What makes some people a “morning person” and others not? Is it possible to become one?

  1. I hate waking up early. Tired eyes, stiff muscles, and a yearning for coffee similar to that of a junkie and his next fix. This is always worse the earlier I wake up, doesn’t matter if I’ve had 10 hours of sleep or 3.

    That being said I almost always force myself to get out of bed early. After that initial crappy “wake up” phase the early mornings are brilliant. The fresh smell in the air, the sun rise, birds chirping… And everything else is quiet. Not to mention it feels fucking awesome to get a shit load of stuff done before 11:00am.

    Of course this usually means I’m exhausted and ready for bed by 10:00pm. Yep, I’m 26 years old but purposefully maintain sleeping habits similar to a 60 year old because I like fresh air and birds.

  2. This might seem like a non-serious answer, but this is what I do and I assure you it works.

    Basically what I do is to take the Barney approach to waking up. As in, instead of feeling tired and shitty, just stop feeling tired and shitty and be awesome instead. It’s all about learning to control your emotional state. Just give a big stretch, and put a giant shit eating grin on your face and say “Good Morning” out loud in your most annoyingly chipper and enthusiastic voice.

    I learned this technique when I was backpacking through Europe. When you’re hungry and tired and your pack is too heavy and your idiot friend booked a hostel that’s over a mile from the nearest bus stop, you can either be grumpy and miserable, or you can… not be those things.

    Really no other way to describe it. It’s all about self control.

  3. yes. As I got older I became my father. I am now up by 6 all the time and get most everything accomplished before 9. It’s amazing at the quiet and ability to get crap done before the day starts.

  4. It’s at least 50% hereditary according to sleep researchers, and no amount of trial, self-discipline, or compromise will change the inner clock.
    Source: Strawbridge et al, 2004. Impact of Partner’s Sleep Problems on Partners.

    You can however change your sleep schedule and reset your circadian clock by simply camping without electronics for a week. Otherwise you’ll have to use discipline. You’ll adapt to whatever sleep schedule you demand of yourself, but that won’t mean you’ll become a morning person (and all that that implies).

  5. I have a sleep disorder called delayed sleep phase disorder (DSPD). For me this basically means that getting up in the morning is really, really hard. It would be like you (or a person with normal sleep patterns) having to wake up at 2 AM everyday.

    Our bodies have several biological rhythms or cycles. One of them is called the circadian rhythm and it’s responsible for sleeping and waking. It’s typically a 24ish hour cycle. There are changes that happen in your body during the cycle… Things like body temperature and hormone levels. Especially important is the hormone melatonin. It’s responsible for the sleepiness you feel when your ready to go to sleep.

    So the reason why you can change time zones and after a couple of days fall back into your normal sleep/wake times is that your body’s circadian rhythm can “reset” itself because it responds to light stimulus. One of the most effective ways to wake up is to expose yourself to bright light. That basically tells your melatonin to gtfo and you can feel awake again.

    So what makes someone a morning person? Genetics mostly. They determine how your body responds to stimulus. Some people are morning people (larks), some are night people (owls) and some are in between. It has been argued that there was an evolutionary advantage to this… A night watch sort of thing. It strikes me as a bit speculative though and I can’t remember where I learned that so take it with a grain of salt.

    DSPD is where your circadian rhythm is so out of synch that being awake during “normal” times really fucking sucks. Additionally many people with DSPD tend to have a much harder time waking up when their body isn’t ready to. So someone like me could probably never become a morning person. A normal person has a much greater chance of shifting their wake time though. Here are some tips:

    • Pick a bed time about 7-9 hours before you want to wake up. Dim all lights roughly 3 hours before bed time.
    • Roughly 45 min – hour before bed stop using screens. No phone, computer, or TV.
    • The bed you sleep in should only be used for sleeping and fucking. No hanging out in there.
    • Once you lay down to sleep, if you can’t fall asleep within 30 minutes or so, get up and hangout in a different room. Keep lights dim. Read a book or listen to a boring podcast or something. No fun for you. After about 20 minutes try to go back to sleep. Repeat.
    • When you wake up in the morning, turn on ALL OF THE LIGHTS. Go outside if it’s light out. Take a quick walk or something.

    Do these for a couple of weeks and you should be able to shift your sleep/wake times and feel pretty chipper in the morning.

