What to Do if You’re Not a Morning Person

Mornings are the worst. The hazy headspace, the heavy eyelids, the leaden steps… Everything about everything makes you want to slump over. And. Just. Not.

not a morning person

The only thing worse than mornings are morning people. They complete a day’s worth of work or run a half marathon before you convince your body to stagger its way into the shower. Even that would be endurable if they weren’t so darn chipper about how wonderful mornings are.

We get it, and we’ve got a few ideas to help. Here’s what to do if you’re not a morning person.

Night Allowed

Our culture views morning people as the purveyors of productivity and success, while dismissing night lovers as suffering from some kind of disorder. But that’s wrongheaded. Night owls can be as productive (and healthy) as morning larks and tend to have larger social networks. One study has even suggested that our genes, not our choices, determine our preferred circadian rhythm.

So, consider embracing your natural night owl. If your job permits, schedule working from home whenever you feel most productive, and adjust chores, exercise, and family commitments accordingly. Be sure to inform your colleagues and family about your new schedule so they can adjust their expectations of what you can do and when.

Fun Fact: Night owls may be at a higher risk of dying sooner than morning larks, and one potential cause is the stress of being forced into a morning-favored routine. You may find switching things up improves your health and work-life balance.

Retrain Your Brain

In our morning-centric world, the 9-to-5 work day is viewed as “normal,” so a night-focused schedule may not be an option. If you have to rise with the sun, there are practices you can adopt to ease yourself into a new circadian rhythm.

Get Enough Sleep. This seems obvious, but it can be tricky as there’s no one-size-fits-all amount of sleep. Most working-age adults require between seven and nine hours a night, but the number can vary. Find out what you need, and don’t rack up sleep debt.

Shift Your Schedule Gradually. Don’t try to go from night owl to morning lark all at once. Your body and mind will turn against you in groggy revolt. If you typically wake up at 10 a.m., move your alarm back to 9:45 for a week. Once you acclimate, move it back to 8:30, and keep going until you reach your desired wake-up time.

Stay Consistent. Go to bed, and wake up at the same time every day of the week. If you yo-yo between different times, your mind and body won’t be able to find a rhythm. We recommend staying consistent even on weekends—at least until you’ve fully adjusted—but you also need your time to rest, relax, and socialize, so a cheat night may be worth it.

Exercise and Nap. Exercises will help you adjust to your new schedule, but when to work out depends on you. Some people find exercising in the morning wakes them up. Others find working out in the afternoon helps them get to sleep. Discover what kind of person you are.

Naps provide extra energy that can propel you through an afternoon slump. But nap judiciously. Limit naps to about 25 minutes, and be sure not to doze too close to bedtime.

Improve Sleep Hygiene

We focus a lot on when we sleep, but we should also be focusing on how we sleep. Modern environments are very different than the environments our circadian rhythms evolved in, so they present unique challenges to good night’s rest.

Whether you’re a night owl or morning lark, these tips can help you improve your sleep hygiene:

  • Prepare for tomorrow today. Prepping lunches, outfits, etc., prevents mental restlessness from keeping you awake.
  • Skip work or stimulating entertainment just before bed. Take time to unwind instead.
  • Silence intermittent sounds such as running dryers and cellphone notifications.
  • Go Goldilocks. Your room shouldn’t be too warm or too cold, and your bed should be comfortable.
  • Keep a dark room. Remove LEDs and buy blackout curtains if street lights stream through your windows.
  • Don’t use screens before bed. The blue light of TVs, monitors, and cellphones prevents your brain from releasing melatonin, keeping you alert and awake.
  • And don’t use a snooze button. It wrecks your REM cycle.
  • Eat healthily. A breakfast like fruit and yogurt will help dissipate morning grogginess.

With these tips and tricks, you’re ready to assume your destiny as a morning person. Or maybe not. Truth is, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that you find a circadian rhythm that works for your job, your life, and your health. So, don’t worry if you’re not a natural morning person. They’re annoyingly perky anyway.

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