How did you become a morning person?
May 4, 2016 10:06 AM   Subscribe

Night person here...Hello! Wanting to hear from people who actually successfully switched from being night people to being morning people.

I looked online and of course there are a million articles that sound super dandy about how to change your habits to become a morning person. "Exercise first thing!" "Don't hit the sleep button!" and so on. This sounds like my personal hell.

What I do now is set the alarm to go off 3 times (it's easier for me with a slower wake-up) and wake up at the last possible minute, then get ready in ten minutes and guzzle coffee through the morning. I actually get a lot of sleep (8 hours typically) and have been pushing to go to bed earlier (even through the night owl in me is just getting started!)

So, I'd like to hear from people who actually made the switch - what did you do?
posted by Toddles to Health & Fitness (48 answers total) 46 users marked this as a favorite
I think the most important thing for me was consistency. I get up early even on weekends. I go to bed early even on Friday & Saturday night. Without that I was constantly in sleep deficit starting on Monday and I spent the whole week trying to catch up.

Cutting out caffeine entirely also helped me a lot - the studies I've seen recently have said that if you are a daily caffeine drinker, then you need caffeine to get to the baseline that people who don't need caffeine are from the get-go. I don't like starting from a deficit, though the time when I was cutting it out was *awful*. Totally worth it in the end - it made getting up so much easier. And now on those occasional days (less than once a month) that I am really at a deficit I can have a very small amount of caffeine and it works wonders.
posted by brainmouse at 10:14 AM on May 4, 2016 [4 favorites]

Moved to the tropics.
posted by aniola at 10:14 AM on May 4, 2016 [11 favorites]

This may seem counter intuitive, but get up earlier. When you have to rush in the morning, mornings suck. When you can get ready leisurely and check out Twitter and MeFi while making yourself a semi-decent breakfast Pop-Tart, mornings are something to look forward to.
posted by Rock Steady at 10:15 AM on May 4, 2016 [16 favorites]

I started going to bed earlier. There is a point ~8-10 hours after you go to bed where you will be awake no matter what. Long term, getting that point early enough in the day is the only thing that works.
posted by michaelh at 10:15 AM on May 4, 2016 [10 favorites]

I made the switch out of necessity, not want. First, I had kids. Those little buggers like to get up and do something in the morning. Taking my toddlers to breakfast at 7:00AM is a great motivator. Second, I had a job that required I be up. I was living in San Francisco and trading the NY markets. The markets open at 6:30AM on the west coast. I would leave for the office at 4:00AM. As my dad said to me, "The only time you saw 4:00AM was coming in not going out."

To me, the key is to have something to do. Just getting up and doing the crossword while sipping a latte is not the motivator that "be here by 7:30AM every day or get fired" is.
posted by AugustWest at 10:17 AM on May 4, 2016 [4 favorites]

Seconding Rock Steady. My mornings are a peaceful time for me, I lounge around with some hot tea, read the news, pet the cat, and generally am totally unhurried and unruffled. Then I go downstairs and have a pleasant chat with the other early birds at my bus stop, and I see the sunrise. I despise my alarm clock every morning, but I hate the morning rush more than I love sleeping in.
posted by backwards compatible at 10:21 AM on May 4, 2016 [4 favorites]

I am still a night person, but one thing which has helped in the never-ending battle is not letting myself get too far off-schedule on the weekends. I'm the kind of person who could happily stay up til 4 am on Friday night then sleep til 2 pm Saturday afternoon (catching up on the week's sleep deficit). Now I have a nonnegotiable wakeup time of (gasp) noon on Saturday and Sundays. It prevents me from drifting too far into normalcy--I mean, off track.
posted by praemunire at 10:22 AM on May 4, 2016 [4 favorites]

Enjoy my evenings less. It seriously takes discipline if you are a evening person, but get up early and go to bed early. No caffeine in the afternoon. No more chilling til 11 pm and midnight. No more TV and tablets until 11... I have to get some decent exercise so I am a little worn out. I feel a little cheated in the evening but happier for it in the AM.
posted by ReluctantViking at 10:25 AM on May 4, 2016 [4 favorites]

My work day starts at 5 AM. I'm usually up around 3:45-4 AM. The most important things for me are to have a routine (two, really: a going-to-bed routine and a getting-up routine) and to not nap in the afternoons, except on off days. Get to bed early. Get off the internet. Read a book. If you aren't asleep in 45 minutes, get up and have a glass of water, don't start hamster-wheeling about how awful tomorrow's gonna drag, and go back to bed.

