This article was last updated on April 16, 2022
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If you hit the snooze button at least a dozen times before crawling out of bed, you’re probably not a morning person. But, admit it: You wouldn’t mind starting the day with a little spring in your step — without having to employ the help of a Trenta coffee. And, sure, getting up and at ’em makes you more productive, but it may boost your mood as well. Last year, a study conducted by the University of Toronto suggested that morning people tend to be happier than night owls.
So, how do you become a morning person — especially if getting out of bed feels like a chore? That’s the question we asked a panel of experts, who responded with some surprising tips that have us actually looking forward to sunrise. Say goodbye to groggy wake-up calls and hello to brighter days. Your new life as a morning glory starts…now.
Create a morning routine, making the first thing you do something you enjoy. “Sometimes people don’t want to wake up because they are facing stuff they dread, so they sink into the denial of sleep,” says Ramani Durvasula, professor of psychology at California State University, Los Angeles. Routine is key to being a morning person, she adds. “It could be simple exercises, reading the paper, or even something more quirky like playing online poker or painting — whatever floats your boat.” Knowing you have something fun to greet you when you wake up will help you jump out of bed.
That trick works for Ginger Zee, weekend meteorologist for Good Morning America. “I usually get to go do something I love, like stand in a hurricane and talk about the latest weather across the nation, so I get out of bed pretty easily,” she says. But even though Zee is excited to wake up at around 3:30 a.m. (seriously!), other parts of her body aren’t always on board. “My eyes are perpetually puffy at that hour, so I use ice packs and Yes to Cucumbers Eye Love Cucumbers Soothing Eye Gel as I go into work to get the swelling down.”
Okay, maybe the snooze button can be your friend. Rather than using it to buy more pillow time, advises Matthew M. McEwan of Early Riser, use it as a timer first thing in the morning. His theory: If you avoid going back to sleep during the first snooze cycle (around nine minutes), your chances of staying awake and feeling energetic skyrocket. Instead of going back to sleep, jump out of bed and do something productive such as getting a glass of water and doing a few yoga stretches. “After nine minutes, your alarm will ring again and you’ve made it,” McEwan says. “You’re still up — and I bet that you’re energetic enough to stay out of bed.”
Another key, according to Dr. Julie Gurner, a Philadelphia-based doctor of clinical psychology, is consistency and pattern. She says to stick to the same bedtime, and try to get a solid six to eight hours of sleep each night. “At first, it will be challenging,” she says. “It won’t feel natural to you, because it likely isn’t. But, hang in there — the first few days are the hardest.” Tips for going to bed early: Avoid caffeine after noon and get your exercising done earlier in the day. Working out at night wakes your body up, and it takes you longer to come down from that natural high you get from a good workout.
In fact, working out in the morning is a good way to go. One suggestion? Sign up for a triathlon. Training sessions usually occur early in the morning. You’ll be creating a new morning routine where you get those natural exercise-related endorphins — and a fitter bod — while everyone else is still sawing logs.
Sometimes it’s hard to change your habits in the same surroundings. If you’ve tried everything and still can’t get out of bed, maybe you should get out of town…and into a tent.
Believe it or not, a camping trip can help you become a morning person. “By the end of the trip, you’ll be waking up early, maybe even at first light,” says Steve Silberberg, who has seen the transformation firsthand as a guide for Fitpacking, a company that organizes backpacking weight-loss trips. “[On camping trips] you end up going to bed earlier and being exposed to natural light, which stimulates your circadian rhythms,” he says.
Of course, once you get home, you have to make sure you keep that early rising habit. The easiest way to expose yourself to natural light is by sleeping with your shades open, so daylight will enter your room as soon as the sun rises.
Your bedroom doesn’t have access to natural, morning light? No problem! Verilux’s Rise & Shine Serenity Sleep System uses a progressively brightening light (along with built-in soundscapes — think morning birds, the ocean and more) to replicate the rising sun. That means you can wake up in a soothing manner instead of being jolted awake by a beeping alarm.
And, it might be a good idea to change your light bulbs, too, says Richard L. Hansler, PhD, of the Lighting Innovation Institute at John Carroll University in Cleveland. According to Hansler, everybody has such a hard time getting going in the morning because of our exposure to ordinary light in the evening. Regular light bulbs emit a blue light, which prevents your body from producing melatonin, the hormone that helps regulate sleep and wake cycles. The key is to use light bulbs that don’t emit a blue light. (You can find them atlowbluelights.com.) “Using them in the evening will advance the setting of the internal clock,” Hansler says. “Melatonin can only flow for about 11 or 12 hours. If you get it going by 7 p.m., it will be finished by 6 or 7 a.m. This makes it possible to wake up without an alarm clock, feeling refreshed and ready to take on the world.”
And, while we’re on the topic of bedroom décor, psychotherapist Christine Gutierrez says to keep the TV out of the room — or, at least, cover it up. “The artificial light [from electronics] throws off the body’s natural system and melatonin levels,” Gutierrez says. “Covering them up keeps the lights and waves out of eyesight, and will assist with a more peaceful sleep.” You probably already know this, but stay away from stimulating electronics (laptops, television) at least an hour before your bedtime. Experts always say you’ll get a better night’s sleep if you read a book before bed instead. Sweet dreams.
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