It seems unfair that some people are able to hit the ground running at the crack of dawn, while others are shuffling zombies for the first 45 minutes of the day – or until they’ve had several cups of coffee. Why is that?
The difference boils down to little more than the genetic lottery. Your sleep patterns--whether you function best in the evening and like staying up late, go to bed as soon as the sun sets and wake up at the crack of dawn, or fall somewhere in between--are controlled by your personal circadian rhythms.
What's Your Chronotype?
Our planet has 24-hour light/dark cycles, and for the most part, our sleeping habits correspond to this. However, some people have slightly shorter circadian rhythms, causing them to wake early, while others are on the longer side, making them night owls.
These tendencies are referred to as chronotypes. To a certain extent, these patterns are dependent on age: little kids wake up early, teens are often night owls, and older adults gradually revert back to their early riser genesis.
How to Become a Morning Person
If you’re determined to change your chronotype and reap the benefits of being an early bird, go into it with the knowledge that, as with all worthwhile pursuits, it will require some time and effort. Here are some way to train yourself:
- Cut back on your evenings. Making this kind of change may require shifting your schedule around quite a bit, but you’ll soon find yourself with extra time in the morning.
- Take baby steps. If you normally roll out at 9:30, don’t try to go straight to a 6:30 wake-up time. Ease into it with 15-minute increments: set the alarm for 9:15 tomorrow, 9:00 the next day, and so on.
- Make it worthwhile. Schedule something for yourself to motivate you to get up. For example, if you’re resolved to start working out regularly, kill two birds with one stone. If you’re waking up early to exercise, not only do you get all those sweet morning person perks, you’re also statistically more likely to make working out a long-term habit.
Advantages to Rising Early
Being an early riser has some distinct advantages – besides the obvious one of making it easier to get to school or work on time.
Morning people, or “larks,” tend to get better quality sleep, have more positive personalities, and generally enjoy better health than night owls. They also feel they have more time in the day to accomplish their goals or partake in extra activities, like a rejuvenating morning walk.
The late-night folks are more prone to depression, caffeine dependency, and problems with alcohol than their dawn-loving counterparts. It’s not all grim news for night owls: they’re better at staying focused throughout the day, whereas morning people tend to lose the thread in the afternoon. However, there’s no question that becoming an early riser--especially if it benefits your schedule--can be a positive lifestyle change.
Whether you’re transitioning to rising early for work, school, or just to build more productive time into your day, be patient. Despite popular myth, it takes about two months to turn an activity into a habit, but the time investment is well worth the rewards.