Wondering about how to set your body clock to early bird without getting tired? A lot of people are night owls, and I get it. I was one myself for years, staying up late to do work or watch TV or browse the internet.
But eventually, I learned that being a night owl wasn’t healthy for me.
And, as you’ll see in this article, it’s not intended as a normal state of being for most people.
Below, I reveal why early birds are often healthier than night owls and some simple ways you can get your body clock on the same schedule as most other highly productive people. By becoming an early bird, you can lose excess body fat, get more done during the day, and sleep better at night.
Early Bird VS Night Owl
Starting your nightly wind-down routine after your body starts secreting its melatonin hormone is missing a prime opportunity.
An early bird is someone ready for bed by 9:00 pm. Their hands and face are cleaned, their teeth are flossed and brushed, their skin is moisturized, and their front door is locked before 9:00 pm. That way, when their hormone melatonin begins to secrete, they can leverage that magical moment, turn out the lights, and get into bed.
Your Body Clock Is a Circadian Rhythm
Circadian Rhythm is a natural biological process in humans that times key events within the body according to the earth’s twenty-four-hour cycle. These physiological events can be disturbed by sudden light fluctuations.
Typically, the circadian rhythm is flowing smoothly when you:
- are ready for bed by 9:00 pm, when melatonin secretion usually starts.
- reach your deepest sleep around 2:00 am.
- have your lowest body temperature around 4:30 am.
- your sharpest blood pressure rise around 6:45 am.
- melatonin (an essential hormone) secretion stops around 7:30 am.
- your highest alertness is achieved around 10 am.
- at 2:30 pm, you experience your best coordination.
- at 3:30 pm, you have your best reaction times (reflexes).
- around 5:00 pm, you’ll have your best muscle strength and cardiovascular efficiency.
- around 6:30 pm is probably when your blood pressure should be at its highest of the cycle.
- at 7:00 pm, your body will be approaching its highest temperature.
It would be unfair to insist that all night owls are unhealthy and have unnatural cycles. In truth, some genuine night owls manage to be highly productive and live healthy lives. They simply feel more clear-headed and energized in the evenings.
However, these true night owls are a rare breed. Most people who think of themselves as night owls are early birds who gradually developed a set of unfortunate habits that threw them off their natural cycles.
Power Down Devices Two Hours Before Bed
A good way to set your body clock to become an early bird is to power down devices two hours before bed.
As you approach your bedtime, avoid using devices such as the TV, computer, and phone.
Turn off all the lights, or use a sleep mask if you live in a bright city or have trouble sleeping in total darkness.
If you still struggle with falling asleep, try using apps that help manage your sleep schedule, like Sleep Cycle Alarm Clock or Lark. These apps can wake you up when it’s best for your body clock.
To Become an Early Bird, Keep Your Bedroom as Dark as Possible
Light is the enemy of a good night’s sleep. It prevents your body from producing melatonin, a hormone that makes you feel tired, by regulating the sleep-wake cycle.
When light enters your eyes and hits your optic nerve, it sends signals to the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), which controls human circadian rhythms. The SCN interprets these signals as daylight, which tells your body to stay awake instead of getting ready for bedtime.
One of the best solutions is to install blackout curtains. They’ll block out almost all light coming through windows, including from passing headlights, street lamps, neighbors’ yard lights, and neon signs.
Go Outside in the Morning to Help Your Body Clock Reset
Go outside in the morning to help your body clock reset:
- Take a walk, run on the treadmill, or do some yoga.
- If it’s chilly out, layer up with a sweatshirt and hat. The cold won’t bother you so much once you start moving.
Exercise Durling Daylight if You Can, and Avoid It After Dark
If you can, try to fit in a workout at the start of your day.
Exercising too close to bedtime can be problematic because it could disrupt your circadian rhythm — the 24-hour cycle that controls hunger, hormone levels, body temperature, and more crucial functions throughout the day and night.
If your circadian rhythm gets out of whack from waking up early without eating breakfast or exercising right before bedtime, this can cause a jet lag-like effect in which your body doesn’t know what time it is anymore.
For the Sake of Your Body Clock, Have No Big Meals Before Bed
Avoid snacking or eating a big meal before bed if you want to reset your body clock to become an early bird.
