night-owls need not apply
April 1, 2005 6:08 PM   Subscribe

How do I become a morning person?

I can't seem to get out of bed before I absolutely have to (or later). When I do get up early, I really enjoy taking the extra time to ease into the day, but I just can't seem to make a habit of it.

Early risers: what's the rush to get out of a warm, cozy bed?
posted by Oddly to Science & Nature (29 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Fake answer: Wake up earlier.
Real answer: Daily exercise helps regulate your sleep cycle.
posted by boaz at 6:19 PM on April 1, 2005

Get a dog. You'll have no choice.
posted by about_time at 6:24 PM on April 1, 2005

I used to be a morning person and very type 'A'.
Now I'm not, due to some lifestyle changes and advancing decrepitude. But here's what I do.

1) Have a get-ready-for-bed routine. Iron your clothes, set the coffee maker for 5:00 AM, take out the trash, all at roughly the same time every night.
2) Go to bed no later than 10:00 PM. Take a book to bed. Don't open it in the morning and lollygag in the sack.
3) No.Late.Night.TV.
4) Don't hit snooze more than twice. Second time, stay awake and gather your thoughts. Smell that coffee brewing in the kitchen. (If you don't have a coffemaker with a time setting, get one, they're cheap).
5) Tell yourself: Rise and Shine. Yeah, Corny. It works. Fake it till you make it.
6) Limit your morning time on the internet, watching TV, etc to a few minutes each. Just enough for the facts. And not in your PJs! Get washed up and dressed before you allow the luxury.
7) Do not dread/hate Mondays in advance when you go to bed Sunday night. This is really difficult (for me anyway).
posted by nj_subgenius at 6:28 PM on April 1, 2005

I recently read about an alarm clock that rolls around to a different place each day, forcing you to get up and find it.
Was that on MeFi?
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 6:39 PM on April 1, 2005

There was a recent NYTimes article about this, which says that when you get up is determined by genetics. One doctor is quoted as saying "altering sleep habits is like changing your height or eye color."
posted by ldfu at 6:46 PM on April 1, 2005

This might sound obvious, but getting enough sleep really helps. I used to have an impossible time dragging myself out of bed, until I eventually realized that I really need nine hours of sleep at night. If I go to sleep at 10 pm, it's impossible for me to not wake up between 7 and 8 am, feeling completely rested and ready to get up. It's magic!

If for whatever reason it's not possible to get enough sleep, I sometimes put post-it notes on my alarm clock reminding me of something exciting that's going to happen that day. I also made little deals with myself about being allowed to go to Starbucks only if I was out of the house by a certain time. One other psychological trick I sometimes use is to tell myself that I can take a nap when I get to work if I want to. The weird thing is that no matter how little sleep I had the night before, I never feel like taking a nap at 10 am. Once you're up, you're up.
posted by bonheur at 6:47 PM on April 1, 2005

WGP: You mean Clocky?
posted by Miko at 6:48 PM on April 1, 2005

The most important part for me has always been training myself to roll straight out of my bed and into the shower in the morning. Being all wet kinda forced me to wake up, and then while I was up I may as well just go into work. ;) My nightly routine is setting clothes out to grab on my stumble into the bathroom in the morning.
posted by SpecialK at 6:50 PM on April 1, 2005

Get a dog. You'll have no choice.

My dog has become a night person, due to me, I believe.
posted by knave at 7:30 PM on April 1, 2005

Get a dog. You'll have no choice.

I can't speak for all dogs, knave as an example, but that's pretty good advice. My mother has never been a morning person, but she now has 3 dogs that wake up at 5:30, every day, and by the time she takes care of them she's awake.
posted by justgary at 7:34 PM on April 1, 2005

Altering sleep habits is not only possible, it is relatively easy if you are motivated. I call BS on the New York Times here. What matters is the amount and regularity of the sleep you get.
posted by nj_subgenius at 7:39 PM on April 1, 2005

Yes dogs will adjust easily adjust to your habits if you make them.

I find doing what above helps me the most. I have classes at 8AM and found it really hard to get up early enough to shower and eat without feeling extremely rushed. I eventually told myself that I couldn't stay up to 3-4AM on the weekends and expect to revert back to earlier bedtimes on the weekdays. Obviously I can't be a John Belushi without staying up once in awhile, but I found toning down the party-all-the-time attitude helps.

Also don't lollygag on the days you can sleep in. If I naturally find myself waking up at 8 or 9AM on the weekends I find getting up helps a lot, not sleeping in another 3-4 hours.

