Become a Morning Person: 8 Tips from a Former Night Owl

By , SparkPeople Blogger
I spent most of my early and mid 20s working the second shift at newspapers. I loved working as a copy editor, and I loved the hours, too. My shifts began at 4 p.m. and ended at midnight, which meant I could stay up late, sleep until noon, and still have time to run errands and go to the gym (a rare occurrence then) before work.

Eventually I joined the 9-to-6 crowd, and it was tough. I did not like mornings.

Fast-forward to last fall, when my yoga studio announced it was adding traditional sunrise morning practice to the schedule during the week. Though I now love my morning practice and wouldn't return to evening sessions, it was not an easy transition. I am not a morning person by nature, but I have become one by necessity.
Life is more likely to interfere when I schedule yoga practices at night. I'm too tired, too stressed, too busy. I have time to formulate all kinds of excuses. But when the alarm goes off at 5:30 each morning, I have no excuse. When I don't want to get out of bed (and who does on a cold winter morning?), I ask myself: What else would you be doing at this time? The answer (aside from sleeping): Nothing. So I get up.

By 9 a.m. I have put in almost two hours on the mat, showered, spent time with my cats, and started my workday. Whereas before I had a hard time getting motivated first thing in the morning, now I dive head-first into the day. Even my work schedule has changed. I save less-intense work for afternoon and choose to work on larger projects first. I feel so much better--more energized and accomplished. I know that morning workouts are worth it!

Those first few weeks were tough. I was exhausted by 9 p.m., falling asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow, and I dreaded the alarm clock each morning. I "accidentally" slept through it or hit snooze more than a few times. Within two months, my entire schedule changed.
Here's how I adjusted:

  1. Plan ahead. Each night before I go to bed, I make sure everything I need for the next day is ready to go: breakfast, lunch, and water bottle in the fridge; laptop case and purse by the door; gym bag is stocked with extra clothes, shoes, and toiletries. Even if I oversleep by a few minutes, I don't need to scramble to track down everything I need.
     
  2. Unpack, then immediately repack. Soon after I come home, I clean out my gym bag. Dirty clothes and yoga towels in the laundry room, extra accessories or clothes back in the closet (sometimes I end up with a few too many pairs of socks or underwear--more on that later), and clothes for tomorrow in the bag. I lay out my yoga clothes for the next day, complete with outer layers for cold mornings, plus shoes and a headband to keep my sweaty hair out of my face. I pack my work clothes into my gym bag and set it in the same place so I don't have to hunt for it the next day.
     
  3. Carry an extra set. There's nothing worse than arriving at work still sweaty from a workout (I shower and get ready at the SparkPeople offices most days) and realizing that you don't have clean clothes. Thankfully, I have never forgotten clean underwear, but I have forgotten clean socks, and, once, I forgot a towel. (I used a clean t-shirt to dry off.) I keep a spare of anything I couldn't live without: socks, undies, bras, towels. That way I don't have to take a 20-minute detour home and back in the morning.
     
  4. Stick to your plan. I have the same routine every morning: bathroom and shower, fill the kettle and turn it on, feed the cats, grind the coffee, fill the French press, take my vitamins with two cups of water, then get dressed, take my lunch out of the fridge, finish the coffee, put on my shoes… you get the picture. I find that I'm much less likely to lose track of time or forget to do something if I follow roughly the same order every day.
     
  5. No distractions. I scan my email when I turn off my alarm each morning but I don't respond to anything that's not an emergency until I get to the office. I don’t open my laptop, and I don't own a TV, so I'm not tempted to lose track of time that way. I learned the hard way one morning when I logged on to my laptop for "just a minute" and ended up being 30 minutes late to practice. (It's an open studio, so you do a self-paced practice with staggered start times.)
     
  6. Don't be vain. Working out in the morning means no time to dawdle in front of the mirror. I can't change my mind about my outfit--it's the only one I have with me. I don't wear makeup and don't dry my hair (obviously, this wouldn't work if your office is more formal). I have very long, curly hair that I love to wear loose, but I can't wash it daily or it dries out (and takes hours to air dry), so I braid it most of the time.

