How to Become a Morning Person? 20 Steps for Night Owls

Become a morning person by gradually shifting your sleep-wake times, getting out in light first thing in the morning, and avoiding light before bed.
Updated
2023-07-31
25 MINS
Written by
Jeff Kahn, M.S., Rise Science Co-Founder
Reviewed by
Jamie Zeitzer, PhD, Rise Science Scientific Reviewer
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We bring sleep research out of the lab and into your life. Every post begins with peer-reviewed studies — not third-party sources — to make sure we only share advice that can be defended to a room full of sleep scientists.
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Updated Regularly
We regularly update our articles to explain the latest research and shifts in scientific consensus in a simple and actionable way.

How to Become a Morning Person and Love It 

  • Gradually shift your sleep-wake times by 15 to 30 minutes every few days. Once you’re getting up at the time you’d like to, stick to this schedule. 
  • Make it easier to shift your sleep times by getting out in sunlight first thing each morning, avoiding light in the evenings, and having a morning routine you look forward to. 
  • The RISE app can suggest the best bedtime for you based on how much sleep you need and when you want to get up. It can also remind you when to do 20+ good sleep habits to make it easier to fall asleep on time.

There are two types of people in the world: those who love mornings and those who absolutely hate them. If you’re in the second camp, you might sleep in hours later than the rest of the world, or force yourself out of bed only to feel groggy and irritable all morning (or all day) long. 

While it’s natural to be a night owl and there’s nothing wrong with it, your job, kids, or lifestyle might require you to be a morning person. Luckily, you can make the change. 

Below, we’ll dive into the science-backed steps you can take to become a morning person. Plus, we’ll share how the RISE app can help you start and stick to an earlier schedule.

A Sleep Doctor's Key Advice

“If you’re a night owl wanting to become a morning person, your new best friend is light. Get out in sunlight as soon as possible each morning, spend more time in daylight during the day, and avoid light in the evenings. This will help to shift your body clock, and therefore sleep schedule, earlier.”

Rise Science Sleep Advisor and Medical Reviewer Dr. Chester Wu

How to Become a Morning Person?

To become a morning person, you need to shift your circadian rhythm (or biological clock) earlier. You can do this by gradually shifting your sleep-wake times, getting light early, avoiding evening light, and shifting your meal times. 

Here are the exact steps to follow to become an early bird: 

1. Set New Realistic Bedtime and Wake Time Goals 

Before you start trying to wake up early, it’s important to know what you’re aiming for. Think about what time you’d like to wake up each day and when you need to go to bed to get enough sleep. 

Here, you need to know your sleep need. Your sleep need is the genetically determined amount of sleep you need each night. When you don’t meet your sleep need, you’ll start building up sleep debt, which will leave you low on energy, make you feel even groggier each morning, and start impacting your health, mood, and productivity. In fact, high sleep debt may be the reason you don’t love mornings in the first place. 

RISE can work out how much sleep you need each night. You can then count back from your goal wake-up time. Next, add 30 minutes to an hour to give yourself enough time to fall asleep, wake up during the night (some amount of time awake at night is normal), and still meet your sleep need. 

For example, if you want to start waking up at 7 A.M. and you need eight hours of sleep, you’d count back to 11 P.M. Add on 30 minutes to fall asleep and account for any nighttime awakenings, and you’d want to be going to bed at 10:30 P.M. 

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

Our sleep need findings: Everyone has a different sleep need, and the range is huge. We looked at 1.95 million RISE users aged 24 and up and found sleep needs ranged from five hours to 11 hours 30 minutes. The median sleep need was eight hours, but 48% of users need eight hours of sleep or more each night. 

We looked at 1.95 million RISE users aged 24 and up and found sleep needs ranged from five hours to 11 hours 30 minutes. The median sleep need was eight hours, but 48% of users need eight hours of sleep or more each night.
The RISE app can tell you how much sleep you need.

RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can click view their sleep need here.