I found by doing that I could get up without feeling the pressing need to sleep for the first half of the day. I should add I don't drink coffee and usually skip caffeine until dinner.
posted by geoff. at 7:42 PM on April 1, 2005

I also think the trick is to get enough sleep. Like bonheur I realized several years ago that I really don't want to to get up till I have slept nine hours, then it's easy. That means I must get to bed early, it is a trade off. In the last couple of years I have grown to appreciated 1.5 to 2 hours in the am before starting paying work. This motivates me to get my ass up. I find that after a few weeks ,( if I am getting enough sleep, min 8/8.5 a night), I get in the habit and it feels natural to get up. I think that we are habitual beings, once you wear the groove in, it becomes easier. To start off though I must force my self to get up early, thus being sleep deprived for a few days till I fall into bed at a workable hour. For me though I have come to realize that it will always be a challenge, I will slack off and have to bring my self back around. I will never be like friends that can't sleep later then six am, (and often are good for nothing by 4:30 in the afternoon), or those that only need 5 or 6 hours a night , of whom I am always envious. I agree that it is counterproductive to sleep late on days when I can. If I need to catch up on sleep I go to bed earlier. If I am in get up early mode, sleeping late is a extra 1/2 to 1 hour, no more.
posted by flummox at 7:56 PM on April 1, 2005

Getting to bed earlier will help. Try drinking camomile tea just before you plan on going to bed. After a good seven to eight hours of sleep you should wake ready for action. You won't want to stay in bed at all. Perhaps an early morning walk or jog around the block would help, too? That works for me.

Oh, there's also this: Good Sleep Habits.

Good luck!
posted by sjvilla79 at 8:09 PM on April 1, 2005

Is there any research that suggests sleeping from 10:00 PM - 6:00 AM is any better than sleeping from, say, 2:00 AM - 10:00 AM? I assume that consistency is most important, and exposure to sunlight is secondary. If my intuition is correct, the latter is only marginally worse than the former.

I realize Oddly was asking specifically about getting up early. I ask this only because so many of the responses talk about "good" sleeping habits, and there seems to be an implication that earlier equals better.
posted by Eamon at 10:26 PM on April 1, 2005

I am naturally a morning person--unless I drink. My only advice is sobriety.
posted by sourwookie at 11:40 PM on April 1, 2005

Here's a great blog post that circulated a while back on - among other things - the genetic origins of why we go to sleep when we do.
posted by joshuaconner at 12:45 AM on April 2, 2005

I read the William Dement book The Promise of Sleep last year, and it was really really interesting and thorough. I seem to remember that yes, delayed sleep phases are worse for you than advanced sleep phases (though I can't quote the exact facts, and, um, it's 4am. Total sleep deprivation and/or sleep-phase advance -- shifting time of sleep earlier into the evening -- is a mildly effective treatment for depression, for instance.) Dr. Dement has a website called SleepQuest and his own site from Stanford (not updated too recently).

My favorite book titles from his sleep-related-book-list (on the Stanford site) are Sleep, the Mysterious Third of Your Life, Insomnia -- God's Night School, and Desperately Seeking Snoozin'.
posted by oldtimey at 1:06 AM on April 2, 2005

Here's an odd thing that I do, that may or may not work for you: I often take a two or three hour nap in the late afternoon or early evening, then go to bed late, sleep for four or five hours, and wake up early.

For example, I might sleep from six p.m. to nine p.m., stay up 'til 2 a.m., then sleep for four hours and get up at 6 a.m. So, I get to have both late nights and early mornings, and still get 7-8 hours of sleep total. This works better for me in spring and summer than it does in winter (when the "hibernation instinct" makes it harder to pop out of bed after three hours in the evening. Also, of course, if you're the type who can't fall asleep pretty easily, it would be much harder to make this work). Maybe this method is totally wacky, but I usually feel best when I manage to stick to some version of this pattern. Seeing the sun rise is one of my favorite things, and I'm mentally at my very best around this time of day, so I try to schedule my nap-sleep puzzle to get me up just before dawn.
posted by taz at 2:48 AM on April 2, 2005

all i can say is that after many years of working every shift imaginable, mornings are just like any other time of day or night for me

training oneself to get up right when the alarm clock goes off is useful ... stand up, turn the thing off and get started ... when i'm on morning shift, i usually get up an hour before i really have to, just so i can dawdle and wake up before i have to get moving for real ... no matter what shift i work, i'm often up by 7 or 8 on weekends ... and sometimes much ealier than that
posted by pyramid termite at 7:27 AM on April 2, 2005

Eamon is v. right about this "early sleep good, late sleep bad" perception that many people have. My natural sleep hours are 2am to 10am, and I'm happier and more productive at the end of the day than the beginning, but it's incompatible with starting work at 8am. Keeping up with the rest of the World's schedule leaves me knackered all the time but is unavoidable, and people just think you're lazy when you want to sleep in in the mornings or nap when you get in from work.

