Become a Morning Person: 8 Tips from a Former Night Owl


By: , SparkPeople Blogger
3/15/2013 12:00 PM   :  207 comments   :  560,100 Views

I spent most of my early and mid 20s working the second shift at newspapers. I loved working as a copy editor, and I loved the hours, too. My shifts began at 4 p.m. and ended at midnight, which meant I could stay up late, sleep until noon, and still have time to run errands and go to the gym (a rare occurrence then) before work.

Eventually I joined the 9-to-6 crowd, and it was tough. I did not like mornings.

Fast-forward to last fall, when my yoga studio announced it was adding traditional sunrise morning practice to the schedule during the week. Though I now love my morning practice and wouldn't return to evening sessions, it was not an easy transition. I am not a morning person by nature, but I have become one by necessity.
Life is more likely to interfere when I schedule yoga practices at night. I'm too tired, too stressed, too busy. I have time to formulate all kinds of excuses. But when the alarm goes off at 5:30 each morning, I have no excuse. When I don't want to get out of bed (and who does on a cold winter morning?), I ask myself: What else would you be doing at this time? The answer (aside from sleeping): Nothing. So I get up.

By 9 a.m. I have put in almost two hours on the mat, showered, spent time with my cats, and started my workday. Whereas before I had a hard time getting motivated first thing in the morning, now I dive head-first into the day. Even my work schedule has changed. I save less-intense work for afternoon and choose to work on larger projects first. I feel so much better--more energized and accomplished. I know that morning workouts are worth it!

Those first few weeks were tough. I was exhausted by 9 p.m., falling asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow, and I dreaded the alarm clock each morning. I "accidentally" slept through it or hit snooze more than a few times. Within two months, my entire schedule changed.
Here's how I adjusted:

  1. Plan ahead. Each night before I go to bed, I make sure everything I need for the next day is ready to go: breakfast, lunch, and water bottle in the fridge; laptop case and purse by the door; gym bag is stocked with extra clothes, shoes, and toiletries. Even if I oversleep by a few minutes, I don't need to scramble to track down everything I need.
  2. Unpack, then immediately repack. Soon after I come home, I clean out my gym bag. Dirty clothes and yoga towels in the laundry room, extra accessories or clothes back in the closet (sometimes I end up with a few too many pairs of socks or underwear--more on that later), and clothes for tomorrow in the bag. I lay out my yoga clothes for the next day, complete with outer layers for cold mornings, plus shoes and a headband to keep my sweaty hair out of my face. I pack my work clothes into my gym bag and set it in the same place so I don't have to hunt for it the next day.
  3. Carry an extra set. There's nothing worse than arriving at work still sweaty from a workout (I shower and get ready at the SparkPeople offices most days) and realizing that you don't have clean clothes. Thankfully, I have never forgotten clean underwear, but I have forgotten clean socks, and, once, I forgot a towel. (I used a clean t-shirt to dry off.) I keep a spare of anything I couldn't live without: socks, undies, bras, towels. That way I don't have to take a 20-minute detour home and back in the morning.
  4. Stick to your plan. I have the same routine every morning: bathroom and shower, fill the kettle and turn it on, feed the cats, grind the coffee, fill the French press, take my vitamins with two cups of water, then get dressed, take my lunch out of the fridge, finish the coffee, put on my shoes… you get the picture. I find that I'm much less likely to lose track of time or forget to do something if I follow roughly the same order every day.
  5. No distractions. I scan my email when I turn off my alarm each morning but I don't respond to anything that's not an emergency until I get to the office. I don’t open my laptop, and I don't own a TV, so I'm not tempted to lose track of time that way. I learned the hard way one morning when I logged on to my laptop for "just a minute" and ended up being 30 minutes late to practice. (It's an open studio, so you do a self-paced practice with staggered start times.)
  6. Don't be vain. Working out in the morning means no time to dawdle in front of the mirror. I can't change my mind about my outfit--it's the only one I have with me. I don't wear makeup and don't dry my hair (obviously, this wouldn't work if your office is more formal). I have very long, curly hair that I love to wear loose, but I can't wash it daily or it dries out (and takes hours to air dry), so I braid it most of the time.

