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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good advice for any habit building adventure Report
I like the fact that you have no TV. That indicates to me that you might be a purist. Glenn Report
Get to bed early. Report
this is a struggle for me for sure! I am a stay at home mom and it has been really hard for me to find a schedule that works...especially finding a time to work out at home without little ones needing I need to get up at 5 or 530 to have that much needed me time...but it is so hard! You had some great tips! Thanks! Report
I am definitely a morning person! Report
I, too used to work 4:30 to 1am. Did so for 11 years. That was 5 years ago and just this past Spring I began walking each morning with my across the street neighbor. We do almost exactly 4 miles in 69 minutes. The only times we miss is when it is raining. Even now with the cold setting in, we layer and soldier on! I am amazed that I actually enjoy it and look forward to it. We spur each other on. She doesn't do weekends, but I have surprised myself in that I go by myself even Sat. and Sunday! I haven't lost a single pound but my Dr. is super pleased in that I am no longer pre-diabetic. My numbers are excellent and for no other reason than the walking.I am a convert! Report
I am not a morning person by nature, but my job starts at 7:30 a.m. I try to have everything ready the night before, and lucky for me, my spouse is a morning person and makes my coffee right when my alarm goes off. One thing I have had to do to settle down at night is give up almost all evening chocolate. When I was doing Nutrisystem, the brownies and even the chocolate chip cookies had me awake until midnight. When I was younger, I slept well no matter what I ate. Once I hit 40, it all changed. I also find I have to exercise before 7 p.m., or that throws off my sleep schedule, too. There is just no way I will exercise in the morning before work. I only get up before 5 a.m. for one reason - vacation!
I have always been a morning person. I did work the last 18 years at night and once I retired it was hard to get out of the night shift mode. I now get up at 645 to 7am and go to bed around 10pm. I get my walking and workouts in during the daytime. If I feel like I need a nap, I take one but only or an hour or less. Report
I was a morning - really did not have much of a choice, being a working, single Mom. But, now that I have retired, I find that i stay up later and later, and sleep later and later. But, that just does not work for me - so am in the process of switching back to "early to bed, early to rise". Have started by getting to bed by 10 pm and setting my alarm for 6 am. Hard to get up - but i just do it!! and it is starting to take. Report
I became a morning person because of our bunnies! I started getting up at 7 and that became the routine for them. Even though we no longer have bunnies and I've retired I find that i naturally get up around 6:45 and with my Nike Fuel band to spur me on do a 5 minute walk around the house to move my body. Love the morning now. Report
By necessity I had to become a morning person a few months ago. The physical therapist/trainer whom I am working with 5 days/week had an appointment open at 7 AM. I have to be awake and moving at least 2 hours before the session, so I am up at 4:30 most days. I do all those things listed in the article. I am up early on the weekends too because that is when I wake up naturally. Sometimes I take a nap on the weekends if I have had a late night. Report
I am not a morning person anymore since I work overnights, my morning is your night. I find the push to get up earlier and do exercise counterproductive, I need my sleep, when I work it is only 4-6 hours a day, getting up earlier to exercise would mean 3-5 hours of sleep instead. Report
Weekly Meal Plan
5/11/weekly-meal-plan-diet Report
Good for you but, some of us are genuine night people. I am one, and I love it, I am more creative, more focused and much more insightful during the night. A lot of highly creative people are night owls. Nights are magical. Report
First of all if you want to become a morning person, you need a motivation. A reason. You have to find your own "why". Then everything is much easier but of course you alse need a strategy to get up in the morning. My mate, Greg, has written interesting guide about this, you can read it here:

