Are you a morning person, or are you a night owl?
Listen, right off the bat, we’re not taking any sides. Society needs individuals who have the capacity to stay up later than everyone else just as much as it needs early risers. We all have important roles to play regardless of our circadian rhythms, so neither is better than the other.
However, if you’re a hardcore night owl who has a tough time feeling like anything more than a zombie before 10 am, there’s a good chance you feel like you’re at a disadvantage.
Sure, society has a need for night owls — that’s true. That doesn’t mean you were lucky enough to work in a field where that’s a possibility, however. It’s challenging to live and work in a society that caters mostly to people who rise when the sun comes up and sleep shortly after it goes down. When your natural sleep cycle doesn’t fit this mold, waking up early can be a miserable experience.
If you’re a night owl who’s looking for tips on how to improve your morning routine, you’re in luck. In this article, we’ve put together seven morning rituals that you can incorporate into your daily routine that will allow you to turn your mornings from a struggle to a joy.
Looking at the Science of Sleep Schedules
Let’s take a few steps back. Both being a morning person and a night owl certainly have benefits, but what does science say on the matter? Is it really only a matter of how you fit into society, or are there health concerns to be aware of that depend on when you go to bed and when you wake?
It may surprise you to know that there is an average sleep cycle. On average, individuals feel the need to sleep between 11 pm and midnight, and they rise in the morning between 7 and 8 am. If you’re unsure of which type of person you are, there are short questionnaires you can answer to determine which type you fit into. However, you may be surprised to know that most people already know which type of person they are and when they naturally feel tired in the evening.
Only those who go to sleep relatively early in the evening maintain an early wake-up and bedtime routine when given the option to do so by themselves. The rest of us, on the other hand, incur a minor sleep deficit (or “debt”) during the week.
How Are Natural Night Owls Affected by Their Sleep Schedules?
We know we said we weren’t taking any sides — but we can’t ignore the facts! You’re not a bad person if you’re a night owl. However, you should be aware of the health effects that staying up late can have on night owls.
When you’re sleep-deprived, you’re more likely to make careless mistakes, forget crucial details, and even nod off in the middle of a task or behind the wheel. This sleep deficit can become very serious for people who routinely stay up past midnight. When they have time off, they use it to sleep as much as possible, sometimes for as much as half a day. Work performance suffers, and vacation time is wasted.
If you’re born a night owl, you’ll spend your entire life trying to catch up on sleep. Your physical health is compromised, and you increase your risk of developing sleep disorders, which compounds the initial issue. People who are more of an “evening type” are also more likely to suffer from emotional instability, poor stress management skills, and psychosomatic and psychological distress.
An occupation that keeps you awake late at night is the only one that can benefit from your natural nocturnal tendencies. As long as you keep your job, you shouldn’t have any issues, though time off, such as holidays and weekends, may still be a hurdle.
Recently, a research group led by psychologist Karolin Roeser (2012) from the University of Wurzburg in Germany found that nocturnal types had lower scores on several measures of cardiac functioning.
They slept worse, smoked more, and were less active than morning people. Contrary to expectations, morning people and evening people did not react differently to stress at different times of day (completing a mental arithmetic test). Stress in the evening was more difficult for both morning and evening types. Even though this finding ran counter to what the researchers predicted, it’s clear that people who are “evening types” are more likely to work late at night.
If you’re a night owl, you may be reconsidering your sleep habits right about now. We understand, and that’s why we’ve got these seven morning rituals for you to practice. You shouldn’t feel bad for your body’s natural circadian rhythm, but you should understand that you have the power to change it and become the morning person you’ve always envied.
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Seven Morning Rituals You Can Practice Now That Your Future Self Will Thank You for Later
At the top of the list of priorities when trying to change your sleep schedule is setting yourself up for success. You have to incorporate a routine that works for you and starts your day in a way that promotes positive energy and productivity. You’re not going to have a productive day at all if you begin your day feeling groggy, sad, or defeated. The following suggestions are a starting point to find the perfect morning routine for you. Everyone is different, so keep trying until you find the right routine for you.
1. Pick an Alarm That You Like
A more pleasant alarm tone may be all you need to shake off sleep inertia and get your day started on the right foot. According to research from 2020, rather than jolting you awake, a melodic alarm such as a popular song, a rhythmic instrumental tune, or even natural sounds like birdsong may help you wake up on a brighter note and shake off that lingering grogginess.