    I don't feel any different about myself when I skip makeup or wear my hair braided. In fact, I've learned to be more creative with my hair, and I spend less time fiddling with it. (I'm one who puts her hair up and takes it back down a few times a day if it's loose.) If you spend less time primping, not only will you save valuable time in the mornings, but you'll also learn to accept yourself for who you are, flaws and all.
     
  7. Stick with it, even on weekends. I can't stay out past 10 these days, and that's fine by me.  If I try to sleep in, stay up really late, or deviate from my normal schedule on weekends, Mondays are really hard. I "sleep in" until 7 on weekends, but I stick with my morning yoga practice and other routines. This was key, especially in the beginning, to adjusting to the new morning schedule.
     
  8. Cut yourself some slack. Some days, that alarm goes off, and I hit snooze a few times. I miss my window for practice. Other days I'm sick or something comes up. I realize that life happens, and sometimes my schedule and my workouts will be affected. I lean on my mantra: You did your best today. Tomorrow you'll do better.
If this former night owl can learn to love mornings (and morning workouts, no less), anyone can!

What is your best tip for learning to be a morning person?

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Comments

EVIE4NOW 10/19/2018
Thank you Report
ALILDUCKLING 9/5/2018
I hate alarm clocks, so my husband handles that part of life and wakes me up. We have dogs that have early morning rituals that want attention as well. Plus, my husband often needs me to drive with him to work so I can have the car available for later. I used to do early a.m. walks before it got too hot, but the unleashed dogs in our neighborhood stopped that practice -- so now I find a different time for exercise. Report
SPUNOUTMOM 8/27/2018
I am not a morning person, but since my work shift starts at 6am, I need to be. I do some of the tips listed. 1 I would add, is put your alarm clock where you have to get up and turn it off. But can relate to night owls. I would prefer a later work shift, but I do love the people I work with and most know I am not really awake until after 8 am coffee and are very patient with me. Report
GRACE5150 7/18/2018
When I try to get up consistently at 5 am my heart starts behaving irregularly, I'm pretty sure I have a delayed sleep phase disorder. When I was in highschool on my summer vacations I would stay up until sunrise then sleep until 11 or noon. My mother tells me when I was a toddler I would stay up till midnight and sleep till 11 or noon. It's just in my blood, and trying to get up earlier just makes me miss any chance I have for halfway decent sleep leaving me quite sick and a lot of stress on my body that I feel in scary ways. Even getting up for my 8 am job everyday means I spend most of my life exhausted and in a brain fog. I frequently wonder how much more successful and intelligent I would be if I were allowed to follow my natural rhythms. Report
KHALIA2 5/14/2018
I am retired, but still get up about 5 in the morning. I guess I haven't gotten over the fact of getting up early. Report
CATSNCOFFEENY7 3/30/2018
I found the AutoMEQ test online and took the whole test. It only took a few minutes. My score put me as Moderate Eveningness, for a "natural" bedtime of about 1AM. I found this to be very accurate.

I have worked second shift whenever given my preference. I know I am not a morning person so why force myself to be if I don't have to?