I use 2 alarm clock strategy, it works best for me with Timely application for Android
id=ch.bitspin.timely&hl=en Report
Cutest blog! Really enjoyed. Thanks! Report
Great tips...but I don't think that skimping on make-up and not doing your hair to be quicker in the morning is necessarily for everyone. I feel much better about myself when I'm "done up"! Report
Ive always been a late morning person so when I got my first real job (8-5) it was hard to adjust, especially when i have a toddler who inherited his dads night owl genes and doesn't go to bed until 10 sometimes. Ive learned its okay to tell my husband that I need to go to bed and to ask him to bathe our son for me and Ive also realized, if I work out first thing then I have a better day and I am not tired. When i get up, I grab my bag, hop in the car, and head straight for the gym. That way there is no excuses not to work out. Report
I'm so not a morning person, but I don't really have to be at the moment. I have three kids, but I homeschool. Unfortunately, I've passed on the night owl gene. Report
I am not a morning person, never will be and that's fine with me! I prefer the late evenings and overnights. I work then and do my exercise in the late afternoons, early evenings! Report
Good article...interesting tips that we can make our own. In spite of all of my attempts, I am not a morning person. I hate rushing into the day. Simple enough. However, since I am not independently wealthy, I have to commute for an hour (or more) to work. It is what I make it work. I set my alarm earlier so that I can doze a bit before leaping out of bed. I watch the headlines for 15 min on my elliptical while I am still opening my eyes. I hop into the shower. Then sip my coffee and breakfast shake while I am doing my hair and make up. If I have to be in earlier, I cut the elliptical...and try to pick up the exercise later in the day. It is not perfect...and yes... I need to work out more...but no matter how organized and planful I am...I will always hate rushing into the day. Report
I just wanted to let you know that I really enjoyed your article. I am not really a good morning person but now that it's a new year I am trying hard to get motivated, organized. Your article really did motivate me on helping changing old habits into new positive ones, but also I liked what you said at the end of the article about going with the flow and not to be too hard on yourself - Tomorrow is a new day !! Great advice & Thank you !! Take Care !! Report
Loved this article. I have enjoyed a non-structured sleep and exercise pattern for the past three years. I use to be an early riser when I was raising my family. Now,its time to relaunch my business and I'm needing the structure that gets it done for my business and maintaining and enjoying a healthy body and lifestyle. I've found that getting up early and takingcare of me first and going to bed before 10:00 p.m gives me the energy and ability to focus. So now I must do the things that allows me live this way and let go of the behaviors that limit me. Thanks for this article. Report
I'm the same...Had worked the dead man's shift. I'm now waking up 7-7:30. Next month I hope to be waking up no later than 7:00 and gradually 6:00. I don't think that I have to wake up any earlier than that to be ready to start the day, going to Church, shopping then out for a walk or to workout on my Gazzle. It all depends on how the weather is here. Report
night person years because work at night.I would loving become morning. thanks for tips. Report
I was a former night owl -- 30 years or so ago! Then out of necessity, I took an early morning newspaper route. I was in graduate school and the hours worked well with classes, the kids, and hubby's schedule. Plus, it paid pretty well (this was before gasoline cost over $3 per gallon as it does today!). My supervisor was a real bear (maybe grizzly bear is a better description!!) and if I wasn't down at the stop to pick up my papers when she arrived, she'd phone me and start yelling. So I quickly learned to make my feet hit the floor as soon as the alarm went off, throw on my clothes, and be out the door within 10 minutes.After 16 years of doing the newspaper gig, I trained myself to be fully functioning first thing in the morning. I haven't done newspapers for 13 years now, but I still prefer to get up early to work on my classroom lessons and tests because that's when my brain functions the best. By 9 pm my brain is shutting down and I might as well go to bed. I'm going to use the tips mentioned in this articles to make my mornings more efficient, however. I tend to lose track of time and before I know it, I need to be scooting off to school! Thanks for the memories of the "good old days!" Report
Not helpful for this night owl sadly. I try everything I can, but sleep is hard and waking up is harder. I have a solid 12am lights out, no screens after 11pm, and I sometimes have to take melatonin to help me fall asleep at all. Even with that it still takes me roughly 2 or so hours to actually fall asleep and then waking up is a struggle - I can't seem to get up earlier than 10:20 am even with my alarm set for 9:45 (I have tried different alarm clocks and positions too)! Then I need a doubleshot of espresso (home-brewed) to get me fully functioning by 12pm. Report
Thanks so much for this! I'm a night owl and working on getting up earlier. I've started to get up and shower right away and if I'm still sleepy, I have time to sit in my chair and gradually wake up. I know this will help me get into the waking earlier routine and soon I'll be adding going early to the gym! Report
This would be infinately harder with kids, but I know it can be done. I have been staying up too late for far too long. I could say that I value my kid-free time a lot, after they finally go to bed around 9 in the summer, but I just watch too much tv and my house stays a mess. I need to make a change and your routine shows that routine is key to getting organized. I have resisted routines all my life. Who am I rebelling? Time to get real. Report
Just coming and finding this. Night owl here looking to become less of one or not at all. Report
I stay healthy using herbs and green tea. And keep moving, you live longer. Report
Even though the suggestions here might not work for everyone - they're suggestions of what else I can try that will work for me. I've already been working on transitioning to an earlier wake-up time so I can get morning exercise and the biggest change for me is turning off the TV and electronic devices at night. I am hating that I have given up some of my favorite 9pm tv shows (I don't have a DVR or other recording device) but have found that I have a really difficult time going to sleep before 11 if the TV/computer isn't off by 9. Those evening chores just get done w/out the tv on. I'm still having a hard time getting up when the alarm rings, but I'm doing better at getting out of bed within 15 minutes of my alarm time instead of 30-45! The 2nd favorite thing I've changed is that I prepare 5 containers with a serving of whole oats w/cinnamon, nuts & raisins and bring it to work with me on Monday - just add hot water and I have breakfast &/or lunch for those days when my meal bag gets left sitting in the refrigerator at home! I keep canned soup in my desk, but surprisingly have found myself reaching for the oatmeal instead of soup for lunch on stressful days - comfort food I never would have called comfort food! Report
I could have written this myself. I'm in the process of adjusting to early am workouts and I do nearly everything on this list. I have two kids and work 730-4 as well (in a not so formal office). I set everything out the night before and set the alarm for 5 am. I check my messages in the am, but don't reply until later. My spin studio is 2 minutes from my house so after 45 minutes of spinning, I come home, shower (no hair or make up), get the kids ready and get out of the door by 710/715. It's difficult, but doable. I'm adjusting and finding ways to make it better each day. Report
I think this article depends on your goals and dedication.