It’s tempting to eat a lot at night, particularly because carbohydrates help you to feel sleepy, but that can also lead to indigestion or gas in the middle of the night — not ideal if you’re trying to get an early start the next morning. Also, your body has to work harder to digest a stomach stuffed full of food while you sleep, which can lead to a fatigued morning.
Instead, try eating smaller portions throughout the day so that your body doesn’t have too much food on its hands at once when it comes time for bedtime.
Take a Hot Shower or Bath an Hour Before Bed to Help You Relax
Hot showers and baths can help you relax and unwind. When your body is relaxed, it helps your muscles relax too. And that’s important because when your muscles are tense, it’s harder to have a deep, peaceful slumber.
While taking a hot soak before bed might not seem like the best use of your time, studies have demonstrated that it can significantly improve sleep quality. Hot water also has the added benefit of relaxing your mind. A hot shower or bath may help relieve stress, affecting sleep quality by decreasing cortisol levels – a “stress hormone.”
Not Sleeping by 10 PM? Get Up and Do Something Relaxing
If you’re still not sleeping by 10 PM, get out of bed and do something relaxing. “The secret to getting a good night’s sleep is to have a routine,” says sleep doctor Dr. Michael J. Breus. “‘Routines’ is the key word here because the body needs predictability for its clock system to work properly.”
To help your body clock adjust more quickly and to set your body clock to become an early bird, try these tips:
- Go for a walk outside before going to bed. Fresh air will help clear your mind so that you can fall asleep faster once back in bed.
- Read from a book each night, as long as the subject matter isn’t too intense.
An Early Bird Avoids Having Caffeine Too Late in the Day
As you may have guessed, coffee and tea are culprits. They contain caffeine, a stimulant that helps keep you awake and alert. While this can be great when you must get through an all-nighter at work or school, it can also disrupt your sleep cycle.
Caffeine has been shown to affect our circadian rhythm by suppressing melatonin production (the hormone that makes you sleepy) and increasing cortisol levels (the hormone that keeps you awake). Avoid drinking coffee after 12-noon if you want to fall asleep earlier at night.
Consider Low-Dosage Melatonin
Melatonin is a natural hormone that helps regulate your sleep cycle.
But melatonin does more than just help you sleep. Research on melatonin has established it as a master hormone. According to Examine.com, “Melatonin may have general neuroprotective effects (brain benefits) related to its antioxidant impact. Melatonin also has several anti-cancer properties. Melatonin potentially stops your body from gaining more fat.”
The problem with melatonin supplements is that many take too high a dosage.
It’s likely that the younger you are, the less dosage you need. I’m 57 years old, and I take 0.5 mg each night before bed, which is a smaller dose than many others take. Ask your medical doctor whether melatonin supplementation is a good idea for you and, if so, what the appropriate dosage would be.
It’s a good idea to set your body clock to early bird mode because sleeping early is generally healthier.
I live in an area that is warm year-round, and in the summer, it gets so excruciatingly hot that the only way I can get outdoors for any length of time is if I get up early enough before the heat becomes sweltering.
What I’ve found helpful is to go to bed 15 minutes earlier each night until I finally reach my desired new bedtime. By gradually transitioning to early bird, I avoid having a day of jet-lag symptoms.
Conclusion on Setting Your Body Clock to Early Bird
Sleeping early is a good thing to do for many reasons.
Secondly, sleeping early helps prevent stress on your body and mind. It allows for health improvement by giving the body’s organs time to recover from their daily activities before starting another day with work or exercise. You could even lose weight because you’ll be avoiding the late-night eating that has been shown to increase adipose deposits.
With so many people suffering from insomnia or other sleep and mood problems, taking action is important before body clock disruption gets out of hand and affects your health more seriously.
Additional Resources for Night Owls Who Want to Become Early Birds:
Circadian Rhythm Sleep Disorders – https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/12115-circadian-rhythm-disorders
Delayed Sleep Phase – https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/delayed-sleep-phase/symptoms-causes/syc-20353340#
Night Owls Have More Excess Body Fat – https://www.webmd.com/diet/news/20130628/night-owls-may-pack-on-more-pounds