Attn Night Owls: Trick Your Body into Rising with the Sun

The battle has long raged between larks and night owls — who is healthier, wealthier, and wiser? Who has more fun? Who gets more done?

Despite myriad studies and tons of scientific insights, the answer seems clear: merits are spread and divided across the two and only personal preference makes one better than the other.

Some studies show night owls outperforming morning larks in intelligence tests.

Others seem to confirm that night owls are more susceptible to developing rotten habits, like smoking and drinking.

And an overwhelming amount of studies show that those who rise in the morning (before 8):

  • Procrastinate less
  • Maintain attitudes of persistence, cooperation, affability, and consideration
  • Are more proactive
  • And may actually be happier.

Now, those things aren’t everyone’s goals — if you’re a self-identifying night owl, you might like that you’re wittier and better at racking up sexual partners, as one particular study revealed. 

But if you’d like to develop healthier habits, have more time for yourself in the morning, or experience all of the scientifically backed-up benefits of getting up earlier…

There are definitely ways to do it. Even if you’ve been a night owl your whole life and don’t think you can change your body’s rhythm.

Get Gradual

Slowly, adjust the time that you go to sleep every night, and then the time you wake up every morning.

Try doing it in increments of 15 minutes. 

If you’re normally in bed by 10:30 and asleep by 11:30, get into bed at 10:15. If you’re normally awake by 8:30, set your alarm for 15 minutes earlier.

Raise the stakes by 15 minutes every week until you’re waking up at your goal time. 

Move the Alarm Clock Out of Arm’s Reach

This might sound like an easy one, but it makes a huge difference.

Most people use the alarm function on their smartphones, and most people also scroll social media and catch up on emails staring at their phone’s blue light (also not great for your sleep quality.)

Kill two unhealthy habits with one simple move — charge your phone far away from you at night. That way, once you’re tucked in and warm, you won’t be wasting time on your phone, and you’ll have to get out of bed in the morning to turn your alarm off.

Make Your Bed Immediately

Now that you’re up (because your phone was across the room and you couldn’t stand another second of that alarm), make your bed.

Don’t wait. 

Don’t crawl back into the tousled, inviting comforter where the spot you just left is still warm.

Grab the two corners of the comforter at the foot of the bed and set the blanket straight. Psychologically, you’re less likely to want to dive right back in.

Say “Get to” and Not “Have to”

If you’re discussing this goal with any of your friends, family members, coworkers, or partners, reframe it verbally.

Don’t say “I have to get up early this week because I’m trying to retrain my body, so I can finally be happy.”

Try “I get to wake up early this week and read a chapter every day of that book I’ve been dying to get into, quietly, and with a cup of coffee.”

Or “I get to wake up early this week and do yoga, so that when I come home I can start on dinner right away and catch an extra episode of this show I can’t stop watching before bed.”

Or “I get to wake up early this week and make myself a yummy breakfast every day, because I don’t enjoy being hungry until noon and then grabbing a bag of chips.”

Plan the Night Before

It’s a lot easier to stay in bed if there isn’t anything pressing to wake up for.

Maybe you’d like to start swishing with coconut oil for 20 minutes every morning to get your gums healthier, or you’d like to pack a lunch in the morning to save money, or you’d like to journal and set an intention for the day. 

It’s important that you decide the night before why you’re getting up early in the morning, and double points if the thing you want to do takes you outside of your bedroom.

If you stay in bed and read your book, you’re giving yourself leave to fall back asleep.

Take that to the living room. The dinette. The porch.

So remember — cut down on caffeine after 2 PM so you can fall asleep more easily, give yourself reasons to look forward to your morning time, and get out of bed the moment you’re supposed to.

Any hesitation could throw off this delicate operation. Proceed with intention.

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NY Times Best Selling author and film maker. Taoist Abbot and Qigong master. Husband and dad. I’m here to help you find your way and be healthy and happy. I don’t want to be your guru…just someone who’ll help point the way. If you’re looking for a real person who’s done the work, I’m your guy. I can light the path and walk along it with you but can’t walk for you.