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How To Become a Morning Person Even if You’re a Night Owl

It’s OK to not be a morning person, but gradually moving your sleep-wake times, being strategic with light exposure, and improving your sleep hygiene can help.
Published
2021-06-30
Updated
2022-09-08
19 MINS
Happy father feeding his kids breakfast because he is a morning person.

In society’s eyes, morning people are typically portrayed in a positive light. Case in point: the oft-used phrase “the early bird catches the worm.” To conform to societal expectations, many of us search high and low for answers on how to become a morning person.

The truth is, not everyone is biologically inclined to perform at their best in the morning. Night owls, in particular, tend to thrive later in the day. Waking up early may be counterproductive for you if your body is biologically wired for a late sleep schedule. 

Not only will you feel groggier than usual with a 5 a.m. wake-up call, but you’ll probably also be surviving on less sleep than you need. If productivity is what you’re looking for, it’s far wiser to understand your circadian rhythm and structure your day around its energy peaks and dips.

That said, we understand there may be work and lifestyle obligations dictating a need for earlier wake-ups. Ahead, we share helpful tips and tricks on how to become a morning person.

What Makes You a Morning Person?

Don’t feel guilty if you struggle to get up in the mornings, if you’re a night owl, there’s a good chance you’re genetically wired to be that way. 

Morning people are bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, and often ready to go even when the sun isn’t fully up yet. Night owls, on the other hand, love to stay up late, and struggle to get up in the morning without hitting the snooze button a few times. But why do people differ this way? 

That’s where chronotypes come in. When we talk about morning people, we often mean people who have an early chronotype. Your chronotype is your natural tendency to sleep and wake up earlier or later. If you are an early chronotype, your clock skews toward an earlier sleep and wake time. 

For night owls, it’s the opposite — you skew toward a later sleep and wake time. Early birds literally find it easier to wake up and go to bed earlier than night owls do, and they feel much more energetic earlier in the day, too.

For simplicity, we often group chronotypes into early birds and night owls. But the reality is that science measures chronotypes on a continuous scale, with 351 genetic variations associated with being a morning person alone. 

Your chronotype all depends on your genetics, age, and relative light exposure. The Center for Environmental Therapeutics provides a survey for helping you find your chronotype and we’ve covered more about what chronotypes are here.

Most people fall somewhere on the spectrum between an early bird and a night owl (so called “intermediate birds”), but there are some outliers. Some people experience advanced sleep phase disorder and regularly go to bed early (think 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.) and wake up early (2 a.m. to 5 a.m.). 

On the other end of the spectrum, extreme night owls may be suffering with delayed sleep phase disorder. This is when your body clock is delayed by two or more hours beyond what is considered normal. Though the tips we discuss below may help, these extreme types may need to speak to a sleep expert to get more help adjusting their sleep schedule to that of a morning person. 

But it’s not all about chronotypes.

Your circadian rhythm (the body’s internal clock) interacts with sleep homeostasis (the process in which sleep pressure — or the need to sleep — builds up while you’re awake) to regulate your sleep-wake cycle. To learn more about this two-system interaction, check out the Two Laws of Sleep in our Sleep Guide. In simple terms, your circadian rhythm dictates when you feel sleepy and when you feel awake regardless of how much sleep you’ve gotten and your sleep homeostat is responding to how much sleep you’ve actually gotten. It is important to remember that the timing of your circadian clock is mostly set by when and how much light exposure you have received.

If you change the timing or amount of light you get, you can make yourself feel sleepy earlier or later. Another thing to remember is that melatonin is a sleep hormone naturally produced in your body that is made when it’s dark and suppressed when it’s light, and is directly controlled by the circadian clock. Everyone’s body will start making melatonin at different times, meaning we all feel drowsy in the evenings at different times.

How Can I  Become a Morning Person?

While your chronotype is largely determined by genetics, the beginning and end of your daily energy cycle can be molded by your sleep and wake times and relative light exposure. As such, it is possible to shift your sleep schedule and still maintain optimal energy levels during the day. Plus, by maintaining good sleep hygiene — daily behaviors that promote better sleep — you’ll find it easier to fall asleep earlier and stay asleep all night.

Do note that your quest to become a morning person will be an active, ongoing process since your chronotype is a product of your genes. If you aren’t actively engaged in the process of waking and sleeping earlier, your genetic programming will likely triumph, and you risk falling back into your previous sleep schedule. 

Similarly, the strength of your genetic programming will determine how much time and willpower you will need to shift your sleep schedule and if you’ll easily revert back to later sleep and wake times. 