2. Gradually Shift Your Sleep-Wake Times 

Once you’ve got your new bedtime and wake-time goals, it’s time to start moving toward them. But don’t make the jump in one go, especially if you’re trying to wake up hours earlier than you do now. 

Shift your sleep-wake times by 15 to 30 minutes every few days.

 

If you’re trying to make a big change, it may take a few days or weeks to get there. But slowly shifting your sleep schedule will give you the best chance of adjusting and sticking to the earlier times. 

Expert tip: As well as your sleep-wake times, shift your meal, exercise, and light exposure  times by the same amount. This will help your circadian rhythm adjust faster. More on this soon. 

3. Use RISE’s Smart Schedule Feature 

Want a science-backed bedtime? RISE can work out the best bedtime for you. 

The app takes into account your sleep need, how much sleep debt you have, and when you want to wake up. It then works out when you should be going to bed. This time will gradually shift earlier to train your body to sleep earlier. 

RISE app screenshot showing your ideal bedtime
The RISE app can tell your ideal bedtime each night.

4. Don’t Hit the Snooze Button 

We know night owls might be used to sleeping in, but do your best to avoid hitting snooze. 

A 2022 study found hitting the snooze button prolongs sleep inertia compared to using a single alarm. Sleep inertia is the groggy feeling you get right after waking up. It’s natural, but you’ll feel it a lot more when you’ve snoozed, making mornings harder than they need to be. 

Snoozing fragments your sleep, so you won’t be getting the unbroken sleep you need to boost your energy levels. 

So avoid snoozing your alarm clock both when you’re slowly shifting your sleep schedule and when you’ve reached your wake-time goal and are getting up consistently at this time. 

Bonus tip: Find a gentle alarm that doesn’t shock you awake. Jarring alarms can trigger a surge in adrenaline, so you start your day in a stressed state. They can also negatively impact your heart health over time.  

RISE offers melodic sounds, your choice of music, or gentle watch or phone vibrations to slowly wake you up. 

When you turn off the alarm, RISE takes you straight to your favorite app for 15 minutes of phone time to make sure you don’t drift back off to sleep. 

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5. Keep a Consistent Sleep Schedule (When You Reach Your Wake-Time Goal) 

Once you’re waking up at the time you want to, it’s time to stick to it. Keep a consistent sleep pattern throughout the week. And yes, that includes weekends. 

This will help to keep your circadian rhythm in check. You don’t want to undo all of your hard work with an epic Sunday morning lay-in. This can make it hard to fall asleep on time that evening, and make it harder to get up early on Monday.

When your sleep schedule is all over the place you’ll have social jet lag, which can contribute to low energy levels. 

On the other hand, a consistent sleep schedule can help you feel more energy in the mornings. One study found those with a regular sleep pattern felt more alert than those without a regular sleep pattern, even when both groups got enough sleep. 

Expert tip: RISE users with a consistent sleep schedule have lower sleep debt than those with a more inconsistent sleep schedule. So keeping your routine will help you stick to being an early bird and it can boost your energy, health, and mental performance by helping you keep your sleep debt low.  

6. Get Out in Light As Soon As Possible Each Morning 

Light is a key signal to your circadian rhythm. When you get light early in the morning, you can shift your circadian rhythm forward, which shifts your natural sleep-wake times earlier. 

Morning light resets your circadian rhythm for the day, helping you feel sleepier at bedtime. 

Aim to get out in natural light for at least 10 minutes first thing each morning. If it’s overcast or you’re sitting by a window, get light for 15 to 20 minutes. 

7. Try Light Therapy 

Dark outside when you wake up? Try using a 10,000 lux light therapy lamp. Place the lamp about 16 to 24 inches from your face and spend 30 minutes in front of it. You can do this while having your morning cup of coffee or getting ready.  

One study found 30 minutes of light therapy can improve sleep, anxiety, and depression in shift workers.

8. Get Light Exposure During the Day 

It’s not just mornings when you need light. Spend as much time in sunlight as you can during the day. That could mean working by a window, going for a walk on your lunch break, or swapping your gym session for an outdoor run. 

