How to Become a Morning Person and Create a Morning Routine

We all have that friend that somehow jumps out of bed at the first chime of her alarm, and gets started with her packed day with a perky attitude. If she does it without a drip of coffee, it’s even more maddening.

For the rest of us, productivity before noon feels like an impossible goal, and the snooze button is at once our arch nemesis and savior. We dream of what life would be like if we could actually get stuff done before heading into the office—imagine how many more happy hours you could make it to if you got your workout in before the day started.

If you’re naturally a night owl, there’s a chance you may never love the morning. “But you can stop hating the morning,” says Norman Rosenthal, M.D., clinical professor of psychiatry at Georgetown University School of Medicine and author of The Gift of Adversity. “You can stop being dysfunctional in the morning,” which for many people, is a necessity to keep their jobs, or get up and tend to their young kids.

To help you start your mornings on a happier note, we talked to experts to learn how we can do as the mythical morning people do.

Tips for becoming a morning person

The benefits of an “early to bed, early to rise” mentality are numerous—studies showing morning people are more productive throughout the day. But it takes work, says Dr. Edward F. Group, founder and CEO of the Global Healing Center. “Becoming a morning person, especially if you’ve always identified as a night person, is going to be a challenge to achieve and maintain,” he says. “It can be done, but it won’t happen by accident. For most people, it’s going to mean going to bed earlier so they can actually get up earlier.”  

But don’t be intimidated. Here, the professionals give us advice on how to make the most of our summer mornings and help even the crankiest of morning people ease into a healthy routine by the end of summer.           

Try an outdoor fitness class

The warmer weather allows people in even the coldest of cities to get outside for their workouts. Jessica Nelson, HUM Nutrition’s corporate registered dietitian nutritionist, recommends getting your daily dose of Vitamin D early in the morning. “Studies have shown that getting in 20-30 minutes of sunlight between 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. is the best time to positively impact your health without getting too much of those harmful UV rays,” she says. Just be sure to apply sunscreen. When the weather is not quite as warm, she suggests a Vitamin D supplement, such as this one.

Catch a sunrise

Sunrises and sunsets are some of nature’s most beautiful sights. Some would argue seeing the sun rise is reason enough to become a morning person. Lynne Goldberg, meditation coach and co-founder of the OMG! I Can Meditate app, recommends using the sunrise to meditate. “Take advantage of summer’s early sunrises by meditating first thing, which will clear your mind and mentally prepare you for what’s ahead,” she says. “Starting the day with a meditation session has proven to boost energy levels, so you’ll continually feel refreshed and awakened when you hit the early-morning alarm.” Nelson agrees, “Exercising at any time of the day is encouraged, but moving more in the morning has been studied and shown to improve your productivity, memory and overall brain function later in the day while decreasing mental fatigue and stress”.    

Embrace seasonal foods for breakfast

Summer is the best time to eat healthy, nutrient-rich, seasonal foods like strawberries, passionfruit, watermelon and tomatoes. Get in the habit of snacking on them during the summer, so that when the fall weather comes it will be easier to stick to the routine. Nelson’s personal mantra has always been that breakfast sets the tone for her day. “When you are getting in a balanced and nutritious breakfast, you are more likely to stick to a healthy eating schedule because you feel hungrier at more appropriate times throughout the day,” she says. Swerve fitness instructor Jamey Powell recommends a cool smoothie or acai bowl to cool you down after a workout. Doesn’t that sound refreshing after an outdoor fitness class? In fact, enjoying a delicious breakfast after your workout will soon start to look like a great reward for getting up and going to class.  

Use your circadian rhythm to your advantage

Your circadian rhythm is the term used to describe the mental and physical changes your body goes through in a 24-hour period. It’s how your body processes physical cues like light and darkness. During the summer months, you can use this to your advantage to start waking earlier to get your day started, and increase your productivity throughout the day. “Brighter mornings can reset your internal clock, otherwise known as your body’s circadian rhythm, which regulates your sleep and wake cycles,” Nelson explains. “The idea is that if you are waking up earlier, then you are falling asleep sooner. Thus, getting a more rested night of sleep and essentially decreasing the frequency and intensity of that midday sleepiness.” Dr. Group shared a similar statement, explaining “the sun rises earlier and, providing you’ve had adequate sleep, your brain will be way more on board with getting up when it’s beginning to look light outside, as opposed to resembling the darkness of night.”