    I don't feel any different about myself when I skip makeup or wear my hair braided. In fact, I've learned to be more creative with my hair, and I spend less time fiddling with it. (I'm one who puts her hair up and takes it back down a few times a day if it's loose.) If you spend less time primping, not only will you save valuable time in the mornings, but you'll also learn to accept yourself for who you are, flaws and all.
  7. Stick with it, even on weekends. I can't stay out past 10 these days, and that's fine by me.  If I try to sleep in, stay up really late, or deviate from my normal schedule on weekends, Mondays are really hard. I "sleep in" until 7 on weekends, but I stick with my morning yoga practice and other routines. This was key, especially in the beginning, to adjusting to the new morning schedule.
  8. Cut yourself some slack. Some days, that alarm goes off, and I hit snooze a few times. I miss my window for practice. Other days I'm sick or something comes up. I realize that life happens, and sometimes my schedule and my workouts will be affected. I lean on my mantra: You did your best today. Tomorrow you'll do better.
If this former night owl can learn to love mornings (and morning workouts, no less), anyone can!

What is your best tip for learning to be a morning person?

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  • 157
    I smiled the second I read the first line - I too started out working the second shift at a newspaper, and I loved the hours too. I'm not a morning person by nature, either, but I've found I really do like getting up earlier. Beginning in December, I started getting up around 6 a.m. so I'd have time to hit the gym before work, and now I love my routine. I'm actually pushing to get up a little earlier so I can add an early yoga session before I even get my kids up. My hubby is a morning person, and that's been really helpful. Even on the days when I'm grumpy, it's nice having someone else up and about. I've also found the unpack/repack trick to be extremely important. If I wait until morning to pack my gym bag, then it's almost guaranteed that I'll forget something. Like a towel. Been there, done that - and no clean t-shirt for me! - 4/19/2013   4:05:33 PM
  • KLYNE00
    I loved this blog, and it came at the perfect time. Just yesterday I made the change/effort to get up at 4am and do my jogging/running before the kids were up and absolutely loved it! I felt so much better about myself and my day simply because I had done that for me. I enjoyed it so much, I got up again this morning and did it again. Great blog, thank you! - 4/10/2013   11:32:50 AM
  • 155
    Great blog! I just finished reading every single comment. After working several pt flexible jobs for almost all of my working life, I now work M-F, commute, start work at 8 AM. I'm still working on how to do it. Doing lunch and clothes the night before makes the morning less hectic. I've taken a small coffee pot to work, so I don't make it at home anymore; I have it to look forward to when I get there. I keep an audiobook in the car to make the commute a pleasure. I started adjusting my bedtime earlier the day I was offered the job. THAT has been one of my biggest challenges. I used to love a quiet hour or so to read after everyone went to bed. With my previous flex schedule, if I stayed up late, I knew I'd be able to nap sometime during the day. Can't do that anymore. I haven't gone to bed this early since I was in elementary school. I cook in large batches on the weekends so I have some meals to start the week with. I've taken handweights to work and an exercise ball to sit on instead of a chair. I know that AM exercise works best for me, but no matter how early I go to bed, if I get up earlier to exercise, I'm just not getting enough sleep. I'm hoping my body will eventually get used to the new times. - 4/5/2013   10:12:08 PM
  • 154
    Morning is my favorite time. I love having a few hours alone while everything is quiet and my husband is still in bed. I have a routine and I stick to it every morning, 7 days a week. When I was in my early 20s I was a TOTAL and complete SLOB and never cleaned up after myself or straightened the house. Dishes sat in the sink until it hit a critical point and I had to wash them. I slept in as late as I could and was a total night person. When I was pregnant with my baby at 23 I thought about it and decided I was not going to bring up a little child in a sloppy, dirty house. I thought it would be depressing for a little kid to walk in after school to garbage smells, dirty dishes and a messy house, so I made a vow to change. I cleaned the heck out of my house and from that point on I have always been a good housekeeper. It only takes a certain amount of my time to keep the house nice. Its a decision we each make - whether we are going to be immature and the other people around us are going to suffer - or grow up and make our own lives more pleasant. Anyway, I liked this article because it contains some great ideas on how to step it up and meet the challenges of daily living. - 3/31/2013   8:50:09 PM
  • 153