Our key advice: The more light you get during the day, the less sensitive you’ll be to it in the evenings. So prioritize getting out in sunlight to have an easier time falling asleep early. 

9. Avoid Light in the Evenings 

Evening light can suppress the sleep hormone melatonin and push back your circadian rhythm. This can make it harder to fall asleep and wake up on your earlier schedule. 

To stop this from happening, dim the lights and put on blue-light blocking glasses about 90 minutes before bed. Switch from bright overhead lighting to soft lamps. 

Getting your light timing right can make a huge difference. One study looked at participants with delayed sleep phase syndrome, which is when your sleep cycle is abnormally delayed compared to the light-dark cycle. 

They got two hours of bright light exposure in the mornings and limited light in the evenings, and this helped to bring their circadian rhythms forward. The result? They fell asleep and woke up earlier. 

To take the guesswork out of light timings, RISE can tell you when to get and avoid light each day. 

RISE app screenshot showing when to get and avoid bright light
The RISE app can tell you when to get and avoid light each day.

RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can set up their get bright light reminder here.

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10. Have a Morning Routine to Look Forward to 

As a night owl, you might be used to hating mornings. But try to switch that around. Look at that extra time you have in the mornings as something enjoyable and plan a morning routine you want to get out of bed for. 

Consider: 

  • Going for a morning walk with your favorite podcast and a coffee 
  • Going for a run or working out in the garden 
  • Listening to your favorite music (research shows excitative music — especially when it’s music you like — can help you shake off sleep inertia)
  • Making time for breakfast (bonus points if it’s got complex carbs — a 2022 study found a breakfast rich in carbs that are digested and absorbed slowly was linked to more morning alertness. Try oatmeal, whole grain bread, and fruits and veggies.)  

If possible, give yourself about 90 minutes in the morning before you need to be on. This will give you enough time to wake up slowly, shake off sleep inertia, and start feeling more energetic. 

Night owls may need longer to shake off sleep inertia than morning people, so don’t feel guilty about taking it easy first thing in the morning. 

11. Do Challenging Tasks Earlier in the Day 

Try scheduling your most challenging tasks for earlier in the day. This might feel counterintuitive as a night owl, but to become a morning person you need to start acting like one. 

By doing difficult tasks that require energy and concentration in the mornings, you’ll be training your body and brain to adapt to the new early bird schedule. 

Do difficult tasks during your first peak in energy, which may come in the late morning. This can include writing a report, doing a sales call, or delivering a presentation. 

Save easier takes for your natural afternoon dip in energy. This can include tasks like emails, admin, or household chores, if you work from home. 

To schedule your day, check RISE for when these peaks and dips in energy will be. This is one of the most popular features among users. 

RISE app screenshot showing your energy peak and dips
The RISE app can predict when your energy will rise and fall each day.

RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can see their upcoming energy peaks and dips on the Energy screen here.  

12. Exercise Early (and Not Within an Hour of Bedtime) 

Exercise is great for your sleep at any time, but it can be an especially useful tool when you’re trying to become an early riser. 

Working out can help you fall asleep faster, wake up less often during the night, and research suggests high-intensity exercise during the day may make you feel more sleepy at night. And the better your sleep, the easier it will be to wake up early the next day.

Exercise can help you wake up faster once you’re out of bed, too. A 2021 study found just 30 seconds of exercise can help shake off sleep inertia. A high-intensity morning workout is best, but low-intensity exercise can also make a difference. 

And research from 2022 found physical activity during the day can help you feel more alert the next morning. 

Exercise can even help when you’re first making the shift to becoming an early bird. 

A 2019 study looked at how the timing of exercise changed the timing of participants’ circadian rhythms. Participants did one hour of moderate exercise at one of eight different times. The results showed those who exercised at 7 A.M. and between 1 P.M. and 4 P.M. saw the biggest shift in their circadian rhythms moving earlier. 

Can't work out during those times? Workout at a different time. Exercise is still important, no matter what time of day you do it. Just be sure to avoid intense workouts within an hour of bedtime as this can keep you awake. 

We dive into the best time to work out here. 