  6. So, all mammals have a circadian cycle, which is a biological cycle that lasts roughly 24 hours, which leads to changes in your body throughout the day. Certain hormones are higher in the morning, activity levels are different, appetite changes, etc. This cycle is set off every day by light hitting the retina. This sends a signal to a part of the brain called the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), which is the “master clock” of the body. That master clock sends signals to the rest of the body, basically saying, it’s a new day, folks! Time to get going!

    That being said, your body has it’s OWN cycle. That light stimulus in the morning is a reset button to make sure that cycle is on track, but if you take it away, you’ll still have a cycle that lasts about a day. This is found by putting a human (or animal) into continuous low light, continuous light, continuous dark, etc. Without that first morning light, called the zeitgeber, hitting the retina and telling your body to start the day, you start to free-run, or run on your body’s own physiological rhythms. The length of one free-running cycle without a zeitgeber is known as T, or tau. Everyone’s tau is a little different, most are slightly over 24 hours long but some are less.

    Take a look at this figure from Pilorz et al 2014 (http://www.cell.com/current-biology/fulltext/S0960-9822(14)00195-X) to see what I mean:

    Figure 1

    Just pay attention to the top row. This is activity over 24 hours (double-plotted, so each row in the graph is two days of activity), with time on the X axis, each tick is an activity count. In the first graph, you can see that the animal is behaving pretty close to tau = 24; it’s waking up and moving around at about the same time each day. The second graph is an animal with tau>24; it’s waking up a little bit later every day, so you see a positive shift in the activity. The third graph is an animal with tau<24; it’s waking up a little earlier each day, resulting in a negative shift. (There’s a light shift in there as well, kind of like when we turn our clocks ahead/back an hour, but just ignore that, this is just an example.)

    So let’s take someone who has a T of 24.5. This doesn’t seem very far off, but what it means is that every day, when your alarm clock goes off at 6AM, your body thinks you still have half an hour left before you’re supposed to be awake. This makes you NOT a morning person, you’re constantly trying to play catch-up with the clock. Someone with a tau of 23.5, however, will be able to wake up just fine, might even be up before the alarm, because their body is telling them the day already started.

    It’s certainly possible to become a “morning person” through behavioral means, like just going to bed earlier, or by reducing light exposure in the evenings, but there isn’t any scientific evidence that you can change your tau. If your tau is over 24, you’re always going to have a tough time getting up. Sorry.

  7. I have this phrase as a life rule:

    “The only thing that holds one from doing something is not doing it”

    It’s fucking obvious to death.

  8. It is probably due to your personal sleep cycle.

  9. Just go to bed at like 11 and wake up at 6/7 everyday for a couple of weeks. Keep your blinds open so the sun wakes you up as well.

    Then before you know it, you will be fine in the morning. Also stay away from caffeine when you wake up.

  10. Not sure about being a morning person (that’s mostly biology + age), but I know you can become a light sleeper by repeatedly having your alarm go off during the early mornings. 4 AM, 4:30, 5, 5:30, 6… after a few days of this you will not sleep the same.

  11. It’s all about melatonin!

  12. Short answer, yes.

    Here are some tips I’ve found over half a military career. First of all, there is no substitute for practice, as in all things. The first day of waking up early hurts. Personally, I find that getting up before the sun is exceptionally painful, so start by waking up a few minutes after dawn, assuming you have the option.

    The three best things to help me wake up are sunlight, oxygen, and water. Leave the blinds open if you can, or open them up immediately upon waking. You’ll never be able to wake up is you stay in a dark room. Upon waking, immediately take several deep breaths. You’ve been breathing shallow all night – get your lungs full of air, and get the blood pumping. Get some sunlight into your eyeballs ASAP. It works like magic! Your body will instantly stop fighting against waking up.

    Hydration is so important. If you’re dehydrated when you go to bed, you’ll be screwed in the morning. So guzzle a quart of water before bed. Hopefully you’ll have the added bonus of a full bladder that won’t let you stay in bed. When you get up to take that morning piss, guzzle some more water.

    If you’re a coffee drinker, get a pot with a timer and set it for your wake-up time. It’s much easier to get out of bed when hot coffee is waiting for you.

    During the day, be mindful of things like caffeine intake, workouts, and eating dinner so you can get to bed on time.

    Good luck, OP!

  13. I don’t know.

    But leaving caffeine behind helped me become more of a “morning person.”

  14. Excellence is a habit. Just get used to it and eventually it will become routine.

  15. I turned into a morning person by making myself go to bed by 10:30pm. I wake up usually before my alarm (6:15am). The downside is I can’t sleep in no matter how hard I try.