I do have 2 kids. I do plan for the next day. I do pack my gym bag. Like the previous poster, I can't go to worked in a wrinkled suit so I bring my suit on the hanger in the gym. I keep an extra pair or shoes and a crisp shirt at work for those just in case days.

I also go to the gym in the evening but my kids go with me. Report
i love the dedication and the tips for routine, but yes highly unrealistic. what about kids or if you travel for work I could not personally show up to work in a wrinkled suit that smells like gym bag with no makeup on. I guarantee I would have been passed up for every promotion for my unprofessional appearance alone. If you commute to work for an hour and start at 8 are you up at 4:30 for 2 hours go yoga? I would walk in after my commute and have to go to bed right after at 8:30 for eights hours of sleep. Furthermore does anyone have any realistic tips if you don't want to become a hermit? I can't imagine never staying up with family/friends on a weekend past 10. I might as well wall myself up in my apt. and just work and work out. Report
I liked this artical as I am want to get up in mornings & clean the house more time! Report
Good tips. I'm a night owl - but had to re-adjust to 'early bird' hours when I was working full-time consulting jobs in corp world.

On Sundays, I put my clothes out for the whole WEEK and made parts of my brown bag lunches for the whole week. For a couple of jobs, my commute was so long that I also had to pack breakfast AND dinner to eat in the car while driving. (I found a great insulated picnic bag for one person from Picnic Time - it has 2 sections, both insulated. So I packed my meals in that).

In the morning, at home I put hot rollers in my hair, and took them out in the parking lot when I got to work. I stopped wearing makeup in 1996 when I suffered a traumatic experience - so I don't need to spend time on makeup anymore.