    I agree with all except "don't be vain". I work in a professional setting and have no choice but dress the part. If I weren't vain I wouldn't be...well, let me back up. OF COURSE I want to be healthy, but I also want to look good. - 3/29/2013   2:41:47 PM
  • 152
    I enjoyed this article, but the biggest struggle I deal with as a night owl is getting up when my alarm goes off. The first thought in my head when the alarm goes off is "I wanna sleep more Zzzzz" I end up hitting snooze on my alarm at least 3-4 times each morning. However, I think it would be great to get my work outs in before the work day, so I definitely need to learn how to be firm with myself and get myself out of bed haha. - 3/25/2013   2:30:30 AM
  • 151
    Now that spring is here, and summer right around the corner...I need to start getting up earlier, one thing I love is sitting on my front porch just as the morning sun begins to get hot and drink my first cup of coffee...I have missed that thru this long cold winter and look forward to the warm sun, working out and walking in the crisp early morning air, when my foot is healed and i am able that is...getting up early is a good thing. - 3/24/2013   11:21:46 AM
    Thanks so much for this! Its very helpful. I have been kicking myself most mornings for not getting up earlier. It seems the day goes so much smoother when I can get up before the family. I tend to be the one to keep hitting the alarm and my husband ends up groggy in the morning but if I just let it go once and understand how much better my day will go and less stressed than it makes total sense. I see the key is preperation. - 3/22/2013   5:42:18 PM
    Nice blog... Definitely tried the suggestions.. This is one problem that i am facing for years. When i get early i complete all my tasks properly and feel fresh at work...will let you know the progress in the future - 3/22/2013   4:03:55 AM
  • 148
    Since I was a little girl my family teased me about being "early to bed and early to rise". But through all those years of teaching school, checking papers every night, raising 3 children with hubby, cooking good homemade meals regularly, packing 5 lunches every day, keeping a clean, neat house, I became a "night owl". I learned to live on few hrs. sleep especially when we ran a business and I did all the paper work and helped in the shop.
    But now that I am 77, I am finally back to what I like: Early to bed and early to rise!
    (But I hate the change of time in the spring!!!) - 3/20/2013   8:20:10 PM
  • 147
    Awesome advice. I've been doing what you said for 2 days works, less stress in the morning for sure.....Thanks! - 3/20/2013   11:10:57 AM
  • 146
    Good tips, especially about preparing everything the night before. When I do this, the day goes so much smoother than when I don't. - 3/20/2013   8:41:29 AM
  • 145
    this is something I have to work on - 3/20/2013   2:14:56 AM
    I disagree with #6 actually. I find that waking up, going to the gym and then having that extra time to get ready by doing my hair and make-up makes me feel a whole lot better about myself. No I don't HAVE to wear make-up to feel good about myself and I wouldn't say I'm vain but I do enjoy "preparing" myself for the day and I feel better when I feel that I look good.
    Other than that I enjoyed the article and think that those are great tips for anyone who has a hard time getting up. - 3/19/2013   11:23:55 PM
  • HARPER41
    My best tip that worked for me through my 41 working years, was to never hit the snooze button, but put your alarm clock far enough away from the bed so I had to get out to shut it off; once my feet hit the floor, I am up to stay. - 3/19/2013   8:11:15 PM
  • 142
    Great to know it CAN be done by some who choose to try it -- and maintained! The only two ways I'v found to go against my natural night owl circadian rhythm are to travel out of my timezone and keep on the move, or to have a brain MRI -- for some reason, that knocked me into normal-hours sleepland for about two months before my usual brain patterns resumed. Now it's the regular ol' 3:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. snooze-span that so many of us find completely natural. I'm retired now, enjoying being Me. - 3/19/2013   6:57:34 PM
    Stephanie, great article! Keep up the good work. I donít primp in the morning. Iíd never get to work. I donít wear makeup, Iím good with that and how I feel about me is what counts. I admit Iím a snooze-button puncher. Part of my problem is that I stay up late. The other part is that the bed feels so good that I donít want to part with it. Iíve tried all the little tricks (moving the clock to the other side of the room, etc.), but to all my snooze-button pals, the bottom line is that you either have to get more sleep so that youíre able to get up without struggling or, if thatís not the case, then you just have to hit the floor when the alarm goes off. There are no quick fixes, no magic, you just have to do what has to be doneóget up. As with anything you practice, it gets easier with time. - 3/19/2013   3:50:08 PM
  • 140
    I was just scanning thru the comments and I can't help thinking that there are people in the world that do not need to wear makeup to look good. But the author of this blog sounds like she's her own person and for that I say, "Good for you!" and do not ever change.

