Ever wonder why you’re able to stay up until 2 am, while your best friend can's make it until 10 p.m.? It has everything to do with your internal clock, says Dr. Tracey Marks, an Atlanta-based psychiatrist and author of Master Your Sleep: Proven Methods Simplified. “Most people’s internal clock has 24 hrs, but if it’s a little longer, then you will be pulled in the direction of not feeling tired until later and later each evening.” Don’t fret night owl—it is possible to train yourself to be more alert in the mornings than in the evenings. Here’s how.
1. Slash an Hour From Your Day
If you want to wake up earlier, trim down those evening obligations, says Marks. We know what you're thinking: How can I not overextend myself? “We typically overestimate how much available time we have and take on projects that we have no business committing to,” says Marks. “For the sake of decompressing your day, assume you have one less hour in the evenings (to be set aside for a wind down period) and say no to things that infringe on that time.” Sorry, Saturday Night Live.
2. Pile On the Protein
You know the saying: “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” So if you’re trying to make mornings more bearable, a cup of coffee and a stick of gum isn’t going to cut it. “After sleeping all night, our metabolism and blood sugar are at their lowest; we need a healthy breakfast to re-energize us,” says Rebecca Scritchfield, R.D., a Washington D.C. based nutrition and exercise expert specializing in weight management. Her breakfast of champions consists of a protein, a colorful fruit or veggie, and a whole grain (Think: Greek yogurt topped with fresh blueberries topped with granola and chia seeds). And if you’re a walking zombie without your morning caffeine fix, Scritchfield suggests adding a spill of milk or fortified soymilk (i.e. lattes and café au laits), which spikes your beverage with calcium and protein.
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3. Reward Yourself
Yes! You did it! You didn’t hit the snooze button! “Once up, take advantage of the extra time you’ve given yourself to build in a few minutes of a ‘reward’,” says psychologist Patricia Adson, author of A Princess and Her Garden. Read a favorite newspaper or blog column, listen to a few minutes of the morning news, do an exercise routine, or meditate. Even having time for an extra cup of coffee or not having to race out the door can be a reward. Select something that means something to you, says Adson. “Later, notice how you feel about yourself when you have given yourself the time to get a good start on the day.
4. Give Yourself a Pep Talk
“Remember, you don’t have to want to get up, you just have to do it,” says Adson. As you get going, ask yourself what it is you get to do that day, rather than what you have to do (that will come soon enough).
5. Exercise When the Sun Comes Up
We're wired (via circadian rhythms/our internal 24-hour clock) to have peak alertness around mid-morning, says Marks. “Early morning exercise can help boost the morning energy surge, as you will have elevated body temperature and elevated adrenalin levels for several hours after you exercise.” Need an extra incentive? Research has shown that exercising before breakfast burns more fat calories and results in more weight loss than exercising after breakfast, says Burr Leonard, founder of The Bar Method.