The Secret to Becoming a Morning Person

And a few easy tricks for getting you there.

woman drinking from a cup


For the last six years, Aine Rock has woken up at 5 a.m. every day. She sees it as a way to start her day with a quiet moment before the world bombards her with news updates and client demands and before she has to turn her attention to her 9- and 12-year-old children. “I choose me before anyone else,” the California-based high performance coach and breathwork facilitator says. Though a hard switch at first—Rock admits she was a night owl, committed to late nights and late mornings for most of her life— finally figuring out how to become a morning person has been life-changing, impacting her energy, clarity, mood, and sense of agency over her life for the better.  

Rock is proof that you can successfully pivot to become a morning person. But it’s not as simple as setting your alarm clock and starting your day earlier. That’s because your ability to pry yourself away from your bed sheets is not just about willpower; a larger role is played by your chronotype, or your body’s natural disposition to sleep and wake at certain times that is controlled by inherited genes, explains Chris Winter, MD, a neurologist, sleep specialist and author of The Rested Child and The Sleep Solution. Like our parents, some of us are larks, early risers who are super active in the morning; some are night owls, or those who thrive after dark; and some sit somewhere in between the two and are known as hummingbirds.

“Your best sleep and most productive and creative day is most likely to occur if you are sleeping consistent with your natural chronotype,” says Britney Blair, PsyD, a licensed clinical psychologist, an adjunct professor at The Stanford Center for Sleep Sciences and Medicine, and founder and CEO at The Clinic. But while Blair doesn’t necessarily recommend trying to go against your chronotype, she does understand there are times—because of work or other obligations, as in Rock’s case—where this can be a necessity. Plus, there is evidence that suggests that being a morning person can help with depression, and that early birds may tend to engage in more healthful lifestyle behaviors

While some research does point to night owls being at a higher risk for type 2 diabetes and heart disease, it’s not all bad news. According to Blair, “genetic night owls are just as productive and creative, and some studies suggest that a ‘night owl’ chronotype is associated with an increase in creativity.” Not to mention, it’s only a positive thing that there are night owl trauma surgeons out there who are ready to help you when you arrive at the ER at 3 a.m., adds Dr. Winter.

If, for one reason or another, you want to make your bid to get out of bed earlier, it is possible to figure out how to become a morning person. “We can train, to some extent, our circadian rhythm so that we feel more awake when it is light and more sleepy when it is dark,” explains Jessica Matthews, DBH, NBC-HWC, FACLM, national board-certified health and wellness coach, board-certified lifestyle medicine professional and associate professor of integrative wellness at Point Loma Nazarene University. This, in essence, helps us become more of a “morning person.” Here Matthews and other experts identify five early bird hacks to try:

Work toward an earlier wake-up time.

You can’t just go from waking up at 10 a.m. to waking up at 6 a.m. and expect not to feel the consequences. That’s why it’s important to go slow. “Start by setting an alarm for 30 minutes earlier than you currently wake up, and work up from there,” says Matthews. “Simultaneously, gradually move up your bedtime.” It may take some getting used to, but over a series of days, your body will adjust. 

It may also help to change your overall mindset. Try speaking to yourself in a way that describes who you desire to be: an early riser. Rock suggests telling yourself, “I’m the kind of person who loves waking up early.” Hey, you may just start to believe it, too.

Establish a regular sleep cycle.

It’s not enough to try to train your body to rise earlier during the week if you are just going to destroy the pattern over the weekend. That’s why Blair recommends waking up at the same time every single day, even on Saturdays and Sundays. This helps reinforce your body’s circadian rhythm— the 24-hour cycles that comprise the body’s internal clock—so it knows when to get up and when to sleep.

Exercise in the morning.

According to Tara Nicolas, a Nike trainer, reiki master, and meditation instructor, morning workouts can be an effective way to change your morning mindset. They set the tone for the day, give you an added boost of energy in almost every sense, and, for Nicolas, help her make better food choices, “because they force me to have a plan for my meals,” she says. A morning workout can also rejigger your circadian rhythm, making you more alert in the daytime while also making it easier for you to get to sleep at night.

Keep a routine.

It will be hard to be an early bird if you aren’t getting enough sleep at night. (Keep in mind the average adult needs seven to nine hours of sleep.) That’s why you want to make sure you are actually tired when the time comes so that you sleep adequately throughout the night, says Blair, which is where a wind down routine can help. For Rock that means a warm bath, a white noise machine, essential oils, a silk eye mask, and restricting screen use at least an hour before bedtime. These types of bedtime routines, which Matthews suggests doing about 30-60 minutes prior to your newly desired bedtime, “create a more natural and easeful transition to falling asleep at an earlier time.”

Embrace the sunlight.

Matthews suggests increasing daytime exposure to sunlight, particularly in the morning, to put you on the right path. Here’s why: Bright light in the a.m. can make you feel alert. It’s also another way to help your body cement its sleep-wake cycle.

Ultimately, though, whether you achieve the goal of becoming a lark or remain happy as a night owl or hummingbird, the most important factor in terms of improved health and well-being, according to Matthews, is consistently getting good quality and also the proper quantity of sleep. 

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