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A Realist’s Guide to Becoming a Morning Person

Olivia De Santos
WRITTEN BY
UPDATED
November 25, 2021

As I write this very sentence, I am in the limbo of waking up at 4.49 am. It’s that in-between phase of wondering whether I should go back to bed or start my workday in a blaze of glory. So now was the perfect time to write about becoming a morning person.

 

The truth is, I am not a natural morning person. Over time, I have trained my body to enjoy early mornings and have some of the most productive days of my life.

 

In this guide, I’ll walk you through:

 

 

Why Bother Being A Morning Person: The Benefits

 

I won’t lie to you. Waking up at 5 am seemed like the epitome of self-flagellation a couple of years ago. I hadn’t even seen 5 am in years unless I was flying or back from a night out. So when the idea of the “miracle morning” came about, I had no interest.

 

Coined by Hal Elrod in 2012, the concept was that you can dramatically improve the quality of your work, play, and life in general by seizing the day with the perfect morning routine.

 

While we may see the 5 am CEO club and cringe a little at their hustle mentality, there are real benefits to becoming a morning person.

 

Benefit #1: Mornings are quiet

 

This sounds like an obvious point. But there’s nothing quite as blissful as a serene morning before anyone wakes up. For me, that means my dogs are still asleep. For you, it could be your spouse or children. Even if you live alone, the silence of the surrounding streets just brings a calm energy to the start of your day.

 

I can’t quite describe what it’s like to wake up in purely peaceful surroundings. Whether you use that quiet time to get work done or not, the stillness only brings good things.

 

Benefit #2: You do your best work in the morning

 

There is plenty of evidence to suggest that we all have unique sleep and wakings. But studies show that many people do their best work first thing in the morning.

 

Fewer distractions and our natural circadian rhythms help us to stay alert in the mornings. Your attention span wanes throughout the day too. You have the most motivation and mental clarity after you wake up than later on in the afternoon (queue afternoon slump). So capitalizing on that morning freshness is not a bad thing.

 

Benefit #3: You can end your workday sooner

 

This is the primary benefit for me. Given that I have huge volumes of work at any given time, I need a minimum of a 10-12 hour workday. If I start that workday at 9 am, that means I could finish at 9 pm. That leaves little time for rest or play at the end of the day.

 

Contrast that with a 5 am waking time, and a 6am work start. I can finish my workday at 6 pm and still have the evening for self-care. It’s honestly a game-changer for my mental health.

 

 

Chronotypes: Know Thyself

 

You have probably heard of your circadian rhythm. A circadian rhythm is defined as your body’s internal clock. It mostly involves your cell’s sensitivity to changing light and your hormones. For the most part, your circadian rhythm is relatively consistent across people in your age group.

 

Chronotypes are a little more random. While age and physical attributes do contribute to your chronotype, it’s not quite as standardized as circadian rhythms are.

 

The Sleep Foundation defines a chronotype as “the natural inclination of your body to sleep at a certain time, or what most people understand as being an early bird versus a night owl. In addition to regulating sleep and wake times, chronotype has an influence on appetite, exercise, and core body temperature.”

 

The 4 chronotypes lion bear wolf dolphin

The 4 chronotypes.

 

Oddly enough, the dichotomy of “early birds” and “night owls” is quite reductive. Modern scientists consider four main chronotypes:

 

  1. Lion
    Stereotypical early bird. Rises early, crashes in the evening.
  2. Bear
    Wakes up at around 7 – 8 am comfortably. Works well with a typical workday schedule.
  3. Wolf
    Stereotypical night owls. Wakes up late and stays up late.
  4. Dolphin
    Insomniacs or “alert while sleeping”

 

Lions and Bears lend themselves well to rising early. If you are a natural Wolf or Dolphin, you may struggle to wake up early. That is perfectly fine. Work with what suits your body and mental well being best.

 

 

How To Actually Become A Morning Person

 

1. Understand why you want to become a morning person

 

Fundamentally, this tip is what made the difference for me. It’s all good and well to become a morning person because it’s trendy. You may just be curious about the various benefits it could bring to your life. But the fact remains – for this to work, you genuinely need a reason to get up in the morning.

