If your health, job, family, education, or personal goals require you to get up early, it is possible to gradually change your natural sleep tendencies. This change may take time, and you may revert to your genetic chronotype at some point in your life. But there are steps you can take now to become a more morning person.
Diet and exercise can help you adjust your sleep schedule. New nighttime habits and an earlier bedtime will make a difference. You may find that a change in the lighting in your sleeping environment will also help. Once you start getting up earlier, note the positive effects, reward yourself often, and remind yourself of your overall goals if things get tough along the way.
Changing your chronotype is a challenge. If you find that you are still not out of bed, alert and jubilant at dawn, know that your chronotypes are the cause. Deep in the maze of your DNA, a small collection of genes exerts a powerful influence on whether you’re a morning person or an evening person. A number of other influences: hormones, sunlight, age, and even where on the planet you live also shape your inherent morning or evening tendency.
If you are naturally inclined to be more active and productive in the evening, can you overcome these biological and environmental influences? Can you intentionally turn yourself into a morning person? It won’t be easy, and it may not be permanent, but the answer seems to be yes.
- 1 What exactly is a chronotype?
- 2 What can you do to change your chronotype?
- 3 Here are some tips for adapting your sleep schedule to your current needs:
- 4 Gradually change your bedtime
- 5 Let the lighting help you realign your body clock
- 6 Develop a soothing nighttime routine
- 7 Track positive effects
- 8 Reward yourself for achieving progressive goals
- 9 Keep an eye on your larger, more ambitious goals
- 10 Don’t let your eating habits compromise your progress
- 11 Incorporate exercise into your day
- 12 give yourself time
What exactly is a chronotype?
Your natural tendency to be more of a morning person or an evening person is sometimes called your chronotype. Whether you’re eager to leave at the first light of day or whether you’re at your peak in the wee hours of the morning is largely a matter of genetics. But it is possible to alter your sleep and wake cycles. Even if the changes don’t last a lifetime.
What can you do to change your chronotype?
If the demands of your job, school schedule, family needs, or personal goals require you to be more active and productive in the morning, you may be able to change your sleep and wake cycles.
Here are some tips for adapting your sleep schedule to your current needs:
Gradually change your bedtime
Whether you’re a lark or an owl, a good night’s sleep is important for your health. Sleep experts recommend starting to fall asleep 20 minutes to two hours earlier each night. Over a period of weeks, move your nighttime routine earlier and earlier until bedtime allows you to get the amount of sleep you need before your alarm clock goes off and the day begins.
Let the lighting help you realign your body clock
Your body has an internal clock that determines your circadian rhythms. This clock is very sensitive to changes in light. In fact, your body is able to release the sleep hormone, melatonin, in response to the colored light of sunset.
The blue light of dawn, on the other hand, stimulates an awakening reaction in your body. You can use this light sensitivity to your advantage. Limit your exposure to devices that emit blue light (like phones and tablets) around bedtime. Opt for nightlights and bedside lamps with amber or red bulbs that mimic the colors of the sunset while you sleep.
Develop a soothing nighttime routine
Falling asleep isn’t as easy as turning off the lights. If you’re trying to kick a lifelong habit of nighttime activity, it can help to create bedtime routines that signal your brain. Gentle stretching, meditation, deep breathing, aromatherapy, reading books, journaling, and other calming rituals can help you develop an enjoyable and relaxing nighttime routine that promotes an earlier onset of your sleep cycle.
Track positive effects
When your sleep cycle begins to transform, you may notice changes in your energy level, productivity, or mood. Take note of these changes as you experience them. Because reviewing the positive effects can help you stay motivated on days when you’re feeling a little sleepy or disoriented.
Reward yourself for achieving progressive goals
Studies show that when people pursue long-term goals, they’re more likely to stay motivated if they recognize the small accomplishments along the way. As you plan your strategy for getting earlier, think about ways to reward yourself for doing hard things.
You know the experiences and treats that mean the most to you: Use your daily or weekly accomplishments to micro-motivate yourself.
Keep an eye on your larger, more ambitious goals
If prolonged sleepiness during the day or the slow pace of change sometimes discourages you, it may be helpful to remind yourself of why you have embarked on this journey. If the practical reason you wanted to become a morning person (to get a degree, increase your income, get in shape, start a business) isn’t motivation enough, it may be worth considering what the Behavioral researchers call them “higher goals”.
Thinking or writing about relationships, personal values, hopes, aspirations, and characteristics of your own identity can enable you to overcome difficulties and obstacles when other methods fail.
Don’t let your eating habits compromise your progress
A 2020 analysis of eating habits and chronotype found that evening people tend to eat their evening meal much later in the day than morning people. Studies have also shown that evening people, on the whole, tend to skip breakfast, eat fewer vegetables, and consume more caffeine and alcohol than morning people.
If your goal is to fall asleep earlier and wake up earlier, you may want to adjust your eating habits so that they promote better sleep. Sleep researchers recommend limiting caffeine and alcohol intake near bedtime and eating the biggest meal of the day earlier.
Incorporate exercise into your day
Studies show that you can use exercise to shift your sleep phase earlier in the evening. In a recent study that tracked the exercise habits and sleep cycles of 52 participants, people with an evening chronotype could advance their sleep cycle to an earlier time of day by exercising either morning or evening. The same study indicates that once you’ve shifted to a more morning-oriented sleep cycle, you need to exercise early in the day to maintain your new sleep pattern.
give yourself time
Becoming a morning person literally won’t happen overnight. The more your sleep patterns are trained, the longer it will take you to rearrange them. While it’s perfectly normal to indulge in a nap on a weekend or vacation morning, try to stick to your new schedule as often as possible. In the long run, this consistency will yield better results.