Mornings are hard. Many of us wake up groggy and grumpy, hissing as we open the shades and are assaulted by the white-hot rays of the accursed sun. We stumble through the first few hours of the day, knock back two or three cups of coffee, and finally become productive around noon.
But what if it didn’t have to be that way? What if your mornings could be—gasp—happy?
You might claim that you have an innate hatred of the morning hours, or that you’re more of a night person, but in reality, only two in ten people are truly night-owls.
As for the rest of us? We’re morning people in disguise.
The reason most of us hate the wee hours of the day with such intensity is that we’re not sleeping correctly.
Now, you’re probably thinking, “But my day is just too busy to get in a full night’s sleep,” and for many people, that’s a valid complaint. But even if you find yourself in a situation where you cannot control the number of hours you sleep, you can still control the quality of that sleep.
In essence, you can re-forge yourself into a morning person by taking a few key actions. Let’s find out how.
Create Your Cocoon
Sleep hygiene is the foundation of good-quality sleep that will leave you feeling refreshed and renewed. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, sleep hygiene is the collection of practices and habits that contribute to great sleep quality.
One of the most important aspects of good sleep hygiene lies in making your bedroom a cocoon of quiet calm.
At night, this should be a place of peace, calm, and quiet. If you live in a bright, noisy city, shut out those neon lights and the sound of the crowd by purchasing light and sound blocking curtains. These are drapes which are lined with thick material that can insulate your room from sleep distractions.
Make sure that your bed is comfortable, clean, and right for you. Different people need different mattresses—where one might need a firm surface, another might need something softer. Invest in a high-quality pillow and a mattress of correct firmness, and you’ll sleep much more deeply.
Finally, close your bedroom door to stress. If you’re arguing with your spouse, for example, don’t take it to bed. Settle things outside the bedroom, or agree to pick things up in the morning.
Treat your bedroom as a sacred place of sleep, and you’ll soon associate it with peace and comfort, which will help you get great sleep.
Slowly Change Your Bedtime
One of the biggest mistakes people make when trying to raise the quality of their sleep is to suddenly try going to bed hours earlier. If your body has grown accustomed to going to sleep at 3 am, and you switch things up, getting in bed at 10 pm, you’re going to be in for a frustrating night.
Your body gets used to things. In this scenario, you’ve programmed it for a 3 am bedtime, and it will resist going to sleep at 10, no matter how tired you are.
Instead, try moving your bed time about 15 minutes each night until you reach your goal. This might take a while, but you’ll avoid the alternative—one frustrating night that will likely make you quit the struggle to go to bed earlier.
If you give yourself time to adjust, though, you’ll be far more likely to create a lasting change that results in a better sleep experience.
Ban Electronics From the Bedroom
Did you know that the type of light emitted by many electronic screens can interfere with your sleep? It can.
Most screens emit short-wavelength-enriched light, which is a fancy way of saying that it has a high concentration of blue—much moreso than natural light.
This blue light effects our natural levels of sleep-inducing hormones. Scientists think that this is the case because our bodies have adapted to the blue light of the daytime sky, taking it a cue to remain wakeful.
Exposing yourself to this kind of light at bedtime can give you that cue, telling your body that it’s time to be awake. This has serious consequences, and can throw off the body’s internal clock, making it much more difficult to sleep, and lowering quality of sleep when it does come.
The best policy is to simply keep electronics out of the bedroom, and to stay away from screens for at least an hour before bed time. Read, meditate, or converse, but avoid that blue light before bed.
Create a Routine
Human beings thrive on routine. These habitual motions allow us to move on a sort of biological autopilot, giving us a chance to put our amazing brains to other uses.
Unfortunately, many of us don’t take the time to design routines that truly benefit us. We just fall into a pattern of doing what’s easiest and brings the most immediate pleasure. And if you want quality sleep and the great mornings that come with it, this is a problem.
Your sleep routine needs to be intentional for it to be effective. Make a habit of doing the same few things each night in the hour before sleep, and choose actions which promote calm, move you toward the bedroom, and don’t stimulate you. For example, you might brush your teeth, meditate, have non-caffeinated tea, and read a book before sleep.
But don’t limit your routine to the night—you can use the advantages of habits to give yourself a pleasant morning, as well. Put together a series of pleasant actions that move you toward wakefulness and good health, and do them each morning.
Before long, you’ll be looking forward to both sleep and the morning—something few others can claim!
Avoid the Snooze Button
Here’s a nugget of timeless wisdom: if you want to get out of bed, you need to get out of bed.
There’s more to this than you might think. Hitting the snooze button traps you in an in-between state, neither fully awake nor fully asleep. It’s wasted time, and it keeps you groggy and grumpy for longer.
Instead, put your alarm clock on a surface that’s out of arm’s reach. You should have to get out of bed to turn it off, and by the time you reach it, you’ll be at least a little more awake.
If you need a further push, make technology your friend—or enemy, depending on how you want to think about it. For example, if you use Twitter, schedule a really embarrassing tweet to be sent out around ten minutes after your alarm goes off. If you don’t get up, instant embarrassment. It works.
Use whatever resources you need to in order to get yourself out of bed and awake. You’ll hate life for a few seconds, but trust us—it’s better than the stress of languishing in bed for fifteen minutes, having to skip breakfast, and getting a speeding ticket on the way to work.
Doesn’t a leisurely coffee and eggs sound better than that?
Engage in Morning Exercise
This is it—exercise is the crowning achievement that will ensure your entry into the gates of morning-person heaven. Unfortunately, it’s also the step that most people are afraid of.
We know what you’re thinking. Running at 6 in the morning? Stretching before breakfast? Picking something up before noon? Insane!
But if you skip out on this opportunity, you’ll miss out on a lot of happiness and productivity.
Take small steps—that’s the key to success in almost everything. Every morning, do a set of simple stretches before breakfast. Eventually, move on to a brisk walk. When you’re ready, jump on your bike or take a jog.
Don’t do anything too strenuous—at most, you want to get in some cardio that gets your heart pumping for about 30 minutes. This will get you ready for the day without exhausting you.
Doing this releases feel-good endorphins—your body is, literally, drugging you into happiness, and this warm glow will follow you throughout the day.
Don’t believe us? Try it, and watch as your mornings turn from grumpy to golden.
Redirect Your Thoughts
Finally, if you’ve been trying all of these tips, but still can’t seem to get enough high-quality sleep to feel energized during the day, you may need to turn inward. Your brain is the most powerful organ in your body—how you think can affect everything from your health to your weight to your ability to sleep.
Reframe how you think about your day upon awakening. If you’re like most people, you probably open your eyes to a feeling of dread. You’ve got to mow the lawn today, or put together that 20-page project at work. This dread of the coming day keeps you in bed and keeps your mornings dreary.
But you can change this. Instead of focusing on what you dread, focus on what you’re looking forward to. Change that dread of mowing to the anticipation of a great-looking lawn the chance to just think for a while. Re-frame that work project as the opportunity to hone your skills and look awesome to your boss.
This will be hard at first, but eventually, it becomes a habit, and the habit will become a lifestyle. You’ll not only have brighter mornings, but you’ll be a brighter person, as well.
Embrace the Rising Sun
Think of all you could do with a better morning. You can get things done before anybody is there to bother you. You can enjoy some quality alone-time. You can simply relax before the hectic day starts.
Allow the morning to be a gift rather than a curse for you by trying out these tips. You may find that you’re more of a morning person than you ever thought.