13. Avoid Caffeine About 12 Hours Before Bed

As a night owl, you might be used to relying on coffee to get you going each morning, but be careful you’re not consuming it too close to bedtime. 

Try cutting yourself off about 12 hours before bed, and shifting this time earlier as you start going to sleep earlier. 

We’ve covered when to stop drinking coffee here. And you can get a helpful nudge from RISE with the exact time you should have your final coffee each day.

RISE app screenshot showing when to limit caffeine intake
The RISE app can tell you when to stop drinking caffeine each day.

RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can set up their limit caffeine reminder here.

14. Avoid Meals Two to Three Hours Before Bed

Late meals can keep you awake with digestive issues like acid reflux or bloating. But that’s not the only reason we recommend having an earlier dinner. 

Food intake is another signal to your circadian rhythm. Late meals can push back the timing of your body clock, which is the opposite of what you’re going for. 

Aim to be done with dinner two to three hours before bed. And to become an earlier sleeper, remember to shift your meal times earlier when you shift your sleep-wake times. 

15. Avoid Alcohol Three to Four Hours Before Bed 

There’s one more thing you need to get the timing right with: alcohol. 

An alcoholic drink can make you feel sleepy, but don’t let that fool you. It’s not a good way to sleep early.

Alcohol fragments your sleep, meaning you may wake up more often during the night. This can lead to sleep debt, which will make getting out of bed feel harder. 

Avoid alcohol three to four hours before bed to give your body enough time to get it out of your system before you go to sleep. 

16. Avoid Naps (Or Keep Them Short and Early in the Day) 

Getting up early might leave you craving a midday nap, but try to resist. If you’re trying to fall asleep earlier than usual, you don’t want to nap during the day and not feel sleepy at bedtime. 

When you’ve successfully shifted your sleep schedule earlier, you can nap, but make sure you keep them short. The good news is research shows a 10-minute nap is enough to boost energy levels and mental performance. 

Be sure not to nap too close to bedtime, which, again, could leave you not feeling sleepy enough at night. Try napping during your afternoon dip in energy as you won’t be at your best during this time anyway. 

17. Have a Relaxing Bedtime Routine 

About an hour or so before the time you want to go to bed, start your bedtime routine. Try doing relaxing activities that help you wind down and promote sleepiness. 

Having a bedtime routine can also help you stay on schedule. It’s easy to go past bedtime watching TV and not even realize the time. Having a routine will get you used to, and help you stick with, the earlier bedtime. 

Your bedtime routine could include: 

  • Reading: A 2021 study found reading a book in bed can improve sleep quality, compared to reading out of bed. (Although there’s no set definition for sleep quality.)
  • Taking a warm shower or bath: This helps your core body temperature drop, which is needed for sleep. Research from 2019 found a 10-minute shower or bath one to two hours before bed can help you fall asleep faster. And a 2023 study found a warm foot bath is enough to decrease your core body temperature.  
  • Doing some breathing exercises: This is particularly helpful if you’re getting anxious about not being able to fall asleep early. A 2021 study found diaphragmatic breathing can help you fall asleep faster. And research from 2023 (which was co-authored by one of our sleep advisors Jamie Zeitzer, Co-Director of the Center for Sleep and Circadian Sciences at Stanford University) found psychological sighing can lower stress levels. Learn how to do these breathing exercises here, or RISE can walk you through some with our in-app audio guides. 

18. Be Careful of Screens Before Bed  

Be careful with late-night screen time. Light from your phone or TV can keep you awake, but more importantly, you can also wake yourself up with stimulating or stressful content or blow past bedtime if you get sucked into Netflix or social media.  

While a screen-free evening can be part of your bedtime routine, you may not have to avoid screens altogether if you don’t want to. 

Research from 2022 found media use in the hour before bed was associated with an earlier bedtime. Even better? If this media use was done in bed and didn’t involve multitasking (i.e. no scrolling through TikTok while watching TV), it was linked to a longer sleep duration, too. 

