Transform into an early bird with ease. Below, I reveal the science behind early-rising and why it’s healthier. You’ll learn how to adjust your body clock to be ready for bed by 9 pm, including tips on managing your sleep schedule, powering down devices, blocking light, and resetting your circadian rhythm through exercise and diet.
Early Bird VS Night Owl
Wondering how to get up earlier without becoming tired?
I understand why a lot of people are night owls. Years ago, I was one of them – staying up late to work, watching TV, reading novels, or browsing the internet.
But ultimately I realized that I wasn’t at my healthiest being a night owl.
It’s also not intended to be a typical state of being for most people, as you’ll see in this piece.
Early birds are people who feel brightest and most productive earlier in the day, with their energy waning as the day progresses.
Night owls are people who come alive after dark.
Yes, some people are just genetically night owls. They simply do better at night.
But science shows us that most of us would thrive more in the mornings if only we could get past the awkward period of resetting our body clocks.
Benefits of Being an Early Riser: Better Health & Increased Productivity
Are you currently more of an early bird or a night owl?
You can read on to learn why early risers are frequently healthier than night owls as well as some quick tricks to synchronize your body clock with that of the majority of other highly productive people.
You can reduce excess body fat and accomplish more during the day by rising early.
There have been several studies that suggest a correlation between being a morning person and better physical and mental health.
For example, one study (see sources below) published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research found that morning people had lower levels of depression and better sleep quality than evening people.
Another study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism found that morning people had lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol and better insulin sensitivity.
Another study indicates early risers are more productive is published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences. This research established that early risers (morning-type individuals) had higher grades compared to night owls (evening-type individuals) in a sample of college students. This suggests that early rising may be positively associated with performance.
A study conducted by researchers at the University of Toronto and published in the journal Emotion in 2017 found that individuals who considered themselves to be morning people reported higher levels of overall life satisfaction and happiness compared to those who identified as evening people. The study was based on surveys filled out by over 90,000 participants.
Breaking Free from Night Owl Habits: A Guide to Healthy Sleep Schedules
Starting your nightly wind-down routine after your body starts secreting its melatonin hormone is missing a prime opportunity.
A person who is ready for bed at 9:00 p.m. is an early bird.
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.
Science Behind Your Sleep Cycle: Understanding Circadian Rhythms
A recent study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2014 found that exposure to the blue light emitted by electronic devices (such as phones, laptops, and e-readers) in the evenings can disrupt circadian rhythms and lead to poor sleep quality. The study has practical implications for people as it suggests limiting evening screen time can improve sleep and help maintain a healthy sleep-wake cycle.
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 rises 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.
Importance of Light for Your Sleep Schedule: How to Block Out Light for Better Sleep
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.
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.
Connection Between Exercise and Sleep: How to Balance Your Circadian Rhythm
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.
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 to Help Optimize Your Body Clock
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.
Wake Up Feeling Refreshed: Conclusion on Resetting Your Body Clock
Sleeping early is a good thing to do for many reasons.
First of all, it helps you get more done in the day. When you sleep early, there are more opportunities to accomplish things before bedtime than if you sleep late at night.
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.
Finally, sleeping early gives you more time in the morning when creativity and productivity are at their peaks.
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 Resetting Your Body Clock:
Circadian Rhythm Sleep Disorders – https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/12115-circadian-rhythm-disorders
Night Owls, Cortisol, and Diabetes – https://www.rushmemorial.com/night-owls-vs-morning-people-which-lifestyle-is-healthier/
Delayed Sleep Phase – https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/delayed-sleep-phase/symptoms-causes/syc-20353340#
Early Birds Less Prone to Depression – https://www.colorado.edu/today/2018/06/15/early-birds-less-prone-depression
Night Owls Have More Excess Body Fat – https://www.webmd.com/diet/news/20130628/night-owls-may-pack-on-more-pounds