Get all your shit done before bed. Laundry. Set up coffee. Whatever you can do to smooth your morning exit.

And listen to your body, unless it is telling you to take a nap at 4 PM, because if you heed it then you are ruined.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 10:28 AM on May 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

I also started getting up earlier to give myself time to read and drink coffee, making the morning more pleasant. I also bought a coffee machine that I can preset the night before so the coffee starts brewing before my alarm goes off and is ready as soon as I get up.

Also I sleep with the blinds/curtains open so I can wake up naturally with the sun rising.
posted by Shadow Boxer at 10:41 AM on May 4, 2016 [3 favorites]

Shadow Boxer: "Also I sleep with the blinds/curtains open so I can wake up naturally with the sun rising."

Yes! This really helps.
posted by Rock Steady at 10:43 AM on May 4, 2016 [3 favorites]

This is as close as I've gotten. You can't really convert to being a morning person, though.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:46 AM on May 4, 2016 [6 favorites]

Yes! The paradoxical "getting up even EARLIER" worked for me! Even just a 1/2 hour earlier made my mornings SO MUCH better. I feel like I locked into my "ideal" number of hours sleep with just the right moment to wake up.

I've used the bedtime calculator too.
posted by Dressed to Kill at 10:57 AM on May 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

Oh, the other thing is that there is some evidence that the bluish light from screens discourages sleepiness. So shut off the laptop at least a half hour before the intended bedtime.
posted by praemunire at 10:58 AM on May 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

Two things, one of which is controllable and the of which probably isn't:

1. Outside your control: I moved from the East Coast to the West Coast, and apparently it agreed with my internal clock, because I find it much easier to get up early in the morning now. (I'm also curious if this has something to do with light, or housing stock, or commute, or some other potentially re-creatable thing you could benefit from.)

2. In your control: I got a job that requires me to be at the office at the same time every morning, every weekday, period. Prior to this job, my schedule moved around based on larger staffing needs, which meant that some days I was in the office at 7AM (miserable) and other days I was in at noon (great for a night person, but unlikely to result in becoming a morning person). Now that I have to be at work at the same time every day, I find myself getting up naturally at just about the same time on weekends, as well. I also find that it's not really that hard to get up at 7:15 when I have to do it every day and my inner clock is sort of set to facilitate that. (I still hit the snooze button now, but it's more for the enjoyment of getting a softer wakeup than because I find it hard to rouse myself out of a deep sleep.) Routine seems to be one of the major keys to becoming a morning person.
posted by Sara C. at 10:58 AM on May 4, 2016

There's an app called Sleep Cycle that tracks your movements in bed and wakes you up gradually in your lightest sleep phase by playing a pleasant guitar alarm. It also tracks sleep data so you can input how much you exercised, caffeine intake, mood, etc, and look at it on graphs, which is cool.

I'm very much a night person forever and ever (my natural rhythm is probably to be awake for about 22 hours and then sleep for 6, so I'm terrible at waking up early) but I find that app makes early mornings somewhat less sucky.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 10:58 AM on May 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

I took co-q-10 when I first woke up.

I worked on various health issues.

I got super picky about cleanliness of my sleep area, bedding, etc.
posted by Michele in California at 11:00 AM on May 4, 2016

I sort of randomly became a morning person in my late teens, but what sealed it for me is having enjoyable stuff to do in the morning. Making breakfast, leisurely book reading before work, catching up on TV my wife doesn't care about on weekends, that why I get out of bed at 7:00 on weekends.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 11:05 AM on May 4, 2016

I had a horrible time transitioning until I accepted that the first ten minutes of being awake are always going to be horrible, whether they are 5:30-5:40 or 7:45-7:55. I have been getting up early and getting much better sleep for a year now and I have yet to wake up feeling refreshed and raring to start my day.