I do think there is a tendency for people who are morning people to act as though that makes them more virtuous somehow. They seem to think it's hilarious when a more evening-oriented person comes into work in the morning not at their best. Everyone is different and there is no meaningful reason for someone else to have that attitude. Report
THECOZE 3/26/2018
I am a pro at packing the night before... I would rather do that than rush through in the morning... Report
PWILLOW1 3/25/2018
Started out in the early years getting up at 6:00 a.m. Eventually as jobs changed it became 7:00. Now that I am retired for 20 years it has gradually shifted to 8:00. Have never gone to bed much before midnight and even then have always had trouble getting to sleep even when I was up at 6 and always tired in the morning. I am a night owl and no amount of effort can change it. My sister was the same way. Report
GOLDENRODFARM 3/24/2018
I was an early morning person all my life until circumstances made me get an over night 12 hour job, I just can't seem to get back into the day shift no matter what I do, I either wonder around in a daze or just sleep until I wake, since I am alone I have chosen the sleep until I wake mode, which wouldn't matter since when I am that exhausted I don't hear an alarm. Maybe some day I will get back into daylight mode but it is not looking good Report
GETULLY 3/24/2018
never hit the snooze button! Report
PAMMYLBEAR 3/24/2018
Junes-Hope, I was thinking the same thing! No kids, no others to take care of. I will agree that routine is helpful. Although, sometimes if you need to do something out of the ordinary, it can work against you! Report
JUNES-HOPE 3/24/2018
I would get totally sick to my stomach if I took vitamins on an empty stomach & especially followed by coffee. This plan is easy for a single person with cats, not for a person with young children & a Hubby. I do feel good when I work out in the morning. However, the body continues to work out for like 2 hrs after you've stopped, so working out at night seems good too, since your body will basically be working out while you are settling in for the night, & going to bed. The best time to work out is ANYTIME. Report
LIS193 3/24/2018
Up and at it! Report
RO2BENT 3/24/2018
The sooner I get to work the sooner I get to come home! Report
INSIGHT62 3/24/2018
I've always been a morning person, but in the end, it's all about the choice you make every single day. We all have a choice. Good article. Report
LEANJEAN6 3/24/2018
I enjoy the quietness of the beginning of a new day Report
CHERYLHURT 3/24/2018
We are morning people. Report
JANIEWWJD 3/24/2018
This article was a lot of help!!! Report
EATYOURBROCCOLI 3/24/2018
I enjoy wearing makeup and styling my hair. When I was younger I had a natural look and wore little makeup and allowed my hair to air dry. Now that I am older I need to look more polished. I actually enjoy the ritual of putting makeup on. To each their own. Report
CHEVI17 12/7/2017
Great idea! Report
FISHGUT3 10/29/2017
thanks Report
Hey look: if being a morning person either by necessity or nature works for you, then great. But there's nothing wrong with being a night owl either -- or a "middle-of-the-day"-er. Judging from the number of people I see at Planet Fitness in the evening, not everybody finds it stressful to carve out time for exercise at the end of a busy day. I also get a little impatient with young people who blithely advise people not to be "vain" by primping. While just rushing out the door works fine when you're in your 30s, by the time you're 54, you DO require a bit more self-care in order to look presentable. Report
thanks Report
SUSANBEAMON
Another bash the night owl praise larks bull post. Being a night owl has not negatively impacted my life, but trying to live getting up at dawn sure did. A nastier person than me you would never want to meet before 10 AM. I'm not nice or friendly until almost noon. Why should I be up then? Report
I need to get back to being a morning person..... Report
Hard work never killed anybody, but why take a chance?
- Edgar Bergen Report
Since i'm retired, it doesn't really matter how early or late i get up. I am used to getting up early though. Report
SHAWSKITO
Hello - I am a nighthawk! Got up at 12:30 today. It is now 2:20 pm. As the song goes, "I'm on my 2nd cup of coffee, and I still can't face the day"! My schedule for the last 28+ years has been reversed days and nights due to a couple of deaths in my immediate family. Guess it was what you call "shock value"! My motto became and still is - "I eat when I'm hungry, sleep when I'm tired, and get up when I feel rested". It works for me as I have no reason to get up early. I make all my appointments for the afternoons. If I have to get up early, I can get up with the alarm, or have a sleepless night just thinking I will miss the alarm.I used to sleep twelve hours. My Doctor said I was on China time. Now I sleep ten hours. Years ago raising a family, and working 8:15 am to 5 pm, I coped and still went to bed around one or 3 am. Never liked getting up early, but could survive on 3 or 4 hours sleep per night. Possibly needed a power