5 ways to trick a night owl into becoming a morning person

By Tracie Snowder, KSL.com | Posted - Apr 12th, 2013 @ 8:31pm

SALT LAKE CITY — For all the night owls out there, the worst sound in the world is their alarm clock blaring every morning, waking them up from that sweet state called sleep. I've also ruined many a favorite song by mistakenly thinking that the sound of music would motivate me to throw off the covers and embrace the new day.

I have been proven wrong many times. No matter what sound I use as my alarm clock, I still struggle to wake up rested and happy every morning. In fact, I've snoozed away for at least the past decade. This leaves me frazzled many mornings. But I always talk myself into hitting the snooze button every time my alarm sounds. Why do I do this day after day?

Law student Kelsey Yoro can answer this with a question.

"Why get out of bed when it's the perfect combination of springy and snuggly and warm?," asks self-identified night owl Yoro. "I like sleeping in. On the rare occasion I don't have to get up early for class, not setting an alarm means I have no set agenda for the day and I can do whatever I want."

While I might feel it's inherent laziness on my part, James Maas, author of Sleep for Success! and former chair of Cornell University's psychology department, says that genetics play a role in what time of day we are most alert.

"It's better for us to be morning people because that's how our bodies were designed. We are supposed to be awake when it's light outside and asleep when its dark outside."

"Whether you're an owl or a lark is kind of passed on by Mom and Dad," Maas told told US News.

But we shouldn't place all the blame on our parents for our late night/late morning routine. Need a reason to kick your snooze-button habit? There actually are quite a few good reasons why you should change your schedule to become a morning person.

First, our bodies naturally follow a 24-hour circadian cycle, says Atlanta-based psychiatrist Tracey Marks, author of Master Your Sleep.

"It's better for us to be morning people because that's how our bodies were designed," Marks said. "We are supposed to be awake when it's light outside and asleep when its dark outside."

Unfortunately for all the night owls out there, the world is made for the early bird. Whether you're a student, a parent, or an employee in the workforce, it's important, as well as practical, to get an early start to your day. But can you trick your body and mind into being happy to get up in the morning? Here are a few ways to make your wake-up call less jarring.

1. Ease into it

Try setting your alarm clock 15 minutes earlier. Do this for a few days until your body gets used to it, then try to get up 15 minutes earlier than your new time. Keep waking up a little bit earlier until you reach your desired wake-up time. It should take about a month to fully adjust your sleeping schedule, Maas says.

2. Make a bedtime routine

Turn off all electronics one hour before bedtime. Dim the lights and turn the TV volume on low. This will help prepare your mind to get ready to fall asleep. Allow yourself a full eight hours of sleep.

"You've got to anchor the morning wake-up, and then count back the eight hours," Maas said.

Weekends shouldn't be when you sleep in— that will reset your internal clock and you'll have to start back at ground zero on Monday morning.

3. Don't touch the snooze button!

Move that finger away from the snooze button and get up right away. Use the extra time in the morning to do something you enjoy such as reading the newspaper or spending a little extra time on breakfast. Get into the habit of rising as soon as your alarm goes off so your morning isn't so rushed.

4. Eat a good breakfast with protein

We all know that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. And it's just as important to eat a substantial breakfast instead of nibbling on a piece of toast or fruit, or skipping it altogether. Eat a good breakfast such as eggs, oatmeal, yogurt, or (non-sugary) cereal. Make sure you get a serving of fruits or vegetables in there too. The more protein you eat, the more awake you'll feel and, as an added bonus, the longer you'll feel full.

5. Exercise in the morning

Studies have shown that those that exercise in the morning boost their metabolism throughout the day. Exercise can also make you feel more alert.

If you need another reason why to wake up early, a recent study published in Emotion, a journal of the American Psychological Association, said that young adults that rise early report being happier and healthier than their late-sleeping counterparts. And once you're on your new sleeping schedule, you might even be able to put away that alarm clock.

"You should never have to use an alarm to wake up," Maas said. "The body should wake up naturally after it's had enough sleep."

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Tracie Snowder, KSL.com

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