Life gets busy, and stress piles up. Fast. There are only so many hours in the day to get through your “to-do” list at work, along with everything else on your plate: that trip to the grocery store, a few loads of laundry or housework, and other pesky errands, which continue to add up.
And that’s without including time for self-care and pleasure. To make the most of your day and put those hours to good use, start by learning how to become a morning person and rising earlier.
When you become a morning person, your body’s natural circadian rhythm syncs with the sun. You’ll experience health perks that impact your heart health, metabolism, insulin sensitivity and fat-burning, and mental well-being.
Some people have a slight advantage: A review of research suggests there’s a genetic component, and those with “early” chronotypes are predisposed to being morning people who rise earlier. Those with later chronotypes may struggle to wake up earlier, and are associated with a higher risk of depressive, substance abuse, and eating disorders.
Still, with the right mindset and goals in place, any night owl can become a morning person, regardless of chronotype. So, night owls, don’t lose hope!
Reasons to Become a Morning Person
Morning people tend to reap benefits like improved happiness and productivity, elevated energy and mood, and improved health for the long term.
Exposure to sunlight increases happiness. A “sunnier” mood boosts motivation to do something good for your body and mind in the morning, such as a workout or quick meditation ritual, before you tackle your “to-do” list at full speed later.
Waking up with the sun benefits your mental health and overall well-being, too. According to a study published in JAMA Psychiatry, rising just an hour earlier in the morning is associated with a 23% decrease in depression.
What’s more, your circadian rhythm may have some impact on how you metabolize glucose (sugar). Research suggests that internal feedback loops control circadian rhythm and your genes and epigenetics (how your behaviors and environment affect the way your genes work) influence these loops. Irregular circadian rhythms and low-quality sleep may increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes or other metabolic disorders, researchers note.
Lastly, timed light exposure could have some impact on your weight and body mass index (BMI). One study showed that increased bright light exposure — the majority above 500 lux; sunlight is preferable, as artificial light tends to range from 150–500 lux — earlier in the day was associated with lower BMI.
While it may take some time to shift your sleep and wake patterns, the following tips for how to become a morning person will make the transition a lot smoother.
How to Become a Morning Person
Create a Power-down Routine
Netflix and chill after a long day can be soothing, but nighttime habits may backfire. Overindulging can prevent sufficient sleep and ruin the morning. Give yourself a bedtime, and build a power-down routine to induce drowsiness at night.
“I utilize the iPhone ‘sleep schedule’ feature, which silences notifications for 45 minutes before my set bedtime,” says certified personal trainer, Neva Barra. “This has helped keep me from mindlessly scrolling anytime a notification pops up.”
Grab a book to read in bed to avoid blue light and overstimulation close to bedtime. Trouble falling asleep? “When I struggle to quiet my nighttime anxieties, I like to count backwards from 100 or do breathing exercises,” Barra suggests.
Don’t Sleep in on Weekends
Inconsistency makes learning how to become a morning person rather difficult. “Try to create a routine that you can stick to all days of the week to allow your body to work like the smooth hormone-regulating machine that it is,” says Barra.
Say “Yes” to Sunlight but “No” to Blue Light
Expose your eyes to sunlight soon after you wake up in the morning, even on cloudy days. Avoid blue light emission from screens at night to encourage your body to release melatonin naturally. Darkness prompts your pineal gland to release melatonin, the hormone that helps orient your circadian rhythm.
According to research, timed light exposure can be useful. Minimize bright and blue light exposure at night, as they keep the mind alert and hinder drowsiness.
Create a Morning Ritual
Build your ideal routine to become a morning person. We tend to catapult into productivity in the morning — once the coffee kicks in, we check emails and jump into work. If you’re able to adjust your wake-up time to an hour earlier, plan for some self-care before you start work. A circuit workout, strength training, meditation, or journaling can set your mind and body up for the day ahead. Just try not to skimp on sleep to rise earlier; adjust your bedtime earlier to accommodate an earlier wake time.
“My mornings are my time and I cherish it. I like to start each day by walking my dog, Tater Tot, with a cup of coffee and a podcast,” says Barra.
Focus on the little things that make the a.m. special for you.
Set Your Alarm for Earlier Incrementally
Slow and steady wins the race. “I recommend starting small and setting an alarm for 15 minutes earlier the first week, then 30 minutes earlier the next week, and so on, until you reach your goal wake up time,” Barra suggests. Your bedtime should move earlier as you adjust your wake time to ensure you get enough quality sleep each night. As you shift your wake-up time, shift your bedtime as well. Be sure to allow for enough time to wind down and get drowsy before you slide under the covers.
You can do the same with workouts if you’re struggling to transition to morning workouts. “Start with some light stretching first thing, then a walk, and work your way up to more rigorous exercise,” recommends Barra.
Have a Delicious Breakfast Ready
It’s a hassle to prep breakfast on busy mornings. Meal prep beforehand so it’s ready and waiting. And, make sure it’s something you want to jump out of bed for!
“Give yourself energy first thing in the morning—I love to start with protein oatmeal and berries, or eggs and Ezekiel toast if I have more time,” says Barra.
Morning fuel provides energy and replenishes nutrients post-workout. It’ll come in handy when you open up your inbox later.
Break a Sweat
“While there is no hard evidence that proves morning workouts are better than mid-day or evening, I strongly believe that you’re more likely to get the workout in if you do it first thing,” says Barra.
Life happens and things get in the way, so you may end up skipping a workout later. “I always have better days when starting with a workout,” continues Barra. “I’m more alert, I make better food choices, and my body feels good when it gets blood flowing first thing.”
How to Become Consistent With Morning Workouts
Schedule morning workouts: Block off your calendar as you would a work meeting or doctor’s appointment. Set it in your calendar, with reminders, and prioritize it.
Train with a buddy: Stay accountable with a buddy — in-person or virtually. “Tell a friend, post your plans on social media, sign up for a class with a cancellation fee, or get an online trainer. I promise, you’ll be more likely to show up if someone is expecting you,” says Barra.
Do more HIIT and strength and conditioning workouts: Time efficiency is best achieved with high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts, where you’re training harder and faster in less time. Strength and conditioning, bootcamp, or circuit workouts combine short and spicy bouts of cardio intervals with strength training moves for an efficient combo. Ideal for busy mornings, no?
“HIIT is proven to increase excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, or EPOC, which can help you burn additional calories all day long,” says Barra. You’ll also improve cardiovascular fitness by using intervals alternating max effort, or “sprints,” with periods of rest.
Strength and conditioning workouts combine cardio intervals like jump rope, burpees, and pop squats with bodyweight or resistance moves like squats, renegade rows or “manmakers,” and lunges with a dumbbell, barbell, or kettlebell. These workouts help you burn more calories at rest, and build muscle.
Pack your gear the night before: Avoid running around in the morning, looking for headphones or sneakers. “I’m a big fan of setting a cute outfit out for extra motivation as well,” adds Barra.
Do something you enjoy: Make it fun. You’ll feel less motivated to run if you hate it. There’s no need to do a workout you dislike, especially when there are so many great options to try! “Pick an exercise that will make your body feel good, and remember, any movement is better than no movement, so there’s no wrong way to do what feels good for you,” says Barra.
Be flexible and aim for variety: Listen to your body. Sleep is top priority, so if you’re drained, don’t push yourself. Sleep longer, or take a rest day. Or, try yoga, or go for a walk. Give yourself grace. Don’t let a night of not-so-great sleep be a setback. Get right back to it the next morning!