Are you a night owl who has given up on ever becoming a morning person, even though you know it would be better for your life?
Here’s some motivation for you: New research from the U.K.—published in The Journal Chronobiology International—studied close to half a million people for six years and discovered those who stay up later at night have a 10 percent greater risk of death than early morning risers. And it had nothing to do with total hours of sleep logged. In fact, those who went to bed late reported getting the same amount of sleep as those who woke up early.
(Read full study here: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/07420528.2018.1454458)
A simple explanation might just be that night owls are more susceptible to engage in unhealthy habits—drinking, eating like crap, drugs, smoking—however, the research suggests there’s more to it than just the chance of making bad lifestyle decisions after 11 p.m.
Researchers suggest that going to bed late actually leads to potentially dangerous physiological changes in the body—circadian imbalance—which is basically social jet lag, they explained, meaning your body’s clock becomes out of sync with the rest of the world around you. This then leads to things like increased blood pressure, gastrointestinal and respiratory disorders, psychological and neurological problems, decreased insulin sensitivity—i.e. eventual diabetes—and increased inflammation in the body.
Basically just bad news all around if you’re a late night person…
Many people believe that being a morning person or a night person is just part of who were are—as in we’re genetically predisposed to get tired at 8 p.m. or waking up fully rested at 5 a.m. The company 23andMe—a company that offers genetic testing—argues our sleep tendencies are at least somewhat genetic (https://www.livescience.com/53624-morning-person-genetic-influence.html). However, certainly more research needs to be done, and common sense tells me we must have at least some ability to choose to change our sleep patterns, regardless of our DNA.
Here are 5 tips to trick your body into becoming a morning person:
Make an Early morning appointment
It’s easy to say, “Stop pressing the snooze button and get out of bed,” but if you’re super tired and don’t HAVE to get up at 5 a.m., chances are in the moment you’ll choose sleep over your well-intentioned plan to go to the gym. But what if you’re meeting a friend at the gym, or have a personal training appointment booked at 6 am that you’re paying $75 for? Chances are you’ll peel yourself out of bed when that alarm goes off. So make an appointment to hold yourself accountable.
Repeat #5, over and over.
Don’t just make an early morning appointment once. Plan to wake up at the same early hour five days in a row. The first week or two might be really hard and you’ll feel sleep deprived, but soon your body will want to be asleep by 9 or 9:30 p.m. and those early mornings will stop feeling so painful. Once you start going to bed and waking up at the same time each day (for the most part), eventually you won’t even need an alarm clock. Your body will wake up naturally at whatever time has become habit.
At least in the first month making the transition to becoming an early-to-bed, early-morning riser, avoid naps. And if you do nap, nap cautiously—as in a 20-minute power nap. Napping longer than that will likely just mess up the routine you’re trying to create and make it difficult to fall asleep that night.
During the day, make sure you get outside every day at some point and get some Vitamin D. Science shoes this helps your biological clock stay in tune with the time of day, essentially helping keep you in sync with the rest of the world around you.
Reflect on your “Why”
If you have decided you want to become more of a morning person, there needs to be a why. Are you doing it just because I fear-mongered you with that new study about going to bed too late and earlier death? Or are you doing it because you always feel better at work when you workout first? Or because you have kids to take care of after school/work and if you don’t get to the gym in the morning, you actually don’t have another time slot to go? Regardless of your reason, it’s important to have a reason that inspires you to do it, and then to constantly remind yourself why you’re making this change and how it’s making your life better. It will feel less of a sacrifice if you’re truly feeling the benefits of the change you’re trying to make.
I know many people like to tease me about my early nights so I can get up and be happy to coach the morning classes, but it's necessary and I feel much more productive, especially if I get a good workout in too!
Hopefully we’ll see you at the 6 a.m. class soon?