Take it easy

Becoming a morning person is not easy, but you don’t have to abruptly yank yourself out of bed each morning. Take it one step at a time. “If you wake up earlier in the morning, make that time for you, whether you get a workout in, read a book or drink a hot cup of tea,” suggests nutritionist and personal trainer Sophie Gray. Vanessa Martin is also a firm believer in taking time to appreciate every morning, which she credits as a path to enlightenment. Her recommendation is to watch the sunrise. “Cut a night out a little shorter so waking up the next day is a little easier,” she says. “See how your body responds to morning workouts. Appreciate the smell of coffee a little more, and appreciate a lazy day every now and then. This summer is your wake up call. Don’t hit snooze!”

Photo by BRUNO EMMANUELLE on Unsplash

Reasons to become a morning person

As a seasonal morning person, also known as a morning person only during the week of the good daylight savings time, I was interested to find facts that support living life as a full-time morning person. Many studies have shown results that favor the lifestyle of early birds over the night owls, and that impact significant aspects of everyday life. Everything from weight, attitude and even skills can in some way be tied to our sleep schedules.

If you’re on the fence about attempting to become a morning person, check out this list of research-backed things that morning people just do better.

Morning people are better at being happy

As strange as it sounds, it has been shown that people who wake up early consistently have a more positive mindset in general than those who tend to sleep in. There is also an increased likelihood of spending more time in the sun as a morning person, which can also work to make a person more happy. Something as simple as setting your alarm 10 minutes earlier each week may be enough to start living a happier, more vibrant life!

Morning people are more productive

One study showed that morning people took a more proactive approach to their life. Their interest in preemptively changing a situation so that the outcome is more favorable to them or their situation means that they’re more likely to get things done well and on time, which naturally creates the opportunity for more tasks to get done in a given time frame also. Proactivity is a sought after quality in the job market, and if you can get a boost of productivity as a result of adapting your sleep schedule, there are only gains to be had.

Morning people are better at being healthy

Unhealthy food choices, later eating times and more frequent meals, and therefore higher BMI, has been linked to late sleepers. Early risers tend to sleep earlier as well and therefore are less likely to eat late at night or make poor choices for their meals. Food choices heavily influence BMI, so early birds have come out on top in terms of health, where late sleepers are more commonly linked with increased risk of obesity.

Morning people are better at sleeping

This was unexpected, since it seems like morning people sleep less due to their cringe-worthy early morning alarms. But sleeping in doesn’t always mean sleeping more or sleeping better. A study with 23andMe showed that morning people are less likely to suffer from insomnia and sleep apnea, and typically do not require more than eight hours of sleep. Getting better-quality sleep can improve many different aspects of life, even affecting mental health. Depression was also found to be less common among morning people largely due to the better sleep each night.

Morning people are more alert

Due to a higher-quality of sleep, morning people tend to be more alert during the day, one study shows. Additionally the near 25% surge of alertness that morning people experience over late sleepers can be attributed to spending more time in the sun. Being more alert during the day can lead to smarter decisions, faster solutions and retaining more learned information.

Morning people are better at ‘finding the time’

It has been found that morning people are the better planners. It may be due to the fact that waking up early leaves an opportunity to prepare for the day, think ahead about goals or tasks, anticipate any problems and identify any pockets of free time. This ability makes them more likely to find time for the gym, make a breakfast instead of sucking down an espresso, and crush to-do lists. Morning people are also more likely to spend their early morning hours focused on themselves instead of the outside world, which makes them more likely to succeed at personal goals.

Night time chores that will make your morning easier

Establishing morning rituals has become a tried-and-true method of ensuring you have a good day. Whether it’s making your bed first thing in the a.m., indulging in a healthy but filling breakfast or listening to your favorite podcast on the way to work, we can all use some healthy a.m. rituals to start our days off right.

But let’s face it: most mornings aren’t all sniffing roses and having a sit-down breakfast. Cue visions of running out the door dressed haphazardly, checking emails on the way,  downing a granola bar along with our coffee, all while running late to a meeting. Sometimes, having a solid morning routine just isn’t realistic. Which is where our bedtime routines come in.

Make a To-Do List

It may seem overly ambitious to begin thinking about the next day’s tasks when you’ve just barely completed today’s, but trust us: writing down tomorrow’s to-dos is a great way to stay organized and keep your thoughts clear. Use this as an opportunity to recap your day: reflect on what was accomplished, note what else needs to be done and most importantly, consider what is a priority. To-do lists that are downright impossible will only stress you out even more, so pick and choose a few things to focus for the next day.

