Are you a night owl? Do you find yourself procrastinating when your brain tells you, “I should really be going to bed right now?” Thanks to our circadian rhythms, your body can feel more awake or asleep at different points of the day. It’s a naturally occurring phenomenon, and not everyone’s rhythm is the same—some people are full of pep at 7:00 AM (the early birds) while others are most energized at 11:00 PM (night owls).
Unfortunately, there can be severe consequences to being a night owl. How can you stay organized to prepare for a healthy day of productivity at work? If you stay up late and then get up early the next morning, your health may be undermined by the insidious effects of sleep deprivation.
There are some scary statistics regarding the effects of being a night owl, such as a higher incidence of health problems, including:
- Weight gain due to metabolic impacts
- Cardiovascular risk (including heart attacks)
- Psychiatric disorders (anxiety, depression, etc.)
- Alcohol or drug abuse
So, what if you want to switch from a night owl to an early bird? The goal for adults requires seven to nine hours of sleep to feel fully rested. Turning yourself from a night owl to early bird means altering your circadian rhythm, which is doable. Here are five secrets for getting to bed earlier:
Adjust the morning first
One of the reasons you might be staying up late is that you’re just not tired. You need to make sure you feel sleepy earlier in the evening and to do that, you need to wake up a lot earlier than usual. It’s going to be tough for a few days while you adjust, but be consistent. After several days of setting your alarm for 6:00 AM, there’s a good chance you’ll be tired when 10:00 PM rolls around. Start by moving your alarm in 15-minute chunks every morning for a week until you arrive at your new time.
Move your evening activities forward in your schedule
Where you can, shift the time you do your usual activities—whether that’s hitting the gym, eating dinner, watching TV, or socializing with friends—an hour or so earlier. To achieve this, consider which activities might be shortened or switched to alternate days. Now try moving your alarm back in 15-minute chunks each night for a week to help you shift your bedtime to your new wake-up time.
Make your morning bright
It’s so difficult to feel energized when you wake up at 6:00 AM to a dark room. Light profoundly affects the timing of sleep and wakefulness, metabolism, and hormone release. Morning sunlight has a significant influence on life’s functions because it promotes alertness, ends sleep, and can help shift the desire for sleep slightly earlier. Throw your shades open in the spring and summer or turn on some lamps in the fall and winter months. The light decreases your body’s production of sleep-inducing melatonin, and this ensures that you will feel more alert. Don’t let yourself hit the snooze button!
Make your sleep time adjustments a daily habit, including weekends
Follow these changes even on weekends to accelerate your adaptation to the new schedule. This is how your body will benefit from enough sleep. If you sleep late on weekend days, you’ll find it harder to go to bed early on Sunday. This can make Monday morning a rough one.
Consider making some personal adjustments that sustain your sleep habits
When you are in finally in the groove and want to maintain the gain, consider these suggestions:
- Preserve the bedroom as a sleep sanctuary, reserving it as space solely for sleep and sex.
- Do not drink caffeine or alcohol in the four to six hours before going to sleep.
- Go to bed when you feel sleepy, even if this means delaying your bedtime to match when you naturally feel sleepy.
- Spend the last hour before bedtime relaxing and unwinding: reading, listening to quiet music or watching a familiar movie.
- Do not lie awake in bed at night. If it takes more than 15 minutes to fall asleep, get up and do something relaxing and come back to bed when you are feeling sleepier.
- Avoid screen light in the one to two hours before your desired bedtime.
- Consider the temperature in the room for sleeping. It’s harder to get a good night’s rest when feeling overheated, and you do sleep better if you’re cooler. Being comfortable physically and psychologically when you go to bed matters, so consider what works for you regarding pajamas.
The key for night owls to falling asleep earlier and waking more easily is to observe the fixed wake times, get morning sunlight every day upon awakening, and to go to bed when feeling sleepy. It will make a huge difference in your daily productivity at work!