Successfully shifting your sleep schedule will require you to make small steps toward your goal (more on this below). The bigger the move to an earlier wake time you want to make, the more time (and patience) you have to give yourself to get there. This will also be compounded by the strength of your chronotype. For example, an extreme night owl trying to rise in the early morning will take a while to reach their new goal.

You should also be realistic with your wake-up goal, too. Extreme night owls may find it almost impossible to wake up very early in the mornings. Instead, focus on making your night owl schedule as productive as possible. 

For the rest of us,  here’s how to become a morning person, wake up earlier, and still feel refreshed during the day.

1. Set Realistic New Wake and Bedtime Goals 

Your new sleep schedule should account for your sleep need — the amount of sleep you need each night, which is genetically determined just like your height and eye color. RISE works out your personal sleep need (8 hours of sleep isn’t right for everyone!) and gives you a number in hours and minutes to aim for each night. 

One thing to be aware of is sleep debt. This is the amount of sleep you owe your body. In the RISE app we calculate this over your last 14 nights. If you’re not meeting your sleep need, you’ll build up a lot of sleep debt, which affects everything from your mood to your productivity to your health. 

For night owls wanting to become morning people, it can be easy to set an early wake up goal, only to build up sleep debt as you can’t fall asleep early enough to meet your sleep need each night. 

So, once you know how long you should sleep for each night and what time you need to be up in the morning, you can count back to work out your new bedtime goal to make sure there’s enough time to meet your sleep need. 

We dive more into how to find the best time to go to sleep and wake up here. 

2. Gradually Shift Your Sleep Times Earlier 

Once you’ve found the ideal time to wake up and go to bed, gradually shift your current wake and sleep times by 15 to 30 minutes every few days until you reach your new sleep-wake goal. Remember, the greater the shift in your sleep schedule, the more time (in days) it will take to get there.

Pro tip: As well as shifting your wake and sleep times, be sure to also shift your meal times to help adjust to an earlier schedule. 

3. Give Yourself Enough Time to Wake Up in the Mornings

It can be tempting to hit snooze if you still feel sleepy when your alarm clock goes off, but remember sleep inertia is a real thing (even for morning people!). This is the groggy feeling we all get after sleeping, and how long it lasts can change each day.

You should ideally give yourself 90 minutes after waking up before you need to be on for work or other demanding tasks. This is even more important for night owls who may need that extra time to shake off the morning grogginess. Some of the below tips (like getting natural light and exercise) can help shift sleep inertia faster. And if all else fails, RISE predicts when this grogginess will lift, so you can simply ride the wave, knowing your energy levels will start increasing soon. 

4. Keep a Consistent Sleep Schedule 

It can be easy to fall back into your night owl ways on the weekends when you don’t need to get up early, but this leads to social jetlag, disrupting your circadian rhythm. 

Instead, try to wake up and go to bed at similar times each day, including the weekends. Even just one shifted weekend makes it hard to sustain gains you might have made in getting to a consistent schedule over the course of the prior week(s), leaving you to effectively "restart" on Monday. By keeping your sleeping pattern the same, you’ll also have a better chance of meeting your sleep need each night, so you feel and perform your best each day. 

5. Be Vigilant About Light Exposure

RISE app screenshot showing you when to get and avoid bright light.
The RISE app will tell you when to get and avoid light exposure.

 Light exposure can make or break how successful you are at shifting your sleep schedule. Here’s what to do: 

  • Prioritize light exposure as part of your morning routine: Bask in bright light for at least 10 minutes as soon as you wake up. This will make you feel more awake and reset your circadian rhythm for the day. If natural light isn’t available, use a light lamp instead.
  • Get as much natural light exposure as you can during the day: Research suggests four to five hours of natural light during the day can make you less sensitive to bright light come nighttime. 
  • Make your evenings dark: Dim the lights and wear blue-light blocking glasses at least 90 minutes before your target bedtime, as all kinds of artificial light, especially blue light, reduce your body’s melatonin production, meaning you may not feel drowsy come bedtime.
  • Keep it dark throughout the night: Wear an eye mask and use blackout curtains to keep your bedroom dark. And if you wake up in the night, avoid turning on any lights, including your phone flashlight. If there’s not enough ambient light, use a low power red night light instead if you need to go to the bathroom, for example.

Pro tip: The RISE app will remind you when to wear blue-light blocking glasses nearer to your new sleep time. The app can also tell you when to get and when to avoid bright light based on your circadian rhythm each day. 