Consistency (cutting way back on how late I sleep on the weekends) and a happy light for winter helped a little bit, but the thing that actually did it was establishing a zombie-like routine that I can struggle through until my brain is actually awake. I get up without allowing myself to hit snooze, stumble into the kitchen to start the coffee, stumble to the bathroom, and then back to drink my coffee. By the time I'm halfway through my cup, my sleepfogged brain has cleared and I'm a real person. And, once I do that, I really enjoy having a more leisurely morning, and I've noticed that the rest of my day is better too. But those first 10 minutes are always crappy, and the knowledge that it's always to feel that way is the only thing that allows my crazy sleep-brain to accept that an extra 15 minutes of snooze-button sleep won't fix it.
posted by smittosmith at 11:08 AM on May 4, 2016 [8 favorites]

I set my programmable thermostat in my house to get the house up to 71 degrees at my wake up time. It then shifts back down to 55 degrees at the time I usually depart for work.

It's harder to sleep when it's super warm. It easier to get out of bed when the ambient temperature is nice and warm outside the bed, like it is inside the bed.

Also sleep cycle ap, also when I'm on the west coast of the U.S. my sleep schedule is normal. Also melatonin used judiciously.
posted by slateyness at 11:11 AM on May 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

Speaking as someone who just moved next door to two roosters, get roosters. Those fuckers start cock-a-doodle-dooing too goddamn early in the morning and they are impossible to sleep through. Children also work, but are a much larger commitment.

More seriously, routine, practice, and going to bed early enough to get a full night's sleep before you have to wake up, so count backwards from your wakeup time 8-ish hours and that is your target bedtime. Programmable coffee makers which are set to go off just in time for you to wake up to fresh coffee help, too.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 11:20 AM on May 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'm also in the camp of "having a child forced me to be a morning person" but here's how I've managed to (mostly) make the switch from "oh god I hate this" to it being basically ok.

- Go to bed early. Like, really early. I now go to bed at 930 pm on. the. dot. and it makes getting up at 6 SO MUCH easier.
- No caffeine after 2 pm.
- Have the sun streaming into your room in the morning.
- Make the mental adjustment. Stop thinking of yourself as a "night" person and mentally embrase that you are now a morning person. Sounds crazy, but its true -- for about a year I worked hard on mentally stopping myself from thinking "why am I awake" and focusing on the good parts about morning (its a beautiful day, I'm looking forward to breakfast, I get to spend some really awesome time with my kid).
- Biggest thing: find a way to sleep in multiples of 90 minutes -- so, sleep for 4.5 hours, or 6, or 7.5, or 9, but not 8 or 7. My midwife taught me this and it was life changing. Waking up in the middle of a sleep cycle makes you groggy and makes it harder to wake up. Waking up at the point where you are naturally most lightly asleep makes the most amazing difference.
posted by anastasiav at 11:35 AM on May 4, 2016 [4 favorites]

My solution is to sleep with some of the blinds open so that the rising sun wakes me up. I also have fl.ux installed on my laptop, and it starts giving me warnings in the evening that tell me how long I have until I have to get up in the morning (the "You're waking up in 7 1/2 hours" message means it is time to vamoose to bed). I am a night person and I kind of forget that I need to start the getting-ready-for-bed process at the same time every night whether I want to or not.

Also going to bed earlier, as "duh" as that is. You might be one of those people who needs more than eight hours of sleep.
posted by zoetrope at 11:40 AM on May 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

I think for a true night owl, it's going to be difficult to become a morning person by just getting up early and enjoying mornings. Morning people enjoy mornings because they're morning people. You could check out some of the research Gretchen Rubin has done about night owls vs. larks. If I recall correctly, the gist is some people are inherently not morning people, but we live in a "morning people" world and night owls can learn habits to adapt better. One of the habits is to set a "bedtime alarm" on your phone to remind you to go to bed and not stay up too late. The thing that has helped me is to recognize that I am not a morning person and thus I need to plan to make my mornings as smooth as possible. At night - when I'm at peak energy anyway - I like to tidy the house, finish small tasks, do personal grooming stuff. Then in the morning I can kind of grumble grumble, stumble around, but at least I've done the major prep already. Works great on the days when my spouse can handle the bulk of family "morning jobs," knowing that I'll handle my share of tasks later. Also, I just try to recognize that hating mornings doesn't make me a bad or lazy person. I'm a night person living in a daytime world, man, and I'm just doing my best.
posted by areaperson at 11:41 AM on May 4, 2016 [3 favorites]

