I’m a night owl trapped in a morning person’s body. The reason? I have to be. I’m at work at 4 a.m. every day, which means a daily wake-up call at 2:40 a.m. YIKES! My previous job didn’t start until 10 a.m. and I lived a life of morning leisure getting up at 7:30 in the morning. I used to cook and eat a full breakfast, get a workout in, and shower all before work. OH THOSE WERE THE DAYS. I’ll give you the disclaimer here that my husband did early mornings for 25 years, working in radio, and he’ll say it over and over again: your body never really gets used to it. It’s true, BUT we’ve both developed systems through our years in early mornings to make our routines nearly seamless.
What you’re about to read is advice from a combined 28.5 YEARS of early wake-up time experience. I never thought I’d wake up before 3 a.m. with a can-do attitude, but here I am and here are my best tips for becoming a morning person when you’re really a night owl.
- Set everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, out the night before. I make sure my ID badge and keys are set out, my breakfast and lunch are all ready to be pulled out of the fridge together, and I even lay my underwear out in the bathroom. That way I don’t have to take my towel out of the bathroom and go back to hang it up (one less step, friends). I also have my skincare routine laid out in the order I put it on. If you haven’t started your early mornings yet, this will sound insane but to those who already rise at odd hours of the night, YOU GET ME. The more you can set out the night before, the less brainpower you have to use in the morning. This also helps you avoid the “oh crap, I’m out of contacts in my bathroom. I don’t have clean underwear” morning panic. Every second counts when you’re up hours before dawn and if you’re like me, when you get one step out of your routine it makes the rest of the morning harder.
- Set a bedtime and make it non-negotiable. It’s easy to set a bedtime and get distracted. Five minutes late for bedtime can easily become 10 and trust me, those 10 minutes really count. My bedtime is 6:30 p.m. I take Ambien at 6 p.m. and then right before 6:30 hits, my house starts looking like an episode of “Chopped.” When the clock hits 6:30 p.m., I drop EVERYTHING I’m doing to get in bed. I used to be a 6-hour a night person and a friend told me to try and go for eight hours of sleep and it has truly changed my life. Getting six hours of sleep and waking up at 10 a.m. is SO DIFFERENT than being a 6-hour a night person who wakes up at 2:30 a.m. Your body will thank you for eight hours if you can get it in. Jeff helps me stick to this and starts getting realllllly bossy with me around bedtime every night (love him for it). If you have a significant other who can help you stick to the plan – loop them in with your plans so they can help you stick to it. ACCOUNTABILITY!
- Set a dedicated dinner time. Jeff and I eat dinner at 5 p.m. every evening. Having a set dinnertime helps both of us manage our afternoons and we plan our schedules accordingly. It helps to avoid pre-bed chaos when you eat way before you’re ready to hit the hay. Eating right before bed can make it harder for you to fall asleep.
- Say no to plans. This one was really hard for me when I shifted my hours but the truth is, I’m so much better at my job when I get a full night’s sleep. I routinely tell friends I can’t do dinner during the week and while I wish I could, I know it messes with my bedtime and unless there’s a birthday dinner or something special, my plans always fall on weekends or lunchtime.
- Use the 30-minute window before bedtime as a “winding down” time.Avoiding things that rile you up or stimulate your brain makes it WAY easier to fall asleep. For me this means no phone, no social media, no TV. I spend the last 30 minutes before bed getting ready for the next day and when I’m able to put my phone down, I almost always fall asleep quickly.
- Trade your snooze button for 15 minutes of phone time. I used to set my alarm for 15 minutes later. One morning I happened to wake up before my alarm went off and spent my pre-alarm time waking up, checking social media and reading emails. By the time I got up to get in the shower, I FELT AWAKE! The mental clarity I get from staying in bed but waking my brain up is amazing and I started noticing that I wasn’t groggy walking around my house trying to get ready. I forget things less and by the time I’m out of the shower, I’m really feeling mentally ready to tackle my day. Trust me on this one, I love my sleep but that 15 minutes of wake-up time I carved out makes or breaks my day now.