Pack Your Lunch

We all know that bringing a packed lunch to work, instead of re-ordering from our Postmates history is a much healthier and wallet-friendly option. But more often than not, we end up too frazzled in the a.m. to even think about what we want for lunch, let alone find the means to pack it. Set aside five minutes every night to pack the next day’s lunch so you won’t forget (or better yet, hop on the #mealprepsundays trend and do all of the work on the weekend).

Write in a Gratitude Journal

While it’ll never get easier to crawl out of our cozy bed in the a.m., there are ways to ensure we wake up on the right side of the bed in the morning. Rituals like practicing gratitude help instill a positive outlook and a boost in happiness that’ll last all through the night and seep into the following day. Before heading to bed, spend just a few minutes writing down everything you are grateful for that day. It can be as simple as “calling Mom” or “it was freezing cold, but I got to wear my new coat.”  There’s always something to feel grateful for if we look hard enough, so no excuses! 

Put Your Phone on Airplane Mode

Besides simply needing some relief from technology every once in a while, staring and swiping at your phone’s screen all night long has detrimental effects on your sleep. Limit your screen time (yes, even putting it on Airplane Mode if necessary) before bed to give yourself some much needed unplugging time. This can ensure you rest throughout the night without any distractions. Bonus points if you can keep it off all the way past breakfast: checking your emails and iCal in bed will only overwhelm you before your day has even begun. 

Diffuse Essential Oils

It’s simple: aromatherapy is a relaxing ritual. Feeling relaxed helps you sleep better and being well rested ensures a more energized, productive day. Invest in a diffuser and try dabbling in a few scents before bedtime. Essential oils such as lavender, bergamot, and cedarwood are all scents that aid in sleep health.

How to save time in the morning.

Sometimes sleeping in for a few extra minutes feels too good to pass up. However, running late for a workout class or to work can ruin your entire day. With a little prep work the night before, you can save time in the morning and show up where you need to be on time and relaxed. Save the sweating for the workout and put your energy into these six easy hacks.

Dry shampoo before needed

Most people use dry shampoo on their second or third day after washing their hair. However, dry shampoo can be used as a preventative measure. Use it the night before you think you’ll need it, and you’ll have less oil to combat in the morning. By using dry shampoo before hair gets oily, you’ll get mega-texture and volume and save yourself precious morning minutes.
Buy it now: Briogeo Scalp Revival Charcoal + Biotin Dry Shampoo  from Sephora, $24

Meal plan

Very rarely do people have time to eat a healthy breakfast and pack a lunch for work in the morning. By meal planning the night before, or, even better, planning the entire week on a Sunday, you’ll save crucial time in the morning. Plan and pack your meals beforehand with easy-to-read labels so you can grab and go.

Don’t wash your face

Washing your face at night is crucial. You have to get your sunscreen and makeup off your face so your pores don’t get clogged. But if you wash your skin and properly moisturize at night, you don’t need to wash it again in the morning. Try “washing” with a Micellar Water or a toner instead. It’ll clean off the dead skin cells from the evening before but won’t dry the skin out or require multiple steps to rehydrate.
Buy it now: Burt’s Bees Micellar Water from Target, $10 

Pick your outfit the night before

This common-sense move saves a lot of time and frustration in the morning. By laying out your whole outfit, and even including undergarments, there will be no rifling around in a dark and confused state. Make sure to check the weather as well so that you can prepare for inclement weather like snow or rain.

Sleep with hair in a bun

If you have little time in the morning, heat styling your hair can be a chore. Give yourself beachy waves by sleeping with your hair in a loose bun or a braid. Prep the hair with leave-in conditioner or frizz-fighter before putting it in a bun, and then all you’ll have to do in the morning is brush the waves out for a relaxed look.
Buy it now: MILK Anti-Frizz Nourishing Leave-in Treatment from REVERIE, $42

Moisturize in the shower

There’s no need to make showering and moisturizing two separate steps. By moisturizing your skin in the shower while it’s still wet, your moisturizer or body oil will penetrate better. Try a version that’s rich in antioxidants to nourish the skin, but if you also pick one that smells good, you’ll save the time you’d spend applying your fragrance.
Buy it now: Hydrating Body & Beauty Oil from Weleda, $25

Lisa Bensley is the founder of BeautyByBenz, a health and beauty blog that is really just an excuse to buy too much makeup. When she is not writing, she's probably boxing, obsessing over her Dachshund, Stanley, reading, or binge-watching Law & Order: SVU. Follow her (and Stanley's) antics on Instagram.