I've tried to become a morning person, and while I succeeded in getting up on time so I could get to work by 6:30am, I never really internalized it-- once I left the job that forced the schedule, I dropped back into my night owl ways almost immediately. I'm a zombie in the morning, so I have to prep the night before.

What got me up and going back then:
- Preset the coffee at night so it would make itself; stage mug
- Pack my lunch and assemble breakfast to go
- Pack my work bag
- Set out my clothes for the next day
- Screens off by 9pm; be in bed by 10:00pm, no exceptions (it KILLED my social life though)
- Bath/shower in the evening instead of morning (ymmv on this--it helps me relax and maximizes sleep time)
- Blinds cracked to let natural light in
posted by smirkette at 11:42 AM on May 4, 2016 [3 favorites]

I started getting up way-early when I had to and found that I was super-productive during that timeframe, with nobody else up, uninterrupted focus, leisurely coffee, etc. I no longer have to but I still do, for the coffee, quiet, and daybreak.
posted by headnsouth at 11:47 AM on May 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

I was honest with myself about when I was actually falling asleep. Being in bed and reading, playing with my phone, etc, wasn't really sleep time. I shifted to a much earlier bedtime which meant that I was actually falling asleep 8+ hours before my first alarm. I also kept my blinds open and I made myself keep the same schedule on weekends. I also like a slow wake and bed lounging on wake-up. So, I set my first alarm for 8 hours after sleep time, but then I factor in enough room for 3 snoozes and a slow wake that still allows me to get ready at a non-breakneck pace. This means my honest bedtime creeps ever earlier if I'm being realistic about my 8 hours of sleep. I also bathe in the evening. It helps me to get relaxed and wash away the day and it leaves me with one fewer task in the AM. I have a simple and quick AM routine that gets me dressed and fed and ready in 30 minutes.

If I start to get lazy with my routine, my body starts to revert back to nightowl status, so I have to be consistent in order to reset the body clock in a way that feels effective.
posted by quince at 11:49 AM on May 4, 2016

Rock Steady has it; get up earlier and be absolutely sure you get some leisurely morning time in. There are morning people and night people, but nobody is a first-ten-minutes-after-waking-up person. Those ten minutes usually suck no matter when they happen in the day.

I'm a morning person, and I consider the first thirty minutes after I wake up to be sort of a buffer zone, and try to schedule that time to be quiet and stress-free. If I can't, and I feel something irritating me, I remind myself: "hey, you're still in that irritable waking-up zone; this is gonna blow over."
posted by Metroid Baby at 11:57 AM on May 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

Delicious breakfasts and copious delicious coffee. Make it as pleasant as possible. As well as the aforementioned routine, even on the weekends. Not the best for the social life if everyone else is a night owl, but it's so great to get stuff done and out of the way in the morning, so you don't have to cram it in after work.
posted by knuspermanatee at 12:00 PM on May 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

I seem to be very attached to the natural sunrise. Unfortunately Atlanta is on the western edge of the time zone, so sunrise doesn't happen until after the time I need to get up for work. I noticed when traveling to visit relatives in Nashville that it was much easier to wake up in the morning because of its more easterly position in the time zone. The sun was UP by 7:00am.

