You’re probably aware if you’re a morning person or not. If you have no problem bouncing out of bed when your alarm goes off and tend to get more done first thing, you’re probably the former. If you hit snooze until the last possible minute and can’t function without several coffees, you’re most likely the latter.
It’s not easy to change habits, particularly if you are someone who likes to stay up late and is naturally suited to certain hours. From birth, genetics dictate our internal clock and our “chronotype” determines whether we’re early risers or night owls.
Behaviour and environment can help shift our predispositions, however, so if you want to train yourself to be an early bird, there are some steps you can take.
The first thing to do is to work out exactly why you want to change your daily routine.
Change your focus
“Start to think about how you feel,” says Life Coach Directory member Lia Rich. “Write down generally how you think your late nights are affecting you mentally, physically, in your relationships with other people, and any other aspects of your life.”
“Change your focus from how to get off to sleep – which probably feels like a burden – to a more positive mindset, about looking forward to the next day,” she adds. “Take a few moments to list a couple things you look forward to tomorrow. It can be as simple as knowing you have your favourite tea in your cupboard to drink when you wake up.”
Adjust your day
“If you are a night owl because you are busy in the evening trying to catch up with the day, take a serious look at how you can readjust your timetable and commitments, even just slightly to make a change to your day,” says Rich.
“Your brain is hardwired to like consistency. You need to throw it a curve ball to jolt it into accepting this new change then committing to it.”
Try to switch off at night
Many of us end up staying up later than planned if we’re mindlessly scrolling on social media, answering WhatsApp messages and checking emails. Screens can have a detrimental impact on sleep and specifically, it is short-wavelength blue light from the screens we watch that keeps us awake, a 2017 study by the University of Haifa found. Not only does it damage the duration of our sleep, but the quality too.
“In an always ‘switched on’ society, it is easy to think you need to be on your phone, but really, out your phone away,” Rich says. “Nothing is more important than this for being able to turn your brain off and relax. Really start to question yourself about how important the content you are looking at or activities you are doing on your phone are. Most likely it can wait.”
Set a goal
Setting yourself a clear goal can help keep you on track – especially when your dreaded alarm goes off early in the morning.
“Slow and steady wins the race – Each day set your alarm one minute earlier than you did the day before. You are now having a small win each day if you can stick to something as simple as this,” Rich advises.
“Retain your interest in your goal by reading up on the circadian rhythm, how light and dark affects our sleep patterns, and the benefits of quality sleep on the human body. Use this new-found knowledge to refuel you and stay focused on your goal.”
Mark your achievements
Roughly one in four of us are early risers and another one in four are night owls – and whichever category you fall into, it’s important not to feel pressured to change if you don’t want to. If people are left to their naturally preferred times, they may feel better and more productive.
Pushing yourself to change your internal body clock can have negative consequences too, including disrupting the production of melatonin. This can affect the body’s ability to regulate blood pressure and glucose levels.
If you do want to try and rise earlier, however, then marking your achievements can help too. If you’ve managed to get up early to go to the gym before work, good for you.
“Get excited about seeing the shift you are making to your habits, and the benefits you are getting from slowly becoming an early-bird,” Rich says. “Overall, just remember: refocus your mindset, adjust your behaviour, and commit to the change for ultimate results.”