    For me, I'm definitely not a morning person and at 64, I doubt if that will change. This was a great blog, however! - 3/19/2013   1:28:59 PM
    I love the plan will try it out since my goal is to get up eariler to workout, yes its not easy I just need to keep my goals intact. Well I guess I need to go and buy a coffee maker LOL - 3/19/2013   1:13:41 PM
  • 138
    Great blog. Great upbeat ideas. I do agree with those who have accepted their own internal clocks and work out at the time of day that works best for them. I am just not a morning person and could not do those 5 a.m. days so I work out during the supper hour and have a later meal. I do still like to have my workout gear already packed in my gym bag so that I can head straight to the gym at the end of my work day instead of home where I am tempted to flop on the couch & not go out again. So, the tips are great regardless of when your day starts! - 3/19/2013   1:07:17 PM
  • 137
    These were good tips to help those who want to make some healthy changes. Getting your workout done early hs a good feeling about it.
    I am not naturally a morning person... then had kids and had to get up early. Also was married to an early riser and was guilted into it!
    Now I live as a 'tweener! I rise between 6:30 and 7 (feels unnatural to get up before the sun) and go to sleep 10:30-11. Getting up an earlier would mess with my time with my new hubby... yummmm! Feels natural and healthy and I have lots of energy. Then I can enjoy parties and events with friends on the weekends and not mess with my schedule too much.
    I workout in the mornings on weekends, but during the week, I do 2 days a week at the gym on my lunch hour (this is an awesome time to workout if you can manage it! Breaks up the sitting and stress and makes my afternoons more energized!) and 2 days a week, I play tennis in the evenings after work. One day I dance flamenco! Having a class or match to go to in the evening gets you there!
    Good luck everyone on whatever path you choose... but I feel you don't necessarily have to be an early bird or a night owl... Join the 'tweeners! - 3/19/2013   1:04:10 PM
  • 136
    why are people slamming this article? It's not a factual article but does present alternatives that you might not have thought of. No, these won't be helpful for everyone, but will any strategy/tactic work for everyone? I get up at 5:00am to work out because I need to get my daughter up at 7am for school, leave by 8am and work 9am-8pm. My only time to work out is 5:30. That's my motivation. If it's your only time - you'll get up and do it if you have an end goal in mind. For me, it's marathon training and weight loss. I do try to set my clothes out the night before just to streamline the process.

