Becoming a Morning Person

I used to think I was a morning person until I realized that I hated waking up earlier than I had to. I’m definitely not a night owl either so…did that make me a “loves to sleep person”? I started asking myself these questions after coming to the fact that I can accomplish more in my day if I wake up earlier. My only problem was that I hated to wake up earlier 7 a.m.

In a sporadic burst of motivation, I decided to give waking up early a try. At first, I haphazardly set my alarm for an ambitious 6 a.m. Well, 6 a.m would roll around and I’d usually hit snooze three times before groggily “waking” 45 minutes later. When I realized this wasn’t working, I decided to set my alarm even earlier. (I’m seriously shaking my head at myself as I write this.) So, the next week I determined 5:30 a.m. would be the perfect time. That way, I figured I could still hit snooze and wake up early enough to hit the snooze. My results were even worse, and I gave up and decided for the next month that I would wake up early only when I “really really” had to.

Now here was my conundrum: I needed to wake up early because my work day started at 7:30 a.m. Waking up at 7 a.m. didn’t give me enough time to get everything done that I needed to. I just couldn’t consistently do it and, to make it worse, when I could wake up early I felt like I needed to go to bed after dinner because I was so exhausted.

Not Feeling Rested

I self diagnosed myself with something called sleep inertia. In all honesty, I’m sure every living being that sleeps has had it at one point in their lives. Basically, sleep inertia is your brain’s way of waking up slower than usual. On a good day sleep inertia could be around 15 minutes to get your brain fully functional but for some people it can take as long as 4 hours! This is usually caused when your body is woken up during the the wrong time of a sleep cycle or lack of good sleep. I was going to bet that in my circumstance, I was just waking up at the wrong stage of my sleep cycle.

According to an article on WebMB, sleep cycles usually last 90 minutes. That means that instead of getting the typical 8 hours of sleep we hear about, getting 7 ½ hours or 9 hours would be better. The key here, is to actually heed this information and start giving yourself an “adult bedtime.” If I want to wake up at 6 a.m., I need to diligently start falling asleep at 9 p.m or 10:30 p.m. Of course, according to their sleep expert, this isn’t always the case for everyone. Sleep cycles can vary and range from 90 minutes to 2 hours. They suggest playing around with how long you sleep every night and keep track of how long you need to sleep to wake up feeling rested.

Basically, in order to feel rested, I needed to consistently fall asleep at the same time so I could wake up at the same time. Sounds pretty easy, right? It wasn’t for me. Setting a bedtime was easy enough, but I still felt tired when I woke up. I found that I wasn’t the only person this was happening to after I learned about something called phase delay. Phase delay is a condition, according to Popular Science, that affects people who have trouble getting out of bed in the morning. This is caused by a phase delayed body clock where your body’s clock is set to a later wake up and sleep time. So how do you fix a phase delayed inner clock? Stop sleeping in on the weekends. Sleeping in on the weekends automatically resets your phase delayed body clock, making it harder for you to wake up earlier on the weekdays.

Wake up early…even on the weekends!

Although I enjoyed my weekend sleep-ins, I enjoyed getting stuff done and feeling refreshed during the week more. So I sacrificed sleeping in for a better day overall and found, for the most part, that it helped me to wake up earlier. But not completely. See, there were still days where my alarm would go off and I wouldn’t want to wake up. Or I could wake up, but I just wanted to sit in bed for another hour or so. That’s where motivation comes in. I had to give myself a real reason to want to wake up earlier. For me, just the vague idea of getting more stuff done wasn’t always cutting it. The key here is, my motivation plan was too vague. I needed something more concrete and that something came in the form of making lists. Although naturally I am a list maker, I needed to write out my game plan for the next day in order to get up and get excited to do it. This wasn’t a complex plan, just a simple list of the things I wanted to get done. As an added bonus, I knew I was more productive in the morning so getting these things done early was something that I motivated to do. It feels pretty good to get half your to-do list checked off in the morning, doesn’t it?

There were some methods I didn’t try or just didn’t feel the need to try. For instance, most experts agree that using electronics like your phone, computer, or tablet an hour before bed will mess up your natural clock. (The light “tricks” your brain into thinking it’s daytime.) For me, this wasn’t something I was willing to give up and at times, when I am working, isn’t something I can give up. Some newer devices do have a bedtime setting that eliminates blue-light, and when possible, I try to use this more often at night.

Overall, it took my body about 2 weeks of consistency to adjust to a new schedule. Sure, I felt tired some days, but having a better morning made up for it in the long run. I think I can actually start calling myself a morning person again.