 

This could be a passion project you want to set aside more time for. It could be a morning workout class that improves your health. For me, the joy of finishing my workday in the afternoon dramatically upgrades my quality of life.

 

Whatever your reasoning, make it clear. It’s not enough to start this process with motivation alone. Motivation is a finite resource. You have to have a solid “why” before continuing.

 

 

2. Aim to wake up earlier, not “early”

 

5 am is not for everyone. When it comes to your natural cycles, you need to pay attention to what feels right. Productivity YouTuber, Matt D’Avella, created a video of his 30 day 5 am experiment and ultimately decided it wasn’t for him.

 

A “morning person” doesn’t have a specific wake-up time. We don’t convene at an early bird convention every year to decide what time we’ll all jump out of bed.

 

Becoming an early riser is a personal thing, with personal timings. It’s best to figure out what will work best with your work, family, and leisure routine.

 

Maybe at the moment, you wake up at 8 am, but an extra hour will bring you peace. Maybe a 5 am start truly is revolutionary for your wellbeing. Go by your own compass, not hustle Instagram.

 

 

3. Start slowly

 

I think the great myth of waking up early is that it’s instantly a refreshing experience.

 

It’s not.

 

In fact, I don’t think I have ever woken up at 5 am and felt fully energized. I certainly lay in bed for a couple of seconds and hate my life until I convince my body to rise.

 

To set yourself up for success, I recommend choosing a goal time that you want to wake up and working backward.

 

If your goal is to wake up at 7am and you currently wake up at 9am, diving in at the deep end will likely result in failure. Start at 8.45 am. Then 8.30 am, 8.15 am and so on.

 

The gradual approach will make things easier for your body clock.

 

 

4. Practice good sleep hygiene

 

Every early bird prizes good sleep. Good sleep is fundamental to your mental and physical health. This is another reason why waking up early isn’t possible for everyone. If you are a freelance DJ who often works late nights, becoming an early bird will make you extremely sleep-deprived.

 

A study from Michigan State University in 2020 showed that sleep deprivation severely impacts cognitive function. The participants of the study that were sleep-deprived scored worse on attention and memory tasks.

 

Look after your sleep and waking up will be easier.

 

Quick sleep hygiene tips:

 

  1. Try to switch off devices one hour before bed.
  2. Invest in an excellent mattress.
  3. Consider using blue light glasses to protect your eyes when using your devices for long hours.
  4. Keep your bedroom temperature relatively cool. The Sleep Foundation suggests between 60 – 65F.

 

To deep-dive into this, read our article on how to get better sleep.

 

 

5. Keep your miracle mornings simple

 

When becoming a morning person, you may be stuck on what to do with your extra hours. I’ll tell you now, if you lay in bed, you’ll surely fall back to sleep.

 

So how should you spend these extra morning hours?

 

My advice would be to keep things as simple as possible. Productivity guru Thomas Frank recommends treating yourself like a plant. Prioritize water, sunlight, and movement. His routine consists of drinking a glass of water, working out, and taking a walk outside.

 

Start your morning with water sunlight and movement

Start your day off with water, sunlight and movement.

 

Your morning routine may be as simple as showering and eating breakfast.

 

Adding a 7 item list to your morning will only serve to overwhelm you.

 

I personally meditate for 10 mins as soon as I wake up, do some stretching, wash and eat. That’s it. I like keeping my morning routine as short as possible so I can get my work done in the golden hours.

 

For more ideas, check out our article on morning routines.

 

 

Final Thoughts: Embrace Your Early Bird

 

I want to end on the point that waking up earlier is ultimately meant to be a beneficial move for your life. If at any point you are feeling sleep-deprived or out of sync with your loved ones, you should absolutely rethink your routine. The beauty of designing your life intentionally in this way is that you can tweak it until you reach your goals. Waking up early is a joy, not a punishment.

 

Give these techniques a try for the next month and see how you feel. You may find a new lease on life as I did! Best of luck!

 

 

 

Olivia De Santos

About The Author

Olivia De Santos is a freelance writer, wedding planner and entrepreneur from London, UK. She's a world traveller, wordsmith, film buff, mental health advocate and shea butter enthusiast.