    You have to do what works for you but it is a HUGE mental barrier to overcome in the morning. A lot of times, though, when I leave the gym I think "it's 7am, most of my friends are just waking up now and I've already got an awesome work out in"

    It's a very productive start to the day. - 3/19/2013   12:53:10 PM
    I've actually decided to just accept myself and the fact that I am a night owl. Much better then beating myself up for not being a morning person. - 3/19/2013   12:48:34 PM
    Youth is a wonderful cosmetic. If a woman is 20-something, chances are she looks acceptable without makeup (wish that was true of me!). But I agree with CELIEMON regarding wet hair. When I see someone show up to a function (or to work) with wet hair, I see "lazy"ó that they couldn't bother getting up early enough to get ready in time and had to rush out the door unfinished. If I learned that they DID get up early but sacrificed personal hygiene for 2 hours of yogaóI'd think "show-off". - 3/19/2013   11:42:54 AM
  • WHEELS54
    I have been able to wake up earlier. I just haven't been able to GET UP earlier. Will keep trying. Will also take 10 minutes for "vanity". - 3/19/2013   11:41:03 AM
    The article is good, we just need to be positive and eat the fish ( take what we can use) and spit out (discard) the bones. No article will apply to every person, our individuality makes us unique. My suggestion for getting up early is to drink a half glass of (pure) black cherry juice. When the alarm goes off I awake well rested and very alert. Try it. - 3/19/2013   11:29:47 AM
  • 131
    The best tip I can give is to sleep in your workout clothes. I've been doing it for over 3 years and I'm sold that it's the reason why I've lost and kept the weight off. My workout is only 30 minutes and since I'm already dressed I feel there's really no reason not to get up. I don't usually have to rise to an alarm. My internal clock over the years has adjusted to wake me anytime between 4:30 and 5:45. Believe me when I awaken at 4:30 I'm not at all happy and I lay in bed for another hour, sometimes longer.
    About the make-up comments... get over yourself. Women don't need make-up anymore than men do. - 3/19/2013   11:04:44 AM
  • 130
    I find nothing throws me off schedule as a child. This morning my 15yr old was convinced she had a tick on her head. She has very thick long hair. Her 1st one was the bow of her glasses and the 2nd was a scab. She barely made it to school on time. - 3/19/2013   10:37:44 AM
  • 129
    good article. I'm not much of a morning person either. I'm hoping some of thie stuff will help me. - 3/19/2013   10:29:33 AM
    Great tips! Prepping my gear the night before really helps me get out the door in the morning. I'm kind of surprised at the negative comments I'm seeing, especially about make up. I'm 36 & just started wearing a beauty balm every day about 2 months ago. & that's mostly for the added sun protection b/c no-one would ever guess I started wearing "make up." Guess I'm lucky that I don't need it. - 3/19/2013   10:19:18 AM
  • 127
    Great article one thing I could add is "Attitude" if you think getting up early will suck and you will be tired all day chances are it will! - 3/19/2013   10:12:51 AM
  • 126
    Why does every morning workout article I have read assume a 9:00 am - 6:00 pm work schedule? My employer (a large state university in Texas) is 8:00 am - 5:00 pm. Shifting the 9 - 6 schedule an hour does not work for me. - 3/19/2013   10:06:41 AM
    So disappointed. Where are the tips on not over sleeping? Who cares if you have an extra pair of gym socks and underwear! I want to know how I can stop hitting snooze every morning of my entire life...and to stop being vain is the lamest tip I've ever heard on how to stop hitting the snooze button...put some make-up on girl and rewrite this article!! - 3/19/2013   9:44:43 AM
    Fantastic article! Very motivational. - 3/19/2013   9:44:08 AM
    I just think when women come to work without makeup and wet hair they send the message that they don't give a d*&^ - it's not a positive impression. Just sayin - 3/19/2013   8:54:14 AM
    No makeup? Why? It takes me less than 3 minutes to put on a little liquid foundation, eyeliner, mascara, powder blush and lipstick. No eyeshadow or fancy makeup tricks - just a basic, natural look. I just think women look more rested, polished and groomed when they wear makeup. Most women don't look good with air dried hair either - again, less than 10 minutes with a quality blow dryer - wear it up if you want to but it annoy me when people are playing with their hair all day at the office. Not professional. - 3/19/2013   8:49:42 AM
