With the New Year come tons of well-intended resolutions. Though many of them have to do with eating better, exercising more and losing weight, there are also those that revolve around other lifestyle habits that need changing. One of the most popular ones we’ve heard this year is about switching sleep schedules and getting more, and better quality sleep. Some long time night owls have pledged to change themselves into larks, the cheerful term that is used to refer to morning people. But is it really possible to shift your body clock from being a person who likes to stay up watching the late show to one who is revved up and ready during Good Morning America? If waking up earlier in the day is your goal for the year, then we’re all in to help you out. Here are a couple of sneaky ways that you can help yourself make the shift.
Don’t Try to Cold Turkey It
We all know the stories about the people who try to quit eating sweets completely, or who decide to jump into an exercise routine and overdo it to the point where they end up giving up completely. The same thing holds true for switching to an earlier schedule. If you set your alarm for a couple of hours earlier then you’re used to, you’re just going to end up miserable, and will give up the sleep shifting project the quickly. Approach your goal in small bites, five minutes at a time. Each week, set your alarm for just five minutes earlier than the week before. The difference will feel imperceptible, and will allow your body the time to adjust naturally.
Learn About Your Own Sleep Habits
One of the best ways to make a change in your existing sleep habits is to make sure that you’re starting off with a good understanding of exactly what they are. There are several sleep monitors available on the market now that will tell you how soundly you’re sleeping and how much time you’re spending rolling around and wishing for sleep. The more you know about your own nighttime activities, the more effective you’ll be at creating the change you want.
Use Light to Your Advantage
There are a bunch of ways that you can use light to help you with your sleep. First and foremost, understand that the body’s internal clock revolves around the light and dark exposure that it gets. That means that if you want your body to feel more alert early in the morning, you need to get some good early morning sun exposure. When you wake up, get yourself outside and take a quick walk around the block. Just fifteen minutes in the morning sunshine can work wonders to help you make a shift to early morning orientation. By the same token, you want to make sure that you’re staying away from too much light at night. That means that you should not only dim the lights in your home a few hours before bed (not talking about sitting in total darkness here, just turn the brightness down a notch or two), but it is also very important that you remove yourself from electronic devices for at least an hour and a half before you turn in. Our smart phones, lap tops, tablets and even our e-readers and some televisions emit a specific wavelength of blue light that fools our brains into thinking that it is daytime, and that sets off a chain of internal chemical events that make you alert when you want to go to sleep. By shutting down light exposure, you give yourself a much better chance of falling asleep when you want to.
You can also use light to help yourself to a more gentle and friendly wake up, even if it’s earlier then you’re used to. There are a bunch of new smart light bulbs on the market that work collaboratively with sleep monitors to make sure that you’re being woken up with a gradual, gentle light exposure that is tuned in to when you are in the lightest phase of your sleep cycle. Philips makes a version called Wake-up Lights, and Misfit is about to release one that works in tandem with its Beddit monitor.
Use Your Other Senses
I don’t know about you, but I’m a coffee fiend, and sometimes the mere smell of it can help me to wake up in the morning. If you respond well to the smell or taste of freshly brewed coffee, then make sure that you have your coffee maker set to brew when you’re waking up. The smell of it will help you get yourself out of bed. And if you aren’t tuned in to coffee, you can still use your sense of smell to help you feel more alert by purchasing an aroma diffuser and filling it with a bright-smelling oil… lemon is a great idea. Other senses that will help you wake up include your sense of hearing. Once you’re out of bed, make sure that you put on some invigorating music to put a bounce in your step and keep you from falling back into bed.
Remember the Part About Early to Bed
Getting yourself out of bed earlier is not going to make you feel more energized if you don’t also make the adjustment to getting to bed earlier the night before. If you’re really serious about becoming a morning person, it is essential that you are arming yourself with the quantity of sleep that you need, and that means that you need to get somewhere between seven to nine hours of sleep. A quick poll of your early-bird friends will reveal that they’re in bed by ten p.m. each night. That’s where you need to start too, otherwise your shift to morning hours is doomed to fail.