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


By: , SparkPeople Blogger
  :  238 comments   :  758,318 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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    i love the dedication and the tips for routine, but yes highly unrealistic. what about kids or if you travel for work I could not personally show up to work in a wrinkled suit that smells like gym bag with no makeup on. I guarantee I would have been passed up for every promotion for my unprofessional appearance alone. If you commute to work for an hour and start at 8 are you up at 4:30 for 2 hours go yoga? I would walk in after my commute and have to go to bed right after at 8:30 for eights hours of sleep. Furthermore does anyone have any realistic tips if you don't want to become a hermit? I can't imagine never staying up with family/friends on a weekend past 10. I might as well wall myself up in my apt. and just work and work out. - 2/6/2014   12:05:00 PM
    I liked this artical as I am want to get up in mornings & clean the house more time! - 2/3/2014   5:34:45 AM
  • 186
    Good tips. I'm a night owl - but had to re-adjust to 'early bird' hours when I was working full-time consulting jobs in corp world.

    On Sundays, I put my clothes out for the whole WEEK and made parts of my brown bag lunches for the whole week. For a couple of jobs, my commute was so long that I also had to pack breakfast AND dinner to eat in the car while driving. (I found a great insulated picnic bag for one person from Picnic Time - it has 2 sections, both insulated. So I packed my meals in that).

    In the morning, at home I put hot rollers in my hair, and took them out in the parking lot when I got to work. I stopped wearing makeup in 1996 when I suffered a traumatic experience - so I don't need to spend time on makeup anymore.

    One consulting job I had to be at work at 6am so I could leave at 3pm to avoid rush hour - I was driving from the NW Indiana border almost to the Wisconsin border. It was horrid - but it paid the bills. Thank God those days are over!

    I'm retired now and back to my night owl hours - which I love. I walk on the treadmill while watching TV or a zumba DVD after hubby goes to bed - between 10pm and midnight. On Saturdays, I have always done my best to sleep in until noon.

    When I was consulting, I almost never had time to workout - I need 8-9 hours sleep. Now, with the help of spark people, I'm tracking my nutrition and fitness - and I feel MUCH better!

    - 1/23/2014   1:22:40 AM
    What time do all you people start work?? I'm out the door at 6:45, starting at 7:30 am. Wish I had the time to take a 2 hour Yoga class and shower at work!

    I'm sure mornings are lovely when you have time to savor them. Which is why I prefer my evenings. - 1/21/2014   12:25:34 AM
  • 184
    Great ideas even for an already morning person! - 1/15/2014   10:57:57 AM
  • 183
    Plan ahead... it sounds so easy to do planning everything the night before. I am really good at planning months & weeks in advance for my kids schedules & trips, but the night before is a different story. By night time, I just want to veg, except for line dancing night. Maybe this weekend, i will try to plan my things for the weekdays, like i used to do for the kids LOL :) - 1/10/2014   6:30:58 PM
    I half followed this. I made my own list what I would do instead what I'm doing now, I used to go to sleep at 3:00 in the morning, so I changed it to Goin to bed no later than12:45 and wake up at 10:00 which I normal for me and wake up earlier every day. I saw great results!! - 1/4/2014   12:58:03 PM
  • 181
    I love this article nee positive pushes. a nice workout and shower gets me going even if I drag my butt to press play I make it happen :) - 1/2/2014   2:24:35 PM
  • 180
    I am not a night owl but I get up at 6 every weekday and on the weekends I love to sleep in. I work from 8-5 or 6. I like to work out after work. Wish I could workout in the am that way I would never miss it if work got in the way. Humm - 12/30/2013   10:26:44 PM
    For me, I start off by drinking a bottle of water. It wakes me up and allows me to start my day off. - 12/30/2013   5:00:00 PM
  • 178
    My biggest issue in the morning is the cold. I love getting up early in the summer, because in OK that's the only time it's cool outside. But, in the winter, I just can't do it. My body temp is already abnormally low and getting out of bed to do anything but stand in the hot shower is really unappealing. - 12/30/2013   11:02:59 AM
  • 177
    Okay really! I wish I had time to grind coffee, fill a french press, set out new clothes for the next day, check my email, not to mention- leave the house and go for yoga and then come back and take a shower, along with all of the other things she listed she does in the morning. YEAH RIGHT! I am sorry. I love sparkpeople, but this is the most unrealistic article I have ever read. I wish I were a morning person too, but there is simply no time for any of this nonsense she talks about here. I have to be at work at 8:15am. I live an hour away from my job. I have to be up by 5:45am to get ready for work and leav the house by 7am. Yes, it takes me an hour and fifteen minutes to get ready, and believe me: I could not accomplish any of the things in this article. I get up, get in the shower, get ready (full on makeup and hair because I work in a professional office setting), grab my lunch out of the fridge that has been premade the night before, maybe have time to make a hot cup of tea before I rush out the door to go to work. If I wanted to exericise in the morning, I would have to get up at 5am to do so, which means I would get about 5 to 6 hours of sleep a night, which is obviously not enough for adequate energy, not to mention it is not good for your body or mind to sleep less than 7 hours a night. I am not trying to down this article or be a debbie downer, or complain that I cannot get up that early to work out. I just had to laugh at all of the things in this article that no normal human being could accomplish when you have a tight schedule, kids, a long drive, what ever the case may be. This was just unrealistic. Sorry. - 12/30/2013   9:38:04 AM
  • 176
    I need some advice for a schedule that changes week by week. Some nights I'm not home until Midnight and have to leave by 6am the next day. - 12/16/2013   2:10:36 AM
  • 175
    This is awesome for you!! I'm glad that you can make this work for you. I can't do this type of thing in my life right now. I'm a Mom of 7 kids. I have to be completely flexible. What works one day does not always work the next day. :( My oldest is 11, my youngest is 7 months. I know that as the baby get older, things will get smoother. - 11/6/2013   8:59:01 PM
  • 174
    I wouldn't want to be around that un-aired out gym bag. - 8/16/2013   1:41:03 PM
  • YLACY01
    I really like this article. Simple and easy to follow tips. I will begin tomorrow. Thanks!!! - 7/30/2013   11:24:22 PM
  • 172
    I agree with everything except number 6 - I would NEVER, EVER be seen by another human without full makeup. I wouldn't go to the mailbox without makeup. I can only look in the mirror long enough to put it on; once that's done, I love the mirror. I use five different night creams, lotions, serums and firmers, then I put on lip gloss, eyebrow pencil and a swish of eye shadow before I let my husband see me AT NIGHT. I absolutely can't bear to see my own flaws....