One consulting job I had to be at work at 6am so I could leave at 3pm to avoid rush hour - I was driving from the NW Indiana border almost to the Wisconsin border. It was horrid - but it paid the bills. Thank God those days are over!

I'm retired now and back to my night owl hours - which I love. I walk on the treadmill while watching TV or a zumba DVD after hubby goes to bed - between 10pm and midnight. On Saturdays, I have always done my best to sleep in until noon.

When I was consulting, I almost never had time to workout - I need 8-9 hours sleep. Now, with the help of spark people, I'm tracking my nutrition and fitness - and I feel MUCH better!

What time do all you people start work?? I'm out the door at 6:45, starting at 7:30 am. Wish I had the time to take a 2 hour Yoga class and shower at work!

I'm sure mornings are lovely when you have time to savor them. Which is why I prefer my evenings. Report
Great ideas even for an already morning person! Report
Plan ahead... it sounds so easy to do planning everything the night before. I am really good at planning months & weeks in advance for my kids schedules & trips, but the night before is a different story. By night time, I just want to veg, except for line dancing night. Maybe this weekend, i will try to plan my things for the weekdays, like i used to do for the kids LOL :) Report
I half followed this. I made my own list what I would do instead what I'm doing now, I used to go to sleep at 3:00 in the morning, so I changed it to Goin to bed no later than12:45 and wake up at 10:00 which I normal for me and wake up earlier every day. I saw great results!! Report
I love this article nee positive pushes. a nice workout and shower gets me going even if I drag my butt to press play I make it happen :) Report
I am not a night owl but I get up at 6 every weekday and on the weekends I love to sleep in. I work from 8-5 or 6. I like to work out after work. Wish I could workout in the am that way I would never miss it if work got in the way. Humm Report
For me, I start off by drinking a bottle of water. It wakes me up and allows me to start my day off. Report
My biggest issue in the morning is the cold. I love getting up early in the summer, because in OK that's the only time it's cool outside. But, in the winter, I just can't do it. My body temp is already abnormally low and getting out of bed to do anything but stand in the hot shower is really unappealing. Report
Okay really! I wish I had time to grind coffee, fill a french press, set out new clothes for the next day, check my email, not to mention- leave the house and go for yoga and then come back and take a shower, along with all of the other things she listed she does in the morning. YEAH RIGHT! I am sorry. I love sparkpeople, but this is the most unrealistic article I have ever read. I wish I were a morning person too, but there is simply no time for any of this nonsense she talks about here. I have to be at work at 8:15am. I live an hour away from my job. I have to be up by 5:45am to get ready for work and leav the house by 7am. Yes, it takes me an hour and fifteen minutes to get ready, and believe me: I could not accomplish any of the things in this article. I get up, get in the shower, get ready (full on makeup and hair because I work in a professional office setting), grab my lunch out of the fridge that has been premade the night before, maybe have time to make a hot cup of tea before I rush out the door to go to work. If I wanted to exericise in the morning, I would have to get up at 5am to do so, which means I would get about 5 to 6 hours of sleep a night, which is obviously not enough for adequate energy, not to mention it is not good for your body or mind to sleep less than 7 hours a night. I am not trying to down this article or be a debbie downer, or complain that I cannot get up that early to work out. I just had to laugh at all of the things in this article that no normal human being could accomplish when you have a tight schedule, kids, a long drive, what ever the case may be. This was just unrealistic. Sorry. Report
I need some advice for a schedule that changes week by week. Some nights I'm not home until Midnight and have to leave by 6am the next day. Report
This is awesome for you!! I'm glad that you can make this work for you. I can't do this type of thing in my life right now. I'm a Mom of 7 kids. I have to be completely flexible. What works one day does not always work the next day. :( My oldest is 11, my youngest is 7 months. I know that as the baby get older, things will get smoother. Report
I wouldn't want to be around that un-aired out gym bag. Report
I really like this article. Simple and easy to follow tips. I will begin tomorrow. Thanks!!! Report
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