6. Move Your Body

Exercise raises your body’s core body temperature and lessens your morning grogginess to help you wake up more easily. As a bonus, low- to moderate-intensity workouts boost your energy levels and help you sleep better at night. 

Just like with your sleep-wake times and meals, you should move when you do your workouts to an earlier time to help shift your circadian rhythm earlier. That’s because light, food, and exercise are all zeitgebers — or things that can reset your circadian rhythm.

Pro tip: Perform your morning workout in the presence of light to get the best of both circadian cues. Try a backyard HIIT (high-intensity interval training) session or a morning jog. Even a brisk 10-minute walk can help set up your circadian rhythm for the day by getting movement and sunlight first thing.

7. Drink Caffeine at the Right Time

RISE app screenshot telling you want times to limit caffeine.
The RISE app can tell you the best time to cut off caffeine for the day.

A cup of coffee or tea neutralizes adenosine (a chemical in your body that makes you feel drowsy) to make morning wake-ups easier. You can also use it as a pick-me-up to combat sleepiness later in the day as you adjust to an earlier wake-up time.

That said, do note that caffeine can stay in your system for up to 12 hours with an average half-life of roughly five hours. This means that if you drank a matcha latte at 12 p.m., half of the caffeine may remain in your body at 5 p.m. Another five hours later at 10 p.m., your system will probably still be infused with a quarter of the caffeine. As you can imagine, you’ll find it harder to doze off and may end up falling asleep much later than you intended. We dive into exactly how long caffeine lasts here.

Pro tip: To prevent caffeinated beverages from delaying your new bedtime, RISE tells you exactly when you should cut off caffeine consumption according to your own chronobiology. In the “Energy” tab, add the “Limit Caffeine” habit to your “Energy Schedule” and turn on in-app notifications.

8. Avoid Alcohol and Large Evening Meals

Avoid drinking alcohol and overeating too close to bedtime — otherwise, you risk disrupting your sleep that night, making it harder to wake up the next day. Cut off alcohol consumption 3-4 hours before bed and limit yourself to two drinks at most. If you do eat close to bed, opt for a small meal or snack no more than 600 calories.

Pro tip: Use the “Avoid Late Alcohol” and “Avoid Late Meals” habits in RISE to remind yourself when exactly to steer clear of alcohol and large evening meals based on your unique chronobiology.

9. Do Challenging Tasks in the Morning and Easier Ones in the Evening 

This may feel unnatural if you’re a night owl, but if you’re committed to becoming a morning person, you need to start acting like one — and that includes more than just waking up early. 

By forcing yourself to do tasks that require concentration and energy in the mornings, you’ll be training your body and brain to adapt to the new early bird schedule. Check the RISE app to see when your morning energy peaks will be. 

10. Wind Down Properly at Night 

You may be used to staying up way past midnight, so even if you start getting up earlier, your body might not want to naturally go to bed earlier. Give it a helping hand by winding down properly in the evening with a bedtime routine.

Beyond dimming the lights and putting on blue-light blocking glasses, be sure to engage in relaxing activities like reading, yoga, listening to calming music, or journaling. A hot shower or bath can also help you feel sleepy as this helps your body temperature drop before bed, which promotes sleep. 

11. Supplement With Melatonin (if Needed)

RISE app screenshot showing you when to take melatonin supplements.
The RISE app can tell you when to take melatonin supplements.

 As mentioned earlier, your genetic programming may make the process of shifting your sleep schedule more or less difficult. If you need extra help sleeping earlier, consider natural sleep aids like melatonin supplements instead of sleep medicine (which can induce unwanted side effects, such as prolonged drowsiness).

Research shows melatonin supplementation helps reduce the time you usually take to fall asleep. It also prolongs the duration of your slumber to help you meet your sleep need and avoid hitting snooze when your alarm goes off. That’s because it acts as a chronobiotic, or something that can shift the timing of your sleep-wake cycle. So, taking it at the right time can make you feel drowsy earlier than you naturally would.

You can find out more about how much melatonin you should take to shift your sleep schedule here.

However, more research into the long-term safety of melatonin supplements still needs to be done, so they are a short-term solution to help you when you’re first making the shift. Once you’ve adjusted to your earlier sleep-wake times, rely on good sleep hygiene and many of the tips in this article to feel sleepy earlier.

Before adding a melatonin supplement to your diet, consult your primary doctor if it’s suitable for you.

Pro tip: Dietary supplements, including melatonin aids, are largely unregulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). To avoid being scammed, choose products that have the “USP Verified” seal. This signifies the product has been vetted by the United States Pharmacopeial Convention, a non-profit organization that sets public quality standards for health products like dietary supplements.

