The time we go to bed and how much sleep we need is unique to each of us. Our sleep cycle and circadian rhythm is what scientists refer to as our chronotype; yet there are many benefits to being a “morning person,” including greater happiness and proactivity. Can you change your sleep schedule and become more productive? All it takes is a pinch of patience and a dash of perseverance.
How does early rising help one become more productive?
Getting up early can be second nature to some and a struggle for many. Whichever your case may be, there is scientific evidence that explains how maintaining or adopting this habit can improve not only our health but also our outlook on life.
A 2019 study from the Nature Communications Journal found that “being a morning person is causally associated with better mental health.” Likewise, a study published in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology revealed that morning people “were more proactive than evening types,” which means that early risers have greater willingness and ability to take action to change a situation to their advantage.
Moreover, the Obesity Society concluded that waking up early may promote a balanced diet, while the late food intake of evening people is likely to pose an increased risk of obesity and metabolic disturbances. The University of Toronto found that “those who prefer to wake earlier lead happier and healthier lives than their counterparts who choose to sleep and wake later.”
Embracing morningness: 5 simple steps
Whether you want to radically change your sleep schedule or simply wake up a little earlier, these simple tips will help you jump out of bed full of energy.
Step 1 – Define your why
If we rely solely on willpower, we are likely to give up our goal when we experience the discomfort of lacking sleep. To avoid lapsing back into unwanted habits, try to develop your why power.
Ask yourself what is the core motivation of waking up earlier. Would you like to get morning sunlight? Would you like to devote some time to physical activity? Or perhaps make time to nourish your soul with inspiring readings or uplifting music? By defining our “why” we are able to engage our hearts and souls in the goal we want to achieve and stick to it during the most difficult stages of the journey.
Step 2 – Do it gradually
When it comes to readjusting your body schedule, small incremental changes are key. According to Benjamin Smarr, a bioengineering professor at the University of California, trying to wake up earlier is like adjusting to jet lag—“You can adjust to jet lag about an hour a day,” he explains. “But adjusting your alarm can be harder than adjusting to international travel, because the rest of the world isn’t changing with your alarm clock.”
To gradually become a morning person try setting your wake up times back by 10 or 15 minutes at a time. These time intervals can be increased on a daily or weekly basis.
Step 3 – Disable snooze
It’s natural to feel grogginess when we first awake, but as long as we are getting sufficient sleep, it fades quickly. Make sure your bed-time is early enough to provide you with the sleep that you need. Then be strict with yourself about your wake-up time.
The drowsiness we experience when we first wake up can weaken our ability to make good decisions. To avoid temptation, place the clock at a distance so that you need to get on your feet before turning it off. This will help you remember your goals and stick to the plan.
Snoozing has been proven to have a negative effect on our physical health. Not only does it trigger a response that increases our heartbeat and blood pressure but also disrupts the restorative sleep state that our bodies greatly benefit from.
Step 4 – Develop a morning ritual
This is the time to turn your core motivation into tangible action. Plan the way you would like to spend the precious morning time you are gifting yourself. It may include activities such as setting intentions, meditating, stretching, reading, praying or learning something new. Remember that the start of your day can set the stage for how the rest of the day will unfold, so make sure you use some of this time for activities that nourish your soul.
Your morning ritual can also be extended to the way you get ready for the day. Packing your lunch, making your bed or interacting with your loved ones can also be part of your morning ritual.
Step 5 – Nourish your body
Waking up to a delicious breakfast can be a great motivation to get out of bed. Take the time to plan what you will have for breakfast the night before and prep the ingredients to speed up the process in the morning. Not only will you have more time to enjoy your breakfast, but also more opportunities to choose nutritious options.
Finding the right time for your body
If, after a few months, you still feel exhausted with the new sleep schedule, it does not mean that you cannot become a morning person, it just means that you still have to find the time that best suits your body’s biological clock. This exploration is a matter of trial and error and will only work if you remain kind and patient with yourself.
Ancient advice to make the most of our time
Many Chinese emperors of the past are known for setting an example of how to lead a meaningful and frugal life. Emperor Kangxi of the Qing Dynasty set a high standard when it came to the education of his sons.
The princes had to get up every day for their studies at 5 am and would not finish until 6 or 7 pm. This was their schedule every day of the year except for New Year’s Day and two half days off before this holiday. Kangxi himself used to wake up every day at 4 o’clock to hold an early morning meeting with court officials at 6 am in spring and summer, and at 7 am in autumn and winter.
During his 61-year reign, emperor Kangxi made sure that he was present at every morning meeting, except for rare circumstances. He explained that after thirty years, his early meetings were essential to his routine “I would feel uneasy if I missed a meeting. Plus, if we met just once every three or four days, I might slack off in time.”
Today, Kangxi is still remembered as a model of diligence. “One must take a step forward each day so as not to waste precious time.” By managing our time wisely and striving to improve daily, we can change our outlook on life and turn every day into an opportunity worth waking up for.