How I Found My Inner Morning Person (and You Can, Too)
How to wake up early
I am about to say some things that may sound entirely foreign to you.
I love waking up early. My favorite time of day is between 6 and 8 AM. The earlier in the day, the better my brain works.
Everybody’s body is different. If you know you’re a night owl—if you love going to the gym at 10 PM, for example (that’s gonna be a no from me, dawg)—don’t fight it. I’m not here to tell you mornings are better for you if you know they’re not. But if you have an inkling that you could be a morning person if you put the work in to get started, then read on.
Why I love mornings
A lot of people assume that I don't value sleeping as much as they do. This couldn't be further from the truth—I love sleeping! I just channel that love into an early bedtime and consistent sleep habits rather than sleeping in late.
I haven’t always loved mornings. When I was in high school, I could sleep until noon every day, and I hated 8 AM lectures as much as the next college student. But there were signs that my body’s natural rhythm tended toward mornings. For example, I never pulled a single “all-nighter” in college—preferring to wake up early to finish studying rather than stay up late—and I never liked socializing into the wee hours of the morning as much as many of my friends did.
Now that I’m working consistent, regular hours, I’ve found what I believe is the right rhythm for my body: 9:30 bedtime and 5:00 alarm. It all started when I gave up the snooze button for Lent one year and started using the idea of sleep cycles instead (more on this below). Today, the morning is my most energetic and creative time, the time of day when my motivation is strongest and my mood is brightest. This is why I go to the gym at 5:30 AM: I know, from extensive experience, that if I don't go to the gym in the morning, I will not be able to make myself go at all.
I wake up around 5 whether I plan to exercise or not. On a rest day, I might get a little side-hustling done, work on my blog (as I type these words, it is 6:33 AM), or squeeze in a few chapters of reading while I sip espresso. It's a truly lovely way to start my day. Plus, I like that commuting and going to work is not the first thing I do. I feel so much better all day when I've woken up early; this is what really gets me up when the alarm goes off, day after day.
Tips to learn to wake up early
If you're looking to tap into your inner morning person and wake up earlier than you do now, here are my best tips. This is what actually worked for me and helped me create long-term, sustainable sleep habits.
Consistency is key
You absolutely must give your body a chance to adjust to your new sleep habits before you give it up as a lost cause. This takes longer than you think, so be patient. For me, it was about three weeks of 5:00 alarms before I started to feel like I was in a groove.
Time your bedtime with your body's sleep cycles
A lot of people assume the longer you sleep at night, the better, but this isn't necessarily true. For most people, a sleep cycle lasts about 90 minutes. You want to try to get as close to an increment of 90 minutes from your alarm time as possible. That means seven and a half hours of sleep will leave you feeling more rested than eight! This is why I go to sleep at 9:30. Bonus: this alarm app can help, too.
Give up the snooze button.
I know giving up those nine minutes is easier said than done, but the snooze button really isn't doing you any favors. In fact, it's making it harder to wake up and leaves you feeling even more tired and grumpy throughout the day. I still allow my alarm to snooze just in case I accidentally hit a bad part of my cycle and slip back into sleep right away, but most days, my eyes are open before it goes off again. Pro-level tip I’m still working on: instead of silencing your alarm and then checking email/social media, try to actually get out of bed the moment your alarm first goes off, before your brain realizes what you’re doing. It will give you more usable time in the morning and reduce the likelihood that you’ll talk yourself out of your resolutions.
Set the coffee maker
We’ve all seen the little hacks that are meant to help get us out of bed: sleep in your workout clothes, put your alarm across the room, yada yada yada. Here’s one I discovered that's a little less conventional. Set the timer on your coffee maker so that it begins to brew at the same moment your alarm goes off. That way, it’s too late to stop it and go back to sleep, and the smell of the coffee can help motivate you to get up.
At the end of the day (heh*), a sufficient amount of sleep is still the most important thing. The main point of all this is to build intentional sleep habits and learn what's right for you and your body. Just give it a fair shot, and early mornings could turn out to be your favorite, too.