How to Go From Hot Mess to Morning Person
We’ve all seen the studies saying night owls are smarter and more creative than people who wake up early. If you’re naturally a nocturnal weirdo like me, it’s nice to have that validation.
But guess what? Modern life ain’t built for night owls.
If you habitually wake up late, your colleagues and bosses aren’t going to think, “Damn, she must be a genius.” They’re going to think you’re somewhere between “lovable hot mess” and “lazy a-hole.”
For some reason, morning people are perceived as being more organized and put-together than the late risers among us. So if you want to trick people into thinking you have it all together, you need to learn how to wake up early.
After a lifetime of falling asleep in class and hating life before noon, I’ve now trained myself to go to bed by 10 p.m. every night so I can wake up at 6 a.m. or earlier the next day. That leaves me enough time not only to get to work, but to actually have a semi-enjoyable morning before I get there.
Here’s how I did it and how you can do it, too.
1. Force yourself to unplug two hours before bed.
Studies show that the bluish glow that comes from our cell phones is no bueno for sleep.
Not only does your phone provide so much stimulation that it keeps you awake, but its backlight can confuse your brain, making you think it’s daytime.
That makes it harder for you to fall asleep and stay asleep — which makes it damn near impossible to wake up on time. If you want your sleep quality to improve and your wake-up time to be earlier, instituting a shut-off time for electronics is the first step you need to take.
If you stop using your phone one hour before bed, I guarantee you’ll have an easier time falling asleep. If you stop using your phone two hours before bed, I bet your all-around mental state will improve, on top of your sleep quality.
Give it a shot for one week and see how you feel. It’s not going to hurt you. Even if your job’s in social media, it’s not like the bulk of your traffic is gonna come after 8 p.m. Stop making excuses and put your phone down… after you finish reading this, of course.
If you do manage to stop your phone use before bed, don’t replace it with binge-watching TV. Binge-watching is a little better than endlessly scrolling through Instagram, but the glow from the TV can still keep you up. Plus, if the show you’re watching is good enough, you’ll never want to freaking sleep anyway. 9 p.m. on a Tuesday is not the ideal time to finally get into “Stranger Things.”
Here’s an idea: read a book instead. Not only does reading actually make you smarter and nicer (again, studies!), it’ll knock you out pretty quick if you do it at night.
Meanwhile, studies show that passively scrolling through Instagram any time of day can make you feel lonely and depressed. Plus, it can trigger envy and resentment — not exactly what you wanna feel when you’re trying to relax your way into sleep mode. So why wouldn’t you limit your phone use when you’re home at night? It’ll help both your sleep and your general outlook.
2. Exercise in the morning.
If you thought putting away your phone before bed was rough, you’re not gonna like this next bit of advice. But I’m not here to coddle you, I’m here to help you get your life together, and working out is part of it.
Working out in the morning is a secret weapon for going to sleep early. A morning gym or yoga sesh can give you an immediate energy boost. Then, you’ll slowly get more tired as the day goes on and by the time night falls, you’ll be well on your way to sleep mode.
Another added benefit: the boost in energy will help curtail your caffeine addiction, if you have one. You’ll find yourself requiring less and less caffeine the more you work out. Skip your 2 p.m. cup of coffee, and sleep will come much easier at 10.
You might even be able to switch to green tea altogether instead of coffee, but let’s not get crazy now.
If hitting the gym before work or school is absolutely impossible, just alter your commute so you’re walking more. I once went without working out for a year, but walked 40 minutes to work almost every morning instead of taking the subway. It had almost the same positive mental effects as hitting the gym, and it was free. In fact, it saved me money.
3. Expose yourself to plenty of daylight.
You know how I said the blue light from your cell phone can keep you awake? That’s because your brain mistakes it for sunlight. And sunlight tells your brain it’s daytime, just like it did in the caveman days. When you see sunlight, your brain sends signals that you need to be awake and alert so you don’t get mauled by a sabre-toothed tiger, or hit by a truck while texting. Whichever.
The flipside of putting away your phone at night is to replace it with plenty of sunlight in the morning. This will help your brain realize it’s time for you to be WITH IT for the next few hours. Then, just like after exercising, you’ll naturally chill out as the day progresses. No matter what time of year it is, make sure you’re exposing yourself to sunlight for a good chunk of time each day.
And it’s not just about going outside — make sure you’re near windows, too. Studies back up the fact that a lack of windows (and therefore a lack of sunlight) can be hell for your sleep schedule. A study in 2013 showed that workers whose offices had windows slept better than those without windows. So if you get to pick where you sit in class or at work, always pick the window — and consider your sleep schedule an extra reason to get up and leave the office to pick up lunch instead of relying on Grubhub or Seamless.