  • 121
    I will try again! and again and AGAIN! I need to quit hitting snooze. - 3/19/2013   8:39:02 AM
  • 120
    These may work better when I don't have a baby to take care of each morning and evening, but perhaps when he's grown a bit these tips will come in handy. Right now my preparation consists of getting his bag and my things ready and by the door to leave for daycare at 6:30 am. Exercising before he wakes up would rob me of really precious sleep hours, so we'll have to work around it for now! - 3/19/2013   8:26:56 AM
  • 119
    This was very interesting. Thanks - 3/18/2013   10:19:19 PM
    Sorry, not a morning person and never probably will be. I have a sleep disorder that causes me to wake up multiple times each night - this even occurred during Army basic training, when I was usually exhausted :). Had a sleep study done and tried multiple tx with no luck. Wish I could be a morning person though, as the world seems to revolve around them. When I worked nights as a nurse, I can't tell you the number of times "morning people" would say how lucky I was to work nights because then I had all day to get other things done, go to inservice training, etc. I would ask them when I would sleep then and usually got a blank look. Please morning people, don't take us night owls for granted, remember it takes all types to make the world go round ;). - 3/18/2013   9:33:18 PM
    These ideas sound great! Although I don't do it, it is a very good idea to lay out all items the night before as well as making it a routine to do the same thing each day (shower, iron, etc) I have a friend who does this regularly. Another good benefit is it helps to avoid being late. - 3/18/2013   3:26:41 PM
  • 116
    Due diligence. I like it. - 3/18/2013   2:46:30 PM
  • 115
    I'm not a morning person (probably never will be) but this is true. About a year ago, I started going to the gym in the morning before going into the office because I found all the excuses why I couldn't go later in the day/evening (some legitimate, others not). But I found it was one less thing to think about at the end of the day when I was tired and hungry and having to pick up kids or help with homework etc. It worked for a few months well and I actually looked forward to getting it out of the way and did feel more alert in the am afterwards. I haven't gone for a few months and haven't 'squeezed' in the time anywhere else either, so I'm going to make the effort to commit to mornings again. I still don't relish the thought of getting out of bed to go workout, and I don't have to like it, but it worked for me and I like that. : ) - 3/18/2013   1:21:21 PM
    I love this. While I am a zombie in the morning, I too use the motto "stick to the plan" since it allows me to wake and be a robot so to speak until I am out the door to the gym with work clothes and all. Thing that gets me that I am still working on though, is the toiletries and heavy to carry each day. My gym bag is a hugh back pack that you would use to travel, but that has been working for me. Any ideas on packing lighter would be so helpful. - 3/18/2013   12:02:42 PM
  • 113
    I'm all in will start tomorrow (tonight for tomorrow!) Thanks for the great tips. - 3/18/2013   12:01:49 PM
  • 112
    What about poeple who work shifts? All the stress lately on going to bed @ the same time and getting up at the same time, blah blah blah.... There are lost of people who can't do that.. working days one week and nights the next, what can we do with this, other then get our 7 1/2 hours of sleep in 24 hours. - 3/18/2013   3:24:14 AM
  • GRGAP86
    great tips, thanks. - 3/17/2013   5:20:21 PM
  • 110
    Super article...I'm going to print it out, laminate it, and live by it! - 3/17/2013   12:48:22 PM
  • 109
    i will try this - 3/17/2013   10:28:51 AM
  • 108
    THE thing about be(com)ing a morning person is you can't also be a night-owl. If you want early morning rising to be a positive and healthy experience, you MUST learn to go to bed and sleep earlier, too.

    For many, that's the stumbling block--cut the late parties, late movies, etc., because too little sleep can destroy a healthy lifestyle, even if one is doing great on the early-morning exercise.

    That being said, an occasional late-night shouldn't upset a regular early-morning routine--and isn't a good excuse for a late lie-in the next day. - 3/17/2013   9:31:31 AM

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