Read Part 1, here.
Congratulations! You’ve decided to become a morning person. Hopefully you’ve opened your arms to sunrises, rising with the birds, and spending some quiet hours with your work or yourself before the day calls – and if not, I’m sure you’ll get there eventually.
The question, of course, is: how? How do you retrain yourself to catch the worm as an early bird when you’re used to spending your evenings waiting for those same worms to emerge from the earth? The way I know, the way I did it, was two-fold, one half taking place at night, the other half in the mornings.
People talk about sleep training their infants, but rarely about sleep training adults. If you’re unfamiliar (read: not a parent), the concept involves getting your child to sleep on a schedule, going to bed at a certain time, waking at a certain time, and, eventually, sleeping through the night. It’s a process of repetition, one that you can also employ.
When deciding to become a morning person, you must first determine how long you’d like to take each morning for work or personal time: an hour? A half hour? Two hours? From there, work backward. Set your alarm to account for the shift, then set your new bedtime based on when you need to wake up and how many hours of sleep you like to get.
For example, I like to have a solid hour before leaving for the office, so I back up my alarm to 6:45AM so I can leave by 8AM. Based on that, I fall asleep between 10 and 11PM, ensuring my eight hours. Of course, if you tend to sleep for shorter periods of time (and can wake up and function on that amount of sleep), adjust your alarms accordingly.
Once you’ve decided when you need to go to bed, begin to follow these basic principles to ensure you can fall asleep at that hour. Limit screen time two hours before you go to bed; blue light too close to bedtime can interfere with your levels of wakefulness. In that time, do something relaxing, like reading a book, listening to music or a podcast (perhaps while knitting, or another relaxing hobby), or simply talking to someone, either in person or on the phone.
Try not to drink too heavily before bed. Alcohol can put you to sleep, but it limits your quality of sleep – you tend to sleep fitfully, or wake up more often during the night. Relax with some wine or a cocktail during dinner, but switch to something decaf (like water, or juice) after that.
Do not go to your bed before you’re ready for sleep. Limit what you do in the bedroom to sleep and sex – that way, your brain becomes conditioned to the idea that this room is for resting.
If you have trouble falling asleep, turn to something like bedtime yoga or guided meditation. Both are easily available on YouTube, and can help lead you gently into relaxation so that you can drift off to sleep without anxiety.
Now, to the morning.
Once your alarm goes off, get up. Don’t hit snooze, and don’t turn it off. Determine that once the alarm starts to play, that’s your cue to get going. Start your morning routine immediately. Take a shower, get dressed, apply your make-up, make your coffee – make sure to do whatever you would normally do without your morning buffer first. That way, if you get engrossed in work, a book, a game, or what have you, you won’t be floundering to get ready in a hurry.
Once you’re done, you’re ready to enjoy whatever you’ve set aside this time for. Congratulate yourself on making the determination to schedule these moments for yourself. Move leisurely. Sip your coffee or tea with a feeling of luxury; you’ve earned it.
And if you’re still feeling sluggish, especially in those first days of early mornings? There is a secret that will help you rest for longer while still rising earlier and having for energy for the office. If you’re having a tough time adjusting, cut your morning time in half, but still wake up at the same time. If you’ve determined that you want an hour of morning time, take a half hour of wakefulness, while drinking something caffeinated. Then lay down on the couch for the other half hour. It doesn’t matter if you nap, or if you simply lay with your eyes closed – when you get up from your ‘coffee nap,’ you’ll feel more energized while having allowed yourself a rest.
It may seem difficult at first, even frustrating, but if you continue with your efforts, and train yourself into a new routine, it will become easier. Eventually, you’ll even wake before your alarm (though I’d still set one), ready to enjoy your morning.