We’ve all heard it before: “you snooze, you lose.” Yet, most of us start the day by procrastinating and hitting the ‘snooze’ button. Then we struggle to cram in a shower, chug some coffee or some sort of breakfast before running out the door—all while cursing ourselves for not being a ‘morning person.’
Only about 10 percent of people are true ‘morning birds,’ while 20 percent are true ‘night owls,’ proposes Michael Smolensky, Ph.D., and Lynne Lamberg’s hit book, The Body Clock Guide to Better Health. According to Smolensky, a leader in the study of biological rhythm (a field called chronobiology), the remaining 70 percent of people can adjust their habits and change how they feel throughout the day.
Studies have not only shown that we’re more productive in the morning, but that being a morning person may actually be good for our health, too. Case in point: One study out of the University of Roehampton in England concluded that morning people tend to have higher overall ratings of wellness.
But changing habits is easier said than done. To make your transition from night owl to early bird as painless as possible, we rounded up seven totally legit tips and tricks to add to your routine.
1. Make Sure Your Nighttime Eats Are Sleep-Friendly
Yep, waking up for a successful morning starts before you even go to sleep. Everything from when we last had caffeine and dinner (and what we had) to how we wind down before bed, impacts the next morning, says Keri Gans, M.S., R.D.N., certified yoga instructor and owner of Keri Gans Nutrition.
To prevent overnight upset, you may want to cross a few foods off the dinner menu. “Fried or spicy food can disrupt our digestive system and impact our sleep,” she explains. If you have a sensitive stomach, avoid any out-there eats before hitting the hay.
Another way to set yourself up for a good night’s sleep and energized morning: Add some calming sips to your bedtime routine. Gans recommends making a cup of warm tea (like chamomile), or sipping on warm milk to relax and unwind before bed.
2. Go To Sleep As Soon As You’re Tired
Raise your hand if you’ve forced yourself to stay awake for just one more Netflix episode. By the time you force yourself to bed after an extra hour of TV, you may find yourself staring at the ceiling—and hitting ‘snooze’ the next morning. According to a paper published in the International Review of Neurobiology, when we’re exposed to light (laptop screens included) after the sun’s gone down, we uproot our body’s natural sleep-wake cycle—which is tied to the light-dark cycle outside. So ignoring heavy eyelids only sets you up for a rough morning.
Another reason to hit the hay (and wake up) earlier: One study published in Sleep found that adolescents who went to bed and woke up early were more likely to exercise regularly and less likely to be overweight than night owls who slept in. So yeah, you can expect we’ll be going to bed early tonight.
When the alarm goes off in the A.M., you probably want to crawl straight to the coffee-maker. But after a long night’s rest without any fluids, you may be a little dehydrated when you wake up. So, to combat this, Gans recommends drinking a full glass of water immediately when you wake up, and having a second glass within the next hour.
“Water in the morning helps re-hydrate your body but also jump starts our metabolism,” she says. In fact, a study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism found drinking 16 ounces of water boosted the metabolic rate of healthy participants by about 30 percent for forty minutes after hydrating.
If you don’t like the taste of water, try infusing your water with lemon, a splash of apple cider vinegar, or—Gans’ personal favorite—going for seltzer with a splash of OJ in it.
4. Pencil In An A.M. Sweat
What better way to start the day than to get your blood flowing with a workout? Scheduling a morning workout may just be the motivation you need to get out of bed earlier in the morning—not to mention, it’ll save you from canceling a sweat later on when you’re too tired.
Some research suggests it may also steer you toward a more balanced, active day. One study published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise found that women’s brains reacted less strongly to photos of food (suggesting it was less tempting) following a bout of morning exercise—and that they were more active throughout the rest of the day after an A.M. workout. So setting a morning workout date with yourself may not only help you make the most of those early hours, but also help you make healthier decisions.
5. Eat A Breakfast That’ll Power Your Day
On particularly rough mornings, nothing sounds more appealing than a buttery croissant. You’ll thank yourself for avoiding temptation, though. “The last thing we want is to start the day with food that’ll make us feel sluggish later,” Gans says. Instead, Gans recommends going for breakfast carbs that are full of fiber to help provide much-needed energy and jump-start our metabolisms.
Start your morning meal by cooking up some oats in milk, and then add in a spoonful of chia seeds, some peanut butter, and half a sliced banana, says Gans. If you go for cereal or toast in the morning, make sure to pick a whole-grain variety, which will pack more fiber and break down more slowly than refined cereals or white breads. This will help keep you satisfied through lunchtime.
6. Have Something to Look Forward To
If you’re going to wake up earlier, you probably want to enjoy those extra hours of daylight as much as possible. Filling some of that newfound morning time with something that makes you happy can set the tone for the entire day—and make early wake-ups easier. Schedule that fun HIIT class, do some yoga in your bedroom, or meditate upon awaking.
Or, take a few minutes to write down a few things you’re grateful for before getting out of bed. One study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology showed that participants who kept a daily record of things they were grateful for reported greater feelings of happiness and optimism over time. Talk about setting the tone for a positive day!
7. Be Patient
If you’re willing to change your habits, you can totally adjust to that early bird life—just don’t expect to transform overnight. Research published in The British Journal of General Practice suggests it takes around 10 weeks for new behaviors to become a habit. Take a ‘one step at a time’ approach to shifting your routine toward productive, energized mornings.
For example, start by packing lunches for work the night before, then move to setting your alarm for that earlier wake-up time. After you’ve conquered that, work in an A.M. sweat.