This is in line with earlier studies that found listening to one’s favorite music after waking up from a nap helped alleviate grogginess. That’s why it might pay off to go with a tune you enjoy as your alarm sound. It’s worth your time to check out the available alarm ringtones on your phone and pick one that makes you smile. In the morning, you’ll be glad you did this.
2. Leave the Shutters Open
Whether or not you give it much thought, natural light plays a significant role in your morning routine. Exposing yourself to sunlight has a way of “winding up” your internal clock. When you open your eyes to the sun first thing in the morning, your body gets the message that it’s time to get up, and the result is that you’ll be more alert even before you’ve had your coffee.
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As a bonus, natural light in the morning can leave you feeling sleepier earlier in the evening, making it easier to get to bed on time, so light exposure first thing in the morning has multiple benefits.
The morning is also a great time to get some fresh air and exercise if you can manage it. Is your morning schedule already full? As soon as you get out of bed, open the curtains and the window so that you can take a deep breath of fresh air. If the sky is gray, you should use artificial lighting. You may try getting a light therapy box and seeing if those are effective for you. Individuals who suffer from seasonal affective disorder enjoy the benefits of these devices.
3. Take Some Deep Breaths (Avoid Immediately Reaching for Your Phone)
When you get out of bed in the morning, what do you do first? Sadly, a common response is “reach for my phone.” If so, for how long do you scroll through the news, social media, and your messages every morning, potentially letting stress build up as a result of what you find?
What if you made it a rule that every time you wanted to use your phone, you had to take six deep breaths to remember the strength and blessing of your own energy first? Diaphragmatic breathing not only improves mental concentration but also prepares the body for efficient movement and correct posture, as the diaphragm is a multifunctional muscle that helps with breathing and core support.
4. Eat a Decent Breakfast
Eating a healthy, protein-rich breakfast before you start your day does more than just satisfy your hunger. It gives you the strength and sustenance you need to tackle the day. It’s not technically necessary to eat breakfast, but doing so can set you up for a productive morning, especially if you choose a breakfast that includes protein and healthy fats (like eggs or plain yogurt) and a variety of grains, fruits, and vegetables.
Don’t forget to drink plenty of water, too. Coffee, green or black tea, and a glass of water can be great parts of a healthy breakfast. As you rush to get ready in the morning, try taking a moment or two to savor your favorite beverage instead of gulping it down. This will help you slow down and enjoy your morning instead of rushing to get going.
5. Stretch Your Muscles
When done first thing in the morning, stretching can help loosen up stiff muscles so you don’t spend the day feeling tense and lethargic instead of limber and alert. Even though doing yoga first thing in the morning might not come naturally, getting some physical activity first thing in the morning has many of the same benefits.
By raising your heart rate and breathing rate, physical exercise can give you more energy and improve your cardiovascular health as well as boost your brain’s decision-making, working memory, and attention. On top of that, if you prefer to exercise outside, you can beat the heat of the afternoon and early evening by getting in your workout first thing in the morning.
6. Practice Meditation or Journaling
Although you can reap the benefits of meditation at any time of day, you may find that beginning your day with a meditation practice helps you focus your attention, gather your thoughts, and create a positive intention for the day.
To reduce stress and calm anxious thoughts, many people turn to meditation. If you often find that morning worries and frustrations set a negative tone for the day, meditation may make a big difference by increasing self-compassion and self-kindness.
Another option is keeping a daily journal, where you can devote 10 or 15 minutes first thing in the morning to organizing your thoughts, affirming yourself, or setting an intention for the day.
7. Do Something for You
You can do more than just get ready and get things done in the morning. Mornings can become something you look forward to instead of dread if you give yourself time to do the things you enjoy most. Even if you don’t initially enjoy them, activities like meditation, yoga, and journaling can develop a progressively positive effect on your life. Try to set aside some time in the morning to engage in a hobby — something you do just because you enjoy it.
Take Charge of Your Day by Incorporating Healthy Morning Rituals and Start Off on a Strong Note
We are all unique, different individuals. We all require a different set of tools and habits to be our optimum selves, but it helps us to understand the science of it all and know the steps to make a change should we need to. If you started reading this article as a die-hard night owl, hopefully now you at least know what steps you can take to shift into being a morning person.
Ultimately, you know yourself better than anyone else, and you should choose the lifestyle that works best for you and gives you the most contentment at the end of the day. There isn’t only one solution to any problem. Give these suggestions a try, and in no time at all, you’ll be waking up to the greatest mornings ever.
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