By going to bed earlier, I do indeed find it easier to get up in the mornings, but then miss out on those good hours at the end of the day - even when I've slept enough I am never in a good or productive mood in the mornings and never get up in time to do anything before work.

Afternoon naps sometimes help make both possible, otherwise I just swing between staying up late until I'm too tired to do it any more, then get a few early nights and start the whole cycle again.
posted by penguin pie at 9:48 AM on April 2, 2005

I absolutely agree that afternoon naps are great, but I tend to have an even harder time getting to sleep at night.

I've never been a morning person and I often drink heavily, but for some reason, lately I can absolutely *not* stay in bed later than 8am on any day of the week (I'm usually awake by 6, out of bed by 7).

The only things that have changed recently has been increased stress in my MSc program (gotta get it done, oh noes, deadline! &c) and I bust my arms on a chinup bar after my 1st coffee and 2nd cigarette (then it's off to the shower -> bus to the lab).

So I'll echo everyone else and suggest; get into a rhythm, stick to the schedule, and increase your level of physical activity.
posted by PurplePorpoise at 3:22 PM on April 2, 2005

I'm lucky enough to have an east-facing window. I just pull up the blinds a little bit before I go to bed, and when the sun rises next morning it hits me right in the face and wakes me up. Once I've got a pattern of getting up early, my body does the reast and I fall asleep earlier, too. (This does not work in winter or cloudy days, however; nor have I noticed any accompanying increase in health, wealth or wisdom.)
posted by Guy Smiley at 7:43 PM on April 2, 2005

Set at bedtime alarm. I try to be in bed by 2100, so I can be up at five. Hitting the gym first thing in the morning is still something I'm working on, but early morning exercise is the best recipe for a good (mood-wise) day for me. It's great motivation; the problem is getting myself motivated to go in the first place. You've got to force it to become habit (it being waking up to do something—anything). When I was in high school, I'd wake up at 0400 to take my telescope to the park. Get a passion.

If you want to know the biggest motivator I've found, it's my motorcycle. Since I learned to ride, I have been waking up at dawn, checking the weather, and figuring out if I have time to tool around on the bike before riding it to work. Find your motorcycle (something that gets your blood pumping, that you wish you were doing every waking minute). Six months later, it's still working. (Except for rainy days like this weekend, when I find myself falling into old habits since chance is slim to nil of riding tomorrow).
posted by Eideteker at 10:06 PM on April 2, 2005

Here were the things that helped me a few months ago when I decided I wanted to make it to a 7am yoga class twice a week:

1. Eat less or earlier in the evening.
When you go to bed with an empty stomach (or even a little bit hungry), you wake up much easier.

2. When the alarm goes off, turn on the light
This works during winter months when it's still dark in the mornings. Don't think about it: when you hear the alarm, switch on the light.

3. Reset when necessary
If my sleep cycle gets knocked off and I know I need to go to bed early to make a morning wake-up, I am not afraid of using chamomile, valerian, or (in extreme cases) valium to force myself to sleep back on schedule.
posted by arielmeadow at 10:48 PM on April 2, 2005

One doctor is quoted as saying "altering sleep habits is like changing your height or eye color."

well... I guess they can make your bones grow longer now... You can definitely change your sleep habits though. They are habits, not necessities (or, I suppose it's possible that it's like the gay/bi/straight thing - maybe some people are at extreme ends of the scale and can't move...) I used to be a night person, never went to bed before 2 and often not until 4 or 5. And I need a good solid 8 hours, so I would often sleep until noon. But I find that when I'm on an earlier schedule, I feel more productive - when I get a lot done before noon, I'm somehow energized by it. Especially when i have a lot going on, instead of staying up late, I will get up early, and give myself a little morning treat - very little things, like going to the local cafe for breakfast, are somehow quite powerful motivators. It's both a treat and a goal - if I get to the cafe too late, it'll be too crowded, so I've gotta arrive right as they open at 7ish. Then I can relax and have a coffee & do a little reading, and I'm still where I need to be by 8.

However, the key is getting to bed on time - if I let things keep me up too late, then after a couple days I start feeling the wear & tear of getting up too early, and I no longer feel like I'm being productive - just punished.