However, a 2020 study found longer exposure to screen light in the evening was linked to more sleep inertia the next morning. So if morning grogginess is something you really struggle with, consider shutting off the screens an hour or two before bed. 

19. Use a Melatonin Supplement (if Needed) 

Melatonin supplements can help you feel sleepy when you usually wouldn’t and change the timing of your circadian rhythm. 

We don’t recommend taking them every night, but they can be useful when you’re first making the shift to becoming a morning person. 

One study found 0.5 milligrams of melatonin taken about five hours before your usual bedtime can help you shift your sleep schedule earlier. Learn how much melatonin you should take here. 

Tried this before and didn’t get the results you wanted? We’ve covered why melatonin doesn’t work for you here.

20. Keep an Eye on Your Sleep Debt 

Night owls often have more sleep debt than early birds. You might be staying up late into the night, but then have to wake up early for work or personal commitments. 

Or on your journey to becoming a morning person, you might build up sleep debt if you struggle to fall asleep early enough to get enough sleep. 

Sleep debt is an important metric to keep an eye on, though. The more sleep debt you have, the more sleep inertia you’re going to feel each morning. This will make mornings feel harder, and it may even make it feel impossible to become a morning person. 

The more sleep debt you have, the worse your mood, motivation, and focus are going to be — all of which can lead to harder mornings. 

On the flip side, you might find lowering your sleep debt suddenly makes early mornings not only bearable, but enjoyable. 

RISE calculates your sleep debt over the last 14 nights and automatically keeps track of it each day. If possible, aim to keep your sleep debt below five hours to boost your morning mood, energy, and performance.

You can lower your sleep debt by out-sleeping your sleep need. Do this by: 

  • Heading to bed a little earlier
  • Sleeping in an hour or so later 
  • Taking short well-timed naps 
RISE app screenshot showing how much sleep debt you have
The RISE app can work out how much sleep debt you have.

RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can view their sleep debt here

Why Are Some People Not Morning People?

The reason some people are not morning people is because of chronotypes. Your chronotype is your natural tendency to wake up and go to sleep earlier or later. Some people are early birds, some night owls, but most are somewhere in between the two extremes. 

While we usually think of the two opposing camps — early birds vs. night owls — chronotypes are measured on a continuous scale. And research suggests about 40% of us are either an early bird or night owl, but 60% are in between. 

Your chronotype is largely determined by genetics, but research shows it can also change as you age. Adolescents tend to sleep and wake up later, while we naturally become more of a morning lark with age. 

So if you go to bed late and struggle to get up early in the morning, you may just be naturally wired this way. 

If you’re a night owl who wants to be a morning person, it is possible to shift the timing of your sleep-wake cycle. It may just be an active ongoing process you need to work on. If you let your good habits slip, you might find yourself drifting back into your night owl ways.

To help, use RISE as your morning person app. RISE can remind you when to do 20+ sleep hygiene habits each day. These are the habits that help you fall asleep, stay asleep, and get better sleep each night. 

They include many of the tips in this article, like getting the timing of your light exposure, exercise, meals, and caffeine right. These behaviors can help you shift your sleep schedule earlier and keep it there. 

You can probably make a good guess at whether you’re a morning person or not, but to help, we’ve covered more on how to find your chronotype here. 

RISE app screenshot showing sleep hygiene habit reminders
The RISE app can tell you the best time to do 20+ sleep hygiene habits.

RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can set up their 20+ in-app habit notifications here

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Can a Night Owl Become a Morning Person?

Yes, a night owl can become a morning person. While being a night owl is your natural chronotype (your tendency to sleep and wake up later), you can shift the timing of your circadian rhythm earlier, which will help you go to sleep and wake up earlier. 

There is scientific research backing up this idea. One study looked at how participants reacted when they went camping for a week. When they were only exposed to natural light, their body clocks adjusted to match the light-dark cycle.

And the night owls in the group showed the biggest changes. Their circadian rhythms shifted earlier to look more like those of morning people. 

What Are the Benefits of Becoming a Morning Person?

The benefits of becoming a morning person may include better mental and physical performance and health. But more research needs to be done. 