I got a wake up light that simulates sunrise. I'm still not a morning person, but it helps and I often wake up before the audio alarm goes off. I have an older model that has birds chirping as the audio alarm. You might check their various models for options.
posted by Fleebnork at 12:05 PM on May 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

Dogs and small children.
posted by freakazoid at 12:08 PM on May 4, 2016

I made that transition, and I typically wake up before my alarm goes off and feel great. Here are some things that helped me:

- get 8 hours sleep. If you read before bed, start it like 9 hours before you have to get up.
- use an alarm that transitions gently. Sleepcycle for iOS or Android starts quiet and gets louder and louder.
- Sleepcycle also tries to time the alarm to your sleep pattern, so it wakes you during shallow sleep. I don't use this any more, but it might help.
- shower in the morning
- no water a few hours before bed.
- no alcohol...
- a morning routine that you enjoy... I enjoy my drive to work (early enough that there's no traffic), listening to a podcast, getting a coffee, and a quiet hour or so at work before anyone gets there.
- A sunrise simulator... some people say these are life-changing, although I don't use mine since I wake up naturally now.

I go to sleep at 8:30 or 9 and get up at 6... but usually wake up before 6 feeling great. Someone said that no one feels great in the 10 minutes after getting up, but I often do.

Of all these, getting enough quality sleep is the most important, I think, and I know tons of people who try to get by on less than they need and then feel tired all the time.
posted by Huck500 at 12:10 PM on May 4, 2016 [3 favorites]

I am a night person. Ideally I would get up at 9am and go to bed at 1am. Everyone up thread is correct - get up earlier so you have time to nap/"wake up slowly"/whatever you need to do to be ok about getting out of bed. For me that is cuddling my husband for 10minutes - I hate getting straight out of bed. We also switch our bedroom blinds from blackout blinds in summer to lighter ones in winter so we get some sunlight in in the morning to wake us up.

I cycle to work, so I get some exercise and wake up properly. I then get to work early enough to shower, drink a coffee, and look over my work for the day before my official start time of 8am. That means getting up at 6am currently - when I worked further away from home it often meant getting up at 5am. I don't enjoy it and I would much rather stay in bed until 9, but at least I'm not arriving late and still half asleep.
posted by tinkletown at 12:15 PM on May 4, 2016

I am so not a natural morning person but for a long time I had to be at work by 6:30 AM so I dealt.

Getting enough sleep consistently was a big part of it. For me, if I don't sleep enough, the fatigue really sets in on the 2nd day. So if I'm up late on Monday and only get 5 hours, it's really Wednesday that sucks. So it's important to get enough sleep every day. I have no natural willpower about bedtimes ("Hmm, it's 11:30. Probably time to go to bed. I'll just see what's new at")

Getting up at the same time every day really seems to help. We have small kids who show up in our bedroom between 6 and 6:30 every day and for a long time the deal was that on weekends one of us got to sleep in each day while the other one took the kids. But I have noticed that if I really sleep in (like, till 9 or so) I am headachy and grumpy the rest of the day and usually want a nap, so I've started trying to get up at the regular time and just read or something. I feel better.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 12:24 PM on May 4, 2016

--Get a cat and always feed them at 5AM or whenever your wake-up time is. You will never sleep in again.

--Make it difficult to get back in bed. I had a loft bed and would have to physically climb back in after turning off my alarm.

--Never vary your routine. if you have to be up by 5AM on the weekday, then you have to be up at 5AM on the weekends. If you get into British club soccer, that helps-- it's usually on super early on the weekends.
posted by blnkfrnk at 12:29 PM on May 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

I recently added an alarm app to my phone that has a pain-in-the-ass turn off method that involves me getting up, walking into the kitchen and taking a picture of my coffee pot. It's called Alarmy. There's another one called Morning Routine that has a more pleasant user interface and different functions. They both work fine.

I went from hating mornings and always being late to work to waking up at 530am every day and looking forward to my alone time in the morning. Suddenly, I'm a morning person. It's really been a life changer.
posted by dchrssyr at 12:45 PM on May 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

As mentioned above, I found that consistency over the weekend helped bunches with actually being a functional person in the morning. Get up *for* something, too - I switched over because I wanted to do a particular workout and, well, getting to that class meant getting up by 8:30 at the absolute latest. Also, if you're a desk jockey like me, try a heating pad on your shoulders while lying in bed, about 15-20 minutes before going to sleep; the heat relaxes me enough that I fall asleep much faster than without it. I will occasionally substitute showering right before bed for the same effect.
posted by tautological at 1:10 PM on May 4, 2016

I recently got a job that is from 9-5ish after working a 3-midnight shift for many years.

