from a night owl to a morning lark, but there are a few tricks you can use to adjust your natural tendencies:
Put yourself on a morning schedule…and stick to it
Choose a wake-up time that’s no more than two hours earlier than your usual time, and stick to it. Consistency is key when it comes to influencing our morning schedule. According to researchers, waking up, exercising and eating at the same time each day will help your body settle into a routine.
This is especially important on weekends and vacations; sleeping in allows your body to revert to its natural chronotype. The time we go to bed is less important because our bodies typically let us know when we’re ready for sleep.
Let the sun shine in (or go out)
Light is crucial in helping us to wake up: When light is detected, our brains instruct our bodies to stop producing melatonin, the hormone responsible for regulating sleep. Some sleep specialists insist you need to leave the house and go outside for a walk to absorb more and brighter sunlight. We’ll let you decide.
If you can’t bring yourself to leave the house, or part with your new custom blinds, automating your interior lights to come on as the sun rises can somewhat duplicate the effect.
Exercise in the a.m.
It’s common sense that exercising in the morning helps us wake up, but did you know that sunrise sessions may the most beneficial for a good night’s sleep?
According to researchers at Appalachian State University, exercising early in the morning lowers blood pressure and reduces stress and anxiety throughout the day. The study also showed that those who exercised at 7 a.m. slept longer and had more beneficial sleep cycles than those who worked out later in the day.
Don’t skip breakfast
There’s no hard and fast rule about whether eating breakfast is important — it’s very much an individual preference. But when you’re looking to increase your alertness in the a.m. hours, it’s a good idea. Choose yogurt or eggs over toast or bagels, as protein enhances wakefulness and will boost your brainpower.
But skip the nap
As you begin waking up earlier, you may feel drowsy in the afternoon. Power through and resist the temptation to sneak away for a quick snooze. Napping can interfere with your natural stimulus for sleep. Instead, channel that sleepiness into an earlier bedtime.
Recalibrating your body clock is possible, but it requires a lot of commitment. Sleep experts say that, with discipline, you can do it. But you must stick it out — and never go back.