The early bird catches the worm – goes the phrase. You must have read various studies saying that people who wake up earlier are more successful. But getting up early is not everybody’s cup of tea. If you’re a night owl and sleepyhead, you know it’s one of the most difficult habits.
According to Pradeep Bollu, M.D., a board-certified sleep specialist and neurologist with MU Health Care, our sleep needs are biologically determined. He claims that to feel refreshed in the morning, we need to pay off our sleep debt i.e., the biological sleep requirement every night.
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Most adults need about 7-8 hours of shuteye per a 24-hour period, less than 5% need less than 6 hours, and another 5% should actually get more than 8 hours. It’s pretty simple: if you want to wake up earlier, you'll have to go to bed earlier too.
Also, waking up early doesn’t bring benefits only to your daily routine and work, but to your health. Not enough sleep, as well as a little sleep at night, can lead to health problems like obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease, according to the Harvard Medical School Division of Sleep Medicine. If you want to turn into a morning person as soon as you can, and change your life drastically, follow our easy guide for night owls and force yourself to live a healthier, but also happier life!
Go to bed earlier.
First step in our guide is pretty simple: if you want to wake up earlier, you'll have to go to bed earlier, too. In order to have a productive day, you’ll need to get plenty of sleep. Keep in mind that you need the recommended eight hours of sleep. Even if you don’t think you’ll sleep, go to bed and read a book. You’ll feel tired very fast and you just might fall asleep much sooner than you think.
Don’t make drastic changes.
Before you set up your getting up early plan, remember not to make drastic changes. Every step you take, take gradually. Start your day slowly, by waking just 15-30 minutes earlier than usual. Get used to this for a few days. Then cut back another 15 minutes. Repeat this until your body gets used to getting up early.
Don’t jump out of bed immediately.
You may have heard before that jumping out of bed immediately is not good. Although this works well in the military, you definitely don’t want to have that stressful schedule in your every-day life. You need to wake up relaxed and peaceful, not groggy and anxious. Besides, jumping out of bed immediately can lead to vertigo and headache.
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Consider a two-alarm setup.
And now, the alarm. Be smart and consider setting two alarms for waking up early. The first one is to wake you up, the second one is your cue to get out of bed. The first one should be within arm’s reach and the second one should be away from your bed. This approach gives your body some time to gently awaken and you can spend some quiet time in bed. You can listen to music or read the news. When the second alarm goes off your time is up and you have to get out of bed. A 10 or 15-minute period before the first and the second alarm is enough.
Find an alarm that doesn’t make you anxious.
Most people hate the sound of their alarm. It’s usually some loud and annoying melody that makes them nervous before getting up early. Therefore, if you don’t want to turn into a Hulk as soon as you wake up, find some relaxing and happy sound.
Skip taking caffeine after 4 p.m.
The golden rule. If you want to sleep all night, skip taking caffeine after 4 p.m. Coffee and other stimulants like tea and chocolate can mess with this internal clock when you have them later in the day. If you're having trouble sleeping, says Jaclyn London, MS, RD, CDN, Nutrition Director at the Good Housekeeping Institute, stick to about 300-400 mg caffeine (about three 8-ounce cups of coffee) daily and avoid drinking coffee at least 5 hours before bedtime.
Don’t eat dinner right before bed.
Another well-known advice for getting up early: don’t eat dinner right before bed. Eating or just snacking less than an hour before bed can keep you up at night, too. "Your stomach produces acid to start digestion, which means if you're lying down you're more likely to get reflux," London says. You should also avoid anything breaded or deep-fried, processed meat, fast food, and rich desserts.
Avoid drinking alcohol a late night.
This is a bit obvious, but let's remind ourselves. Although a glass of red wine may make your eyelids feel heavy, drinking alcohol disrupts the sleep significantly, resulting in a state of sleep fragmentation and deprivation. So, unless it’s Friday night, avoid drinking alcohol before bed.
Plan your morning routine.
If you develop your morning routine, you will love getting up earlier, because everything will be much easier. Waking up, all groggy and sleepy, and realizing you have to prepare coffee and breakfast, clothes, take a shower, walk a dog, and other stuff, will make you anxious and hate the mornings. Therefore, plan your morning step by step, minute by minute, activity by activity. And don’t forget to make your bed!
Read also: Morning habits to start the day right
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Cut off-screen time 1 hour before bed.
This is absolutely, by all means, the most important tip for getting up earlier. Even if you don’t wake up early, we recommend you to stick to this every day. Cutting off-screen time 1 hour before bed is crucial for good sleep. Why? Exposure to screens (TV, laptop, cellphone) before bed can also throw off your circadian rhythm and compromise sleep quality. That may leave people feeling groggy in the morning. Cell phones, computers, and TVs emit blue light which restrains the production of melatonin, which makes it harder to fall and stay asleep. To avoid this, cut off-screen time 1 hour before bed.
Take a cold shower.
A warm shower is usually the first thing we do when we have to wake up early. However, you may not know that warm water can make you sleepier. Instead, try to give yourself a blast of cold water for 30 seconds, switching to extremely hot for another 30 before going back to cold. This way, you're going to wake yourself up very effectively.
Wake up to more light.
The sunshine can help you wake up early. Ever heard of sun salutations? According to Dr. Bollu Getting a good light exposure (preferably natural sunlight) after waking up enhances our internal circadian clock and improves alertness. If you've pushed back the curtains and your room is still dark when you wake up, try a sunrise alarm clock. And don’t forget to remove the curtains tomorrow night.