Re: tricks, if you drink water or herbal tea before you go to bed, you'll often have to pee in the morning - that gets me out of bed some mornings. Pets are good too; my cat usually reminds me about it being daytime when she deems it appropriate (which is often before my clock reaches that conclusion). A mental decision really does work though: you just tell yourself, nope, no thoughtful ruminations blah dee blah, alarm=on the way to the shower.
posted by mdn at 11:28 AM on April 3, 2005

I am going to have to agree with the eat less before bedtime advice. This has always helped me pop out of bed more easily. Knowing that there is some food waiting for me in the kitchen is just what I need to get me to take that first step.

I also tend to doze at about 12:30-1:00 am and am easily able to get up just before 5:00 am. I have a very short nap in the early afternoon before I head out and get the sun's glorious rays in me. The short of it is that a nice half an hour to an hour nap in the very early afternoon is enough to get me through 'til the late evening.

Another really helpful trick for me has been to immediately chug a full glass of water when I get up. You'd be surprised how much this wakes you up. Soon you'll have to pee and your future of wakefulness is guaranteed. It is also important for me not to dawdle around in my sweatpants or PJ's in the morning (I work at home). A nice early shower during my first 15 minute break gets me out of the mood that there is the outside chance I'll be heading back to bed.

I can't stress it enough how much eating less reduces my need for sleep. I have found that reducing my calorie intake and not having a full stomach dramatically increases my productivity and alertness. I am truly amazed by this and think a constant devotion to fasting is not only helpful in ridding your body of toxins and helping food taste great, it adds hours of time awake to your life.
posted by WebToy at 1:54 PM on April 13, 2005

Some of these have been mentioned already, but I recently made the switch from "night owl" to "early bird", here's what worked for me. (In no particular order)

1. Average at least seven hours, eight is preferable, of sleep a night. I find I can usually balance out one or two late nights a week with some sleeping in, but more than that and I'm useless.

2. Exercise. This was actually the motivation for me to start getting up early -- I hit the gym at 6am, before work. But regular exercise will *make* you tired by bedtime. As kind of an aside, I find exercise in the morning makes me much more productive during the day and ready for bed at night. Even if I don't hit the gym, I find stretching in the morning, just ten or fifteen minutes, is great.

3. Little to no caffeine. I'm not much of a fiend anyway, but the days I do have a cup of coffee or two I'm all out of wack. I limit myself to one mug of green tea in the morning, water the rest of the day.

4. Consistency - even on nights when you don't have to be up early the next day, try to go to bed about the same time. You're body will hit a rhythm, which kinda sucks when the weekend comes and you want to hit the bars.

5. Limit your alcohol the night before. I feel like I'm starting to sound like my mom, but I found that more than one or two beers really does throw the sleep off. Even though you're tired from the alcohol, the quality of your sleep really does suck when you're drunk.

6. I haven't experimented with diet too much, but I know folks who limit their carb intake to almost nothing after sundown and say it helps not only with sleep but keeping weight off.

7. Turn on a light -- my SO is sleeps later than I, so this usually means getting out of bed, feeding the goddamn cats and turning a light on in the kitchen or living room. In the northwest, now that the days are longer, it's not such a big deal right now, but just having a light on in the winter time works wonders.

8. Conversely, make sure your room is dark and relatively noise free. We live on a busy street in a building with no AC, so this can be a challenge in the summer with the windows open, but closing the blinds and dampening the noise helps [/obvious]

9. The bed is for sleeping, the couch is for watching TV/reading/surfing on your laptop. I'm guilty of bringing a magazine to read in bed or watching Iron Chef while dozing off, but your sleep will improve if your brain knows to shut itself off and disengage when you're in the bed.
posted by jimray at 3:09 PM on April 26, 2005

Sure fire method: Get older.

As you age, the length of your circadian cycle shortens. As a teenager, the average cycle is 25+ hours, meaning that today you are ready to go to sleep one hour later than you did yesterday. When you are in your late 30s, your cycle is about 24 hours, and by your 50s it is down to 23 hours.

Most of the answers that were posted here are proxies for aging, "go to bed earlier," "keep more regular hours," "take a nap," "sobriety," "chamomile tea." These are all easier when today your body is telling you that you are tired an hour earlier than when you went to bed yesterday.

Soon enough you'll be a cranky old geezer who wants to go to bed at 9 pm and is ready to get going at 5 am. At that point, commenting negatively on the moral laxity of the young is optional.
posted by tkb at 3:10 PM on April 26, 2005

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