Pop quiz: How do you react when your alarm goes off? A) Hit the snooze button a half dozen times. B) Begrudgingly slide out of bed. C) Toss the covers off with glee and start your day.
You may need to let your genes answer. While our lifestyle habits and personality traits contribute to our preferred sleep routines, it’s the genes of early birds and night owls that determine what time of day they are most alert, explained Zoe McKey, author of Daily Routine Makeover-Morning Edition.
Does it matter if you’re a morning person or a night owl? “The world is oriented toward rewarding morning people,” said Laura Vanderkamp who is the author of What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast: “Research has shown that students who are alert in their morning classes get better grades. And in the workforce, if you’re on top of your game at an 8 a.m. meeting, everyone notices.” In other words, no one sees how much energy you have or how hard you’re working at 11 p.m.
But here’s the good news: It’s possible to seize the day and develop morning-person habits, even if your genes say otherwise. We partnered with Tropicana and talked to experts about the best tips and tricks to follow to help you make the most of your mornings.
1. Calculate Your Ideal Bedtime
The easiest way to wake up earlier in the morning is to get enough sleep. But that number can be drastically different for everyone. Here’s how to figure out your sleep needs: For a week, track the number of hours you sleep, including weekends. Divide that number by seven to calculate your nightly need. In reality, babies, work projects or a “Sherlock” marathon can make this exercise laughable. If that’s the case, think about a time you’ve been on vacation or of a night you felt particularly rested — how much sleep did you get? Once you have that number, count backwards from the time you want to get up and plan to go to bed at that new hour.
2. Identify Your Stay-Awake Triggers
Nighttime can slip away fast, especially when you have a lot to accomplish. To be successful in sticking with an earlier bedtime, you may need to set an alarm to start winding down. And contrary to popular advice, you don’t have to turn off screens right before bed. “It’s really an individual thing,” said Vanderkamp. “Think about what gets you going and has your mind racing and avoid it.” Reading is a great way to unwind and relax, but reading a thriller may not be the best idea. Paying bills or checking your child’s schoolwork could induce more stress than watching a comedy that sends you off to bed with a smile.
3. Create A Morning To-Do List
Another good habit is to think about what you want to accomplish in the morning. “Having a morning goal is the best motivation,” said McKey. She recommends writing three tasks you have to do the next day. “This way you’ll feel like you’re on a mission when you wake up, you’ll get closer to your morning goal and you’ll have a clear schedule to follow.” Seeing the benefits of your earlier wake-up time (like feeling less overwhelmed when you arrive at work) will make it feel less like a chore.
4. Reward Yourself
Similarly, have a reward in mind for why you want to wake up early. “Every kid is a morning person on Christmas day,” said Vanderkamp. Find a little bit of that magical motivation: Think of something you want to do, but can never find the time to do, whether it’s playing with your cat, catching up with a friend or enjoying a home-cooked breakfast. McKey’s own reward is to see the sunrise, which is why she jogs early in the morning.
“People who exercise tend to sleep better than those who don’t,” said Vanderkamp. Indeed, studies have shown a strong correlation to a better quality of sleep for people who work out at least 10 minutes a day. One reason: exercise reduces your stress levels, which in turn helps combat insomnia. By working out, your body releases serotonin and endorphins. “Both of these hormones are responsible for happiness, will help you feel more energized during the day and you’ll be able to think more clearly,” said McKey.
6. Ask Yourself, ‘Why Do You Want To Do This?’
It can be difficult to develop new habits on demand, even if you know the habit is positive and useful. Think about New Year’s resolutions. Even when it’s something you should be doing, success rates are incredibly low. “If someone chooses to develop morning-person habits by their own will — not because a spouse or friend said so — it will be easier to do,” said McKey. Think about how becoming a morning person can make your life better. For most people, just knowing that they’re most productive in the morning is a big incentive. As Descartes said, “I think, therefore I am.”