nap of 5 or 10 minutes prior to hockey/lacrosse/baseball games every night of the week, and tournaments almost every weekends. I still did all my own house cleaning, laundry, ironing, baking, and managed quite well. My husband didn't help in the house, but looked after the outside grass cutting, hedge trimming, and swimming pool maintenance. Have seriously been thinking of trying again to rise earlier. I think about Sept.15th,2017, I will try again, and get back into every day exercise. I do most things with my best friend who happens to be myself. I have been going dancing at least twice month, and call that my exercise. Love the twist and jive and get a good workout. My prime time when I feel most awake and energized has been 11 to midnight when I start to bake. I give most of it away to friends. I am sure it will be difficult to rearrange my life, but I think I need to be ready to live my best life when my 4th quarter begins later in November.Very good article on how different people have different schedules. I guess whatever works for you is best! I hope everyone has a great weekend! Report
Doable Report
Great tips! Report
Great points! Report
I am going to try these tips Report
LEEANN53
I needed this! :) Report
I suppose this is good for some. I love being an night owl. Report
Good tips! Report
good points. Report
Goals for next month! Report
Very inspirational article. I am currently working on waking up and staying up! Report
It's not possible for everyone to convert to morning...I tried several times and I basically never slept. I was sick and unhealthy the entire time! Some people are just night people, and that's it. Not everyone can transition. This is an article that assumes it's your habits, it not for many. It's how we are made. Report
GRIZ1GIRL
Hmph. I became a "morning person" when I simply stopped being able to sleep in late! I reach the 7-7 1/2 hours in bed mark & boom--wide awake. I find I'm now too tired to stay up past 10:30/11:00 p.m....and I'm up everyday by around 6 a.m. So it goes... Report
I would add, make sure you get your 8 hours of sleep by going to bed at a good time. That makes an early morning workout easier. Report
Stick with it, even on weekends is great advice! Report
I would love to be a morning person, the mornings are so beautiful. But I have been a later riser most of my life. My late husband used to get up early, make coffee, and bring me a cup in bed. I really miss that. Report
Would love to get back to being a morning person again! I used to run on the morning track at 7am and do water aerobics on the weekend 745am Sat and Sunday. I have to admit planning your workout in the morning would definitely be a reason to get up. Not putting on any makeup nor styling my hair for work, that's something I still make time for 😇😇 Report
I am a morning person, but I liked the ideas as reminders of great ways to stay healthy. Report
BPZVILLAPARK
I am a night owl and see no reason to change. What is the purpose of getting up earlier than your natural body clock dictates if you have no reason to? There is nothing inherently better about being awake early in the morning as opposed to late at night. Report
I am a night owl and retired. I like the author's ideas.But do not feel this would work for me at this time in my life! I am just doing one thing ~getting to bed earlier~ and ANY amount of earlier,works for me! Report
ALILDUCKLING
I am not a night owl nor a morning person -- more of a daytime person. I do my best to keep cheerfully going no matter what time. Have worked out in earlier a.m. evening, and whenever my schedule works best. Sometimes it depends on weather, family schedule and other factors Report
DBLECHA
It is NOT a choice to become a night owl or an early bird .. your chronobiology has a default - but you can chose to fight it. However, there are consequences! If you try and sleep before your body is ready you will not get good quality sleep, and may actually create a behavioural problems that lead to insomnia. Additionally, waking up to an alarm (while the norm) is is the worst thing for your sleep health. If you need an alarm - your body is sleep deprived!! As a night owl myself I believe we have been made to feel inferior and bullied into living according to a schedule that is not conducive to our health or wellbeing. Embrace your chronobiology rather than fight it! Lets create a business world where we value both - even more important as we move to a global economy. Report
SUSANBEAMON
I am a night owl. Was very happy when I finally got a job that fit my sleep/wake schedule. Retired now but I still go to bed at 3Am and get up around 10AM. Do not see any reason to change. Really think people who get up bright and early need to reexamine why they do that. If that's the way their body moves, fine. If not, why hurt yourself? Back in the day when I went to work at 8AM, with a raising time of 6AM, I was a cranky, unhappy woman. I could feel myself waking up at 10AM, after I'd been at work for a couple of hours. I've seen plenty of sunrises on my way home from work, and really enjoyed the colors then. Being a night owl is just as good as being a lark.
Report