February 10, 2020

How to become a 'morning person'

Daily Briefing

    Whether you're a morning person or a night owl comes down in part to your genes, but experts say there are evidence-backed strategies you can use to change your internal clock and wake up earlier.

    The 5 most dangerous sleep myths, debunked

    How to become a morning person

    According to Ilene Rosen, professor of clinical medicine at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, our circadian rhythms, which tell us when to fall asleep and wake up, have been shown to be roughly 47% genetic.

    However, often what keeps us awake late into the nights is tied to our evening habits, especially with technology, Alex Dimitriu, founder of the Menlo Park Psychiatry and Sleep Medicine clinic, said.

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    "The excitement of our digital world has certainly made matters worse," Dimitrui said. "It is rare, in the absence of electricity, to find people sleeping the extremes we see in our society, of, say, 3 a.m. to 10 a.m."

    How to reset your schedule

    To break the cycle and reset your sleep schedule Dimitriu recommends beginning with the part of the process you can control: your wake up time.

    Instead of starting with an earlier bedtime, Dimitriu recommends getting up "30 minutes earlier each week." You should have "something fun or desirable to look forward to in the morning," Dimitriu said. He also suggested taking a walk outside in the morning light, which can work as a natural cue to your body's circadian rhythms.

    Once you're getting up earlier, Dimitriu said you should aim to go to sleep about 30 minutes earlier each night. He also said people should go to bed when they feel tired and not try to stay up.

    In addition, Dimitriu suggested doing something relaxing and quiet in the hour or two before you go to bed to help ease you into sleep. "Smartphones and laptops are just too exciting," he said. "So many people find it easier to go to sleep after reading a book than after trawling the internet." Dimitriu said it also helps to avoid eating large meals, exercising, and being in bright lighting during that time.

    Another method is called bright-light therapy, in which melatonin, alarms, and light attempt to slowly change a person's chronotype, all under the supervision of a doctor.

    Tracking your progress

    Both Dimitriu and guidelines from the National Sleep Foundation recommend making sleeping-related changes gradually over time. "Patience is key," Dimitriu said. "Keep it up for a week. The days get easier."

    During that time, track your energy levels, sleep habits, and overall mood to see how they change as you sleep more, Dimitriu said.

    "How you feel in the afternoon is the true test of sleep quality," he said. "Adequate sleep should result in improved memory, mood stability, creativity, impulse control and eating and drinking habits. Track these for a good while before deciding that sleeping for eight hours is no different to sleeping for six" (Guinness, New York Times, 1/16; Mitchell, Wall Street Journal, 1/23; Sleep.org, accessed 2/6).

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