Prior to that I had about 3 weeks to properly adjust.

I had to gradually change many of the bad habits mentioned above.

My best advice to get into a routine where sleep is comfortable, cool and dark. Even on the weekends you can't really fall back into old habits. Over time your body will adjust to waking up "normal" hours. Especially if it is for a job that requires you to be there at a certain time. You literally can't afford to fall into previous habits.
posted by 81818181818181818181 at 1:22 PM on May 4, 2016

I think it also depends on how you wake up. I'm a night owl in that I work best in the wee hours of the morning and am most productive when the sun is down. Sunlight makes me tired... But I can also wake right up no matter what time of day it is. My husband, on the other hand isn't very productive at night no matter how much sleep he has. He stays awake because he has has trouble going to sleep and doesn't like lying in bed awake. He also isn't really awake for an hour or so after he stumbles out of bed, no matter what time he wakes up. In short, he's a night owl because he has trouble sleeping.

So, what makes you a night owl? Is it because you have trouble falling asleep and even more trouble waking up? If that's the problem, then you need to address what's causing you to not fall asleep and what helps you to wake up. Because those are going to be issues no matter what time of day you lay your head on the pillow.

As for me, I changed my sleep schedule from going to bed at or around 3 AM to going to bed at the "decent" hour of 12 AM by going to bed a half an hour earlier. It was really that easy, just go to bed a half an hour earlier until you fall asleep easily then go to bed a half an hour earlier until you've hit your goal. It took some time, but that's how I did it. When I went to college, I even got down to going to bed at 10 PM and waking up at 6 AM, but now that I don't have to wake up at the crack of dawn, I let it slide back up to 12 AM and I get up some time around 8 AM. As other posters before me have suggested, being consistent is the best way to do this.
posted by patheral at 1:22 PM on May 4, 2016

Get up earlier and drink your coffee outside. It became something I looked forward to, rather than endured.
posted by pintapicasso at 3:16 PM on May 4, 2016

Go to bed early, get up early. Do it at the same time every day. Be super duper consistent, don't give in to the temptation to stay up late or sleep in, at least not for the first few months. And take a benadryl before bed at night, and a caffeine pill about 30 minutes before getting out of bed in the morning.

That's what worked for me.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 3:20 PM on May 4, 2016

"Don't hit the sleep button"

I, uh, hate to tell you this, but... that button - well, conventionally, it's not called the "sleep" button. I think this may be important.
posted by soylent00FF00 at 5:27 PM on May 4, 2016

I had to endure being a morning person when my kids were very young, but I hated every minute of it. Now that my kids are grown (two out of three of them are also NOT morning people) I've realised that I was fooling myself when I thought I had trained myself into becoming a morning person.

I could get up early when it was unavoidable. But the very second I didn't have to do it anymore, I didn't/couldn't. In other words, you can do it if you really need to, but you will probably never naturally be that sort of person.
posted by Samarium at 5:30 PM on May 4, 2016

By training for the marathon before work.
posted by Obscure Reference at 6:05 PM on May 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

Get up earlier and drink your coffee outside. It became something I looked forward to, rather than endured.*

*May not apply to entire Northern Hemisphere of planet
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 8:57 PM on May 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

nthing the kid thing, but even that didn't work for me. if you're really a night person -- and i was diagnosed with delayed sleep phase, that's how night persony i am -- nothing is going to change that, but i use one of those bright light boxes when i wake up and i drink my coffee in front of it. it helps me wake up, it helps regulate my desire to stay awake at night (see also: you need to get a blue light filter on your computer/phone at night, like twilight or f.lux), and as a bonus i think it has a mild antidepressant effect.
posted by hungrytiger at 9:33 PM on May 4, 2016

Have kids
posted by Kwadeng at 9:42 PM on May 4, 2016

I have a two year old.

I rarely go out at night, I rarely deviate from my own sleep schedule, and she's always awake between 6 and 6:30.

That said, I can't exactly use the time in the morning for anything *but* her, but I look forward to when she's a touch older and I *can*. :)
posted by talldean at 8:51 PM on May 9, 2016

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