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Everyone seems to have trouble finding enough time to fit in all they want to do. It’s common to hear a person wish they were more of a morning person in order get more done in a day.
The truth is that the early hours of the day are often associated with highly successful people whose productivity and achievements are admired.
Fewer distractions, a less hurried morning, or a chance to read and enjoy other quiet activities can set the tone for an entire day. Running out the door because you’re late and ill-prepared for what’s ahead can initiate a chain of stressful events, one right after the other. Most of us have had that experience far too many times!
In addition, society in general appears to dictate that mornings should be a productive time. School schedules, work hours, and exercise groups are often only scheduled early in the day.
Gaining a few extra hours in the morning could significantly help you to meet personal goals and manage priorities that keep falling off your radar.
If you currently have difficulty getting up, be encouraged that it is possible to shift your daily schedule. Yes, it may take you a couple of weeks to fully make the change. But realizing that it’s going to take time and effort to smooth out the bumps can help you to be mentally prepared.
The Science and Circumstances Behind Rising Early
There’s real science behind sleep habits. Humans tend to be diurnal – that is, active in the daylight hours. Internally, we each have physical, mental, and behavioral changes that occur daily called a circadian rhythm. This rhythm tells us when to get up, when to eat, and when to go to bed.
Inner timing tends to be a bit different for everyone. Safeguarding this natural function is essential to good health habits. Researchers for the National Institutes of Health tell us that “Circadian rhythms can influence sleep-wake cycles, hormone release, eating habits and digestion, body temperature, and other important bodily functions.”
Although some of this timing is programmed into our genes, circumstances in the environment will disrupt the circadian rhythm. Exposure to natural light, artificial light, disruptive noises, and temperature changes at the wrong time can leave you mentally and physically tired, lacking energy.
Modern conveniences and technology have introduced too much artificial light into our lives, making it increasingly easy to short-circuit natural sleep habits. A report from the Harvard Medical School says that throwing off the body’s biological clock like this could contribute to causing diseases like cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.
Blue wavelengths of light, found in abundance in evening forms of entertainment, are good for the environment but interfere with the circadian rhythm.
Night-time light inhibits the production of melatonin, a naturally-occurring hormone in your body that helps you to sleep. It’s produced and released in the brain depending on the time of day – normally increasing when darkness falls and then decreasing when it’s light outside.
Minimizing disruptions and committing to a consistent daily routine will increase your likelihood of achieving an earlier wake-up time.
Here are 12 methods to implement change and be rested and ready for a productive day at an earlier time.
1. Start Rising Earlier
The process begins with getting up earlier, not going to bed earlier. The reason is simple: when you get up earlier, you’ll just naturally feel more tired and ready for sleep that evening. If you try to start out by going to bed earlier than normal, you’ll probably lie there wide awake, frustrated that sleep eludes you.
2. Ease Into a Morning Schedule
Create a morning schedule you want to attain, but be kind to yourself and ease into it rather than making an abrupt change that will feel too demanding. Many people have great success with adjusting their morning alarm in increments – just 10 or 15 minutes earlier each day until reaching the desired time. Your brain and body will adjust to these increments.
3. Prepare Ahead
Prepare ahead of time for the next day. This time-saving habit takes minimal effort and is helpful since you can jump right into morning plans. Lay out clothes, place breakfast ingredients where they’re handy, and have lunches already packed.
4. Adjust Your Calendar Appropriately
If it’s within your control, try to back up any evening activities you’ve put on the calendar so that you’re done a little earlier. Do whatever you can to stick with your commitment to a consistent bedtime. Friends and family can adjust to small changes you may need to make.
5. Create a Consistent Wake Time
Remain consistent once you reach your optimum wake-up time, even if you get to bed late. Snooze alarms are typically lethal to an early morning schedule. Put your phone or alarm far enough away from your bed (or better yet in another room) so that you must get up.
If you’re struggling with this, try out an app that requires you to solve a math problem in order to turn off the alarm. Songs can be a pleasant way to wake up, too, but if you choose this method, change the song often. You will grow accustomed to a sound and sleep right through it. There are various other types of alarm choices available.
6. Put Away Screens
Having a TV in your bedroom is a trap. In fact, to get better quality sleep, you need to put away all screens (TV, computer, phone, etc.) at the very least an hour before bedtime. Some research indicates 2 to 3 hours before bed is a better buffer to escape the effects of blue light. If you persist, inevitably you’ll be saying “But I don’t feel tired,” and end up getting to sleep too late.
7. Use Light to Your Advantage
Just as the wrong type or timing of light can be problematic, you can also use light to your advantage. When you’re making the change to earlier morning hours, as soon as you’re up, throw open all the curtains or blinds for exposure to natural sunlight. If the sun isn’t up yet, turn on bright lights in the house. This exposure to light tricks your brain and stops your body’s production of melatonin, putting you in a more alert state.
8. Optimize Your Sleep Amounts
Make sure you’re allowing yourself to get enough sleep as you’re shifting your schedule. Healthy adults need 7 to 9 hours a night to ward off genuine tiredness. Determine from the beginning that you aren’t going to nap even when sleepy since that usually starts a bad cycle of not feeling tired at bedtime. When sleepiness hits mid-afternoon, get up and move around, or talk a walk instead.
9. Don’t Sleep In
No sleeping in on weekends or holidays, either. Sorry, but sleeping in will just undo what you’re working hard to accomplish all week long. The progress you made during the week can dissipate quickly, and Monday morning will be difficult again.
Besides, there’s a uniqueness to weekend mornings before the rest of the world gets its act in gear. It can be a delightful personal time. Don’t waste precious morning weekend hours cleaning or watching a screen mindlessly. Use those uninterrupted hours to tackle something satisfying, and then relax later in the day when you need a break.
10. Eat a Power Breakfast
Diet is important, too, for making this shift to morning hours. Go for a breakfast high in protein first thing in the morning to feel your best. Carbs make most people sleepy, but protein effectively raises your dopamine “feel good” levels, making you more wakeful.
11. Use Caffeine Wisely
Have a nice dose of caffeine early if you need it, but when you’re tired during daytime hours don’t be tempted to over-caffeinate, especially after 2 pm. Recent studies show that sleep is disrupted far longer from caffeine drinks than was formerly believed. Even 6 hours before bed can make your sleep less restful – even when you don’t feel the caffeine effects.
12. Exercise First Thing
Getting any form of exercise first thing in the morning helps wake your body and brain up. Conversely, exercise late in the day can have the undesired effect of overstimulation and make it more difficult to fall asleep. Try light stretching or easy yoga to unwind at night instead.
Start Small, Then Increase
When you stick to a new, earlier routine without compromise, it slowly becomes the norm. Use an incremental approach, instead of sudden changes, to ease yourself into the “new normal” and prevent discouragement.
A stable and predictable schedule with sleep, eating, and exercise at the same time each day is foundational to success when shifting your waking hours to an earlier time slot. A few minutes of planning and preparation each evening goes a long way toward smoothing out morning challenges and gets you moving more quickly after waking up.
Add the science of sleep to your efforts for the best results. Keep blue light to a minimum and end all screen use early. Watch your caffeine and alcohol intake. Eat protein in the morning for the best results, and get exercise early in the day.
Before long, you’ll be the one saying, “Me? I’m not a night owl. I love early mornings!”
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