A 2023 study, another one from our sleep advisor Jamie Zeitzer, found that going to sleep early — even if you’re a night owl — decreases your likelihood of mental and physical health disorders. 

“It’s not clear why night owls going to sleep early had less likelihood of health issues. It could be that going to sleep late is linked to an unhealthy lifestyle, like being more stressed or having less stable work,” said ​​Dr. Zeitzer. “It may also be that you get more natural light by sleeping early. This could strengthen their circadian rhythms, which promotes better health.” 

A 2019 study looked at night owls who shifted their circadian rhythms about two hours earlier, without sacrificing sleep duration. Once they’d made the shift, their cognitive and physical performance, stress levels, and self-reported depression all improved. 

Other studies link being a night owl to anxiety, depression, and weight gain

However, more research needs to be done to confirm whether being a morning person is really best. Night owls may be more at risk of health issues because they have more sleep debt or social jetlag, which they get from an irregular sleep schedule and catching up on sleep at the weekend. 

Is it Better to Be a Morning Person?

It’s not better to be a morning person or night owl. It may be that the best thing you can do is honor your sleep chronotype and go to bed and wake up when your body naturally wants to. 

Morning people are typically held in high regard, and night owls are seen as lazy or unproductive. But if you keep your sleep debt low, you can live a healthy, happy, and productive life, just on a later schedule than the rest of the world.

In fact, it may even be better for you to honor your chronotype. When you work with, not against, your chronotype, you can be in better sync with your circadian rhythm. 

And research shows being out of sync with your circadian rhythm can lead to physical and mental health issues like cardiovascular disease, obesity, depression, and cancer. 

A 2023 study also found a disrupted circadian rhythm from ill-timed light and food intake can mess with your hormones and metabolism. 

So if your job and lifestyle allow you to be a night owl, our advice is to keep an eye on your sleep debt to be your best (night owl) self. 

But if you need to be a morning person for work, kids, or just because you want to, follow the advice in this article to make it happen. Just know you’re not lazy or broken for not loving mornings. 

One caveat to all this is that new research, like the 2023 study we mentioned above, is finding there may be health benefits to going to sleep early, even for night owls. While researchers aren’t yet sure why this might be, their findings show going to bed by 1 A.M. may not come with the same health risks as a later bedtime.

How Long Does it Take to Become a Morning Person?

It can take a few days or weeks for your body to adjust and for you to become a morning person. But there’s no set amount of time. It all depends on your own biology, how consistent you are, and how much you’re trying to shift your sleep-wake times by.

For example, if you currently wake up at 10 A.M., it will take a lot less time to shift that to 9 A.M. than 6 A.M. 

Your body adjusts more quickly to delays in your circadian rhythm than advances, so becoming a morning person can be a long process — but it’s doable! 

You Can Learn to Love Mornings 

If you’re a night owl, it is possible to not only start waking up early, but actually enjoy those early mornings. Start by setting a bedtime and wake-time goal that helps you keep your sleep debt low. Then make gradual changes to your sleep schedule, and make sure you’re getting light first thing and avoiding it in the evenings. 

The RISE app can help by working out how much sleep you need, how much sleep debt you have, and reminding you when to do 20+ sleep hygiene habits that can help you fall asleep on time. 

83% of RISE users feel like they have more energy in three days, so you could be loving mornings in no time.  

Summary FAQs

How to become a morning person?

Become a morning person by gradually shifting your sleep-wake times by 15 to 30 minutes every few days. Get light first thing in the morning, avoid light in the evenings, and avoid caffeine, meals, and intense exercise too close to bedtime.

How to become a morning person and love it?

Become a morning person and love it by gradually shifting your sleep-wake times by 15 to 30 minutes every few days. Get light first thing in the morning, avoid light in the evenings, and avoid caffeine, meals, and intense exercise too close to bedtime. Having a morning routine you look forward to and getting enough sleep can help you love mornings more.

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.

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.

Is it normal to not be a morning person?

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. It’s thought 15% to 30% of people are night owls.

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