    everything else in this blog is great! I do that! - 7/20/2013   3:33:15 AM
  • BEVY131
    WHO WANTS TO SLEEP THEIR LIFE AWAY - 6/19/2013   11:47:12 AM
  • 170
    I work 10 hour days 4 days a week. Does anyone have any suggestions about how to manage something like this with my schedule? - 6/11/2013   3:05:05 PM
  • 169
    Good job! I am such a night owl. This gives me hope!

    Sheila - 6/7/2013   1:03:03 PM
    This article was exactly what I needed! I used to be a morning person, but for the past 3 or 4 years I have not been. Getting jump started in the morning can be a challenge if you don't have a plan. Thanks for the helpful tips! I surely will be incorporating them this coming fall when my fall classes and internship starts up again. - 6/2/2013   10:49:41 AM
  • HOLLY_3X
    I have alway prepared the night before and have gym clothes ready to throw on and walk out the door and go for a walk in my neighborhood. I have even slept in sweat pants and a T so all I have to do is put on shoes but it never works. I still hit snooze 1,2,3,4 times. I have even tried putting the alram clock across the room and still I will get up each time hit snooze and then crawl back in bed. My intentions are good just need to follow-thru. Fall down 7 times get up 8 and so once again I will try. Thank you for sharing. - 5/30/2013   8:27:28 AM
  • 166

  • 165
    My best tip would be to leave a couple extra minutes for breakfast. By having a breakfast routine, I learned that my metabolism learns to kick in earlier and it's easier to wake up. Plus, getting out of bed is easier when I know it's for a healthy meal and a few minutes of quiet- much better than rushing out the door while shoveling a banana down my throat. - 5/29/2013   11:14:21 AM
  • 164
    stick with the routine and back that bag at night! - 5/20/2013   10:43:28 PM
    Loved all the comments; great article especially about preparing the night before . Just started preparing the foods I need for the week. and that really helps. I do realize that no TV is one of the best tips (bcuz I keep it on and I know I have to turn it off) I have to keep my makeup routine going because I love the me time in the mirror to tell myself how much I love the me I see, how fearfully and wonderfully made I am. When I do work out at anytime I feel so accomplished so the earlier the better and then it gives me more time for others, Whom I feel is why I need to be the best me so that I can encourage them along the way during my day. But Still find myself to be a night person. but finding out that anytime is the right time to get in all this healthy stuff. I'm excited that I can do what I never did before. So, honestly just doing it is an achievement. Isn't it funny that we hate to get up but whenever we do we know that God got us up and we didn't. He has an assignment for each of us and I'm just glad to get all the details in, that he planned for each of us to work on. We must learn to work unto him and not unto man's plan.. Then we will have good success at anytime of the day but the old adage is "'The early bird gets the worm." Be at peace my friends. God is excited about you. - 5/19/2013   6:02:41 PM
  • 162
    same routine every morning, no distractions ...
    works great if you don't have kids - 5/17/2013   5:22:16 PM
  • RADIANT888
    Loved this article. I'm just making that transition (via the sleep challenge) to getting to bed on time and getting up early. I've only done AM yoga once this week but it was brilliant. I think I need to keep my computer switched off in the morning to stop distracting me from other things I could be doing. - 4/27/2013   3:41:45 AM
  • 160
    Great article. Great ideas. I'm almost to my 7th decade on the planet and I find I actually like to "sleep in" these days. All the best. - 4/26/2013   9:44:13 PM
    having an evening routine helps alot to have a flow in the morning! - 4/26/2013   4:09:44 PM
  • 158
    This was incredibly motivating. I was about to log off and crawl into bed. I am now going to give myself a 10 minute challenge to pack the diaper bag, prep the kitchen for breakfast, and lay out our clothes for tomorrow. Thanks Stephanie!!! - 4/21/2013   10:25:57 PM
  • 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

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