If you do turn to melatonin supplements, RISE can tell you the best time to take them to help you feel sleepy earlier than you naturally would. 

Is It Better to Be a Morning Person?

On the whole, morning larks are typically held in high regard, while night owls are viewed as lazy or unproductive. When successful people like Tim Cook reveal they wake up incredibly early, it’s no wonder an early rise time is conflated with discipline and the rewards commonly associated with it (think productivity gains and career advancements). But that isn’t always the case. After all, waking up earlier and still feeling refreshed has less to do with discipline and more to do with your circadian rhythm.

So, it’s not better to be a morning person. Night owls can be just as happy, healthy, and productive — as long as they’re getting enough sleep. 

That said, even though being a night owl doesn't mean you're lazy or lack discipline, it is possible for people to be undisciplined around their bedtimes in general. For instance, many of us are guilty of bedtime procrastination — indulging in passive late-night leisure activities like television shows. This common phenomenon is likely exacerbated by the deluge of binge-able content on social media and the advent of Netflix’s auto-play “Next episode” button.

How Can I Be More Productive as a Night Owl?

RISE app screenshot showing your energy peaks and dips.
The RISE app can predict your energy peaks and dips.

After removing the moral halo around being a morning person, you may realize that your desire to wake up early is due to a desire for maximum productivity. In which case, you don’t have to shift your sleep schedule to accomplish that. You just need to work with your circadian rhythm relative to your daily energy levels.

You are naturally productive at different times of the day according to your circadian rhythm. This is on account of the internal clock in your brain that tells every cell in your body when to be active and inactive, causing your energy levels to fluctuate throughout the day. The RISE app gives you a graph of energy peaks (the times at which you’re primed to be alert) and dips (the times at which your body needs to rest and refuel). It’s called your “Energy Schedule” in the app. (More on how RISE helps you track and optimize your daily energy here.)

If you’re a night owl or have a chronobiology that skews later, you’ve likely always had to adhere to an early bird schedule because that’s how society (and most of the corporate world) is wired. Thus, you’ve never been truly able to embrace the energy peaks and dips of your chronotype. That’s most likely why you’ve felt suboptimal — think sluggishness and low energy levels — for a very long time. (You’ve been struggling with social jetlag, when your body clock is at odds with your social clock.)

Learning to work with your own chronotype and circadian rhythm is key to actual productivity gains and better energy levels every day. For example, you can see when your peaks in energy are and schedule demanding tasks — like writing, sales calls, or presentations — for this time. And then check when your dips in energy will be and schedule you low-energy tasks — like admin, emails, or household chores — for these times. 

Instead of scheduling your day to fit in with the early birds, you’ll improve your productivity simply by getting in sync with your own circadian rhythm and doing things at the best time of day for you.  

However, as much as we advocate for prioritizing your chronotype, we also understand it may not be possible to find a job and lifestyle that match it. After all, 9 a.m. meetings and dropping the kids off at school can’t really be pushed back to your energy peaks later in the day. If that’s the case, you can shift your sleep schedule to become an early riser even if you’re biologically prone to later sleep and wake times.

Become a Morning Person for the Right Reasons

Take time to understand your motivations behind why you want to become an early riser. Is it because you think you should rather than because you have to? If it’s the former, consider going the route of working with your chronotype for true productivity gains.

On the flip side, if your job or other lifestyle factors demand an earlier sleep-wake schedule, follow the tips we’ve laid out for you above. To help make the transition easier, RISE can work out your personal sleep need and tell you the right time to do everything from have your last coffee for the day to when your most productive times will be, all of which will make the transition from night owl to early bird much easier. 

Find Your Ideal Sleep Schedule:

Summary FAQs

Is it possible to become a morning person?

Even if you’re naturally a night owl, you can become more of a morning person by slowly shifting your sleep-wake times, getting light exposure at the right times, and maintaining good sleep hygiene to help you fall asleep earlier.

Why is it so hard for me to be a morning person? 

If it’s hard for you to be a morning person, you probably have a late chronotype, meaning your body naturally wants to go to sleep and wake up later. Mornings may also be hard if you’re not getting enough sleep each night. 

What makes you a morning person?

You’ll be a morning person if you have an early chronotype — the genetic tendency to wake up and go to sleep earlier than those with late chronotypes. These people find it easier to wake up early, and have more energy earlier in the day.

How do you finally become a morning person and love it?

Maintaining good sleep hygiene and keeping a consistent sleep schedule can help you become a morning person and enjoy your mornings more.

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