4. Forget the snooze button exists.
Honestly, whoever invented the snooze button should be forced to pull all nighters for the rest of their life. It serves no purpose, absolutely none. All it does is give you false hope, letting you get a few extra winks for five to 15 minutes, only to feel even shittier (studies back this up) when you finally give up and claw yourself out of bed.
There’s not really a trick to breaking your snooze addiction, sadly. You just have to use willpower. One thing that’s worked for me is putting my phone in a different room while I sleep. Not only does that help me to keep from staring at my phone while I’m trying to sleep, it also forces me to get up out of bed and walk into the other room when the alarm goes off. And it keeps me from staying in bed reading emails and tweets before I’ve fully woken up, which is another bad habit if you want to be, you know, a relatively sane person.
Of course, if you have roommates, they won’t be stoked about this little plan. You might have to settle for keeping your phone on the opposite side of your room, or maybe putting it in a box. Either way, make it physically harder for you to press snooze. If you can reach over and tap your phone to get it to shut up, it’s way too close to you and you’ll abuse the privilege.
Just set your alarm for when you wake up, and force yourself to physically get out of bed in order to turn off the alarm. It’ll be way less tempting to go back to sleep.
5. Experiment with melatonin, but don’t treat it like a cure-all.
Melatonin is the sleep hormone naturally found in everyone’s body, but you can take a synthetic version in vitamin form. Some people swear by it. It can definitely help knock you out, but if you’re kind of sensitive to drugs like me, it might leave you drowsy in the morning.
In the beginning of your quest for better sleep, you might wanna try taking a half or full melatonin every night before bed. You might end up loving it and continuing to use it every night. Or it could give you crazy ass dreams and you’ll want to taper off your use of it except in case of emergency.
You can figure out what works for you through trial and error. But if you only rely on melatonin and don’t do the other stuff on this list, don’t expect any massive changes in your sleep quality or schedule. Sorry.
6. Chill on the caffeine and alcohol.
This is also something none of us like to hear, but it’s true: coffee can mess with your sleep schedule hardcore. And so can booze.
We all love our lattes and red wine (or Red Bull and vodka, depending on your ratch levels), but if you really wanna prioritize your sleep, you’re gonna wanna cut down on these particular vices.
One study found that consuming caffeine six hours before bed can disrupt your sleep schedule — that means you’ll probably wanna skip your 2 p.m. coffee habit. The good news, though, is that if you follow the rest of these tips, especially exercising in the morning and getting sunlight, you’ll stop needing caffeine to get you out of your midafternoon slump. In fact, you might stop having a midafternoon slump altogether.
As for the booze, though, you’ll just have to use your will power. Hella studies confirm that alcohol wrecks your sleep quality. You don’t have to cut it completely, though. Instituting a cutoff time it will help a lot. Let yourself sober up before you hit the hay, and you’ll feel way more rested — and, yes, have an easier time waking up — in the morning.
7. Be a sleep diva.
Last but not least, if you want any hope of sleeping like a normal person, you have to make sure your sleep conditions are perfect.
Let your roommates know you’re a light sleeper and ask them to be quiet if they’re making noise in the common areas. Buy earplugs and a sleep mask. Keep your room organized and put away that pile of not-clean, not-dirty clothes that’s been sitting on your bed, for god’s sake.
If you’re me, every little sound or sliver of light can jolt you awake. You can’t sleep through your roommates’ chatter or the traffic outside, let alone the blue glow emitted by the wifi router one room away that’s somehow creeping in through the crack under your door.
But you can’t just lie in bed and think about how much it sucks. Literally nothing will change. You have to take action to protect your sleep time. You’re not a bitch for telling your roommates you need to sleep. You need to sleep! You’re allowed to ask people to be quiet and you’re allowed to take whatever measures you need to get your full seven or eight hours.
And listen, wearing earplugs to bed might seem extreme or uncomfortable, but if you’re truly struggling, it’ll help. It took three nights of drunk guys puking outside my apartment on the Lower East Side for me to finally take the plunge, and I never looked back — that is, until I moved to a way quieter neighborhood, because now I don’t need them anymore.
You can get earplugs at any pharmacy or online, and they’re so freaking cheap. The only thing is they probably won’t stay in your ears the whole night — they’ll probs to def evacuate your earholes at some point and end up on the opposite end of the bed somehow. So yeah, your next Bumble date might find an earplug or two nestled in your covers like a bright orange bedbug. Not exactly a turn-on, but it’s worth it for the better sleep you’ll be having.
Anyway, the point is sleep should be a priority. And if you don’t take action to protect your sleep time, no one else is going to do it for you. Good luck!