Become a Morning Person: 8 Tips from a Former Night Owl

By , SparkPeople Blogger
I spent most of my early and mid 20s working the second shift at newspapers. I loved working as a copy editor, and I loved the hours, too. My shifts began at 4 p.m. and ended at midnight, which meant I could stay up late, sleep until noon, and still have time to run errands and go to the gym (a rare occurrence then) before work.

Eventually I joined the 9-to-6 crowd, and it was tough. I did not like mornings.

Fast-forward to last fall, when my yoga studio announced it was adding traditional sunrise morning practice to the schedule during the week. Though I now love my morning practice and wouldn't return to evening sessions, it was not an easy transition. I am not a morning person by nature, but I have become one by necessity.
Life is more likely to interfere when I schedule yoga practices at night. I'm too tired, too stressed, too busy. I have time to formulate all kinds of excuses. But when the alarm goes off at 5:30 each morning, I have no excuse. When I don't want to get out of bed (and who does on a cold winter morning?), I ask myself: What else would you be doing at this time? The answer (aside from sleeping): Nothing. So I get up.

By 9 a.m. I have put in almost two hours on the mat, showered, spent time with my cats, and started my workday. Whereas before I had a hard time getting motivated first thing in the morning, now I dive head-first into the day. Even my work schedule has changed. I save less-intense work for afternoon and choose to work on larger projects first. I feel so much better--more energized and accomplished. I know that morning workouts are worth it!

Those first few weeks were tough. I was exhausted by 9 p.m., falling asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow, and I dreaded the alarm clock each morning. I "accidentally" slept through it or hit snooze more than a few times. Within two months, my entire schedule changed.
Here's how I adjusted:

  1. Plan ahead. Each night before I go to bed, I make sure everything I need for the next day is ready to go: breakfast, lunch, and water bottle in the fridge; laptop case and purse by the door; gym bag is stocked with extra clothes, shoes, and toiletries. Even if I oversleep by a few minutes, I don't need to scramble to track down everything I need.
  2. Unpack, then immediately repack. Soon after I come home, I clean out my gym bag. Dirty clothes and yoga towels in the laundry room, extra accessories or clothes back in the closet (sometimes I end up with a few too many pairs of socks or underwear--more on that later), and clothes for tomorrow in the bag. I lay out my yoga clothes for the next day, complete with outer layers for cold mornings, plus shoes and a headband to keep my sweaty hair out of my face. I pack my work clothes into my gym bag and set it in the same place so I don't have to hunt for it the next day.
  3. Carry an extra set. There's nothing worse than arriving at work still sweaty from a workout (I shower and get ready at the SparkPeople offices most days) and realizing that you don't have clean clothes. Thankfully, I have never forgotten clean underwear, but I have forgotten clean socks, and, once, I forgot a towel. (I used a clean t-shirt to dry off.) I keep a spare of anything I couldn't live without: socks, undies, bras, towels. That way I don't have to take a 20-minute detour home and back in the morning.
  4. Stick to your plan. I have the same routine every morning: bathroom and shower, fill the kettle and turn it on, feed the cats, grind the coffee, fill the French press, take my vitamins with two cups of water, then get dressed, take my lunch out of the fridge, finish the coffee, put on my shoes… you get the picture. I find that I'm much less likely to lose track of time or forget to do something if I follow roughly the same order every day.
  5. No distractions. I scan my email when I turn off my alarm each morning but I don't respond to anything that's not an emergency until I get to the office. I don’t open my laptop, and I don't own a TV, so I'm not tempted to lose track of time that way. I learned the hard way one morning when I logged on to my laptop for "just a minute" and ended up being 30 minutes late to practice. (It's an open studio, so you do a self-paced practice with staggered start times.)
  6. Don't be vain. Working out in the morning means no time to dawdle in front of the mirror. I can't change my mind about my outfit--it's the only one I have with me. I don't wear makeup and don't dry my hair (obviously, this wouldn't work if your office is more formal). I have very long, curly hair that I love to wear loose, but I can't wash it daily or it dries out (and takes hours to air dry), so I braid it most of the time.

    I don't feel any different about myself when I skip makeup or wear my hair braided. In fact, I've learned to be more creative with my hair, and I spend less time fiddling with it. (I'm one who puts her hair up and takes it back down a few times a day if it's loose.) If you spend less time primping, not only will you save valuable time in the mornings, but you'll also learn to accept yourself for who you are, flaws and all.
  7. Stick with it, even on weekends. I can't stay out past 10 these days, and that's fine by me.  If I try to sleep in, stay up really late, or deviate from my normal schedule on weekends, Mondays are really hard. I "sleep in" until 7 on weekends, but I stick with my morning yoga practice and other routines. This was key, especially in the beginning, to adjusting to the new morning schedule.
  8. Cut yourself some slack. Some days, that alarm goes off, and I hit snooze a few times. I miss my window for practice. Other days I'm sick or something comes up. I realize that life happens, and sometimes my schedule and my workouts will be affected. I lean on my mantra: You did your best today. Tomorrow you'll do better.
If this former night owl can learn to love mornings (and morning workouts, no less), anyone can!

What is your best tip for learning to be a morning person?

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BESSIEBELL 10/2/2020
I loved your blog. I am a morning person and already use some of your suggestions. Not exactly but I get the picture. Retired now and am ready to try some of the others. Thank you Report
WALKZWDOGZ 10/1/2020
Glad it works for you. I'd rather someone try to convince me to not use my dominant hand. O might adjust after all these years but it would not be comfortable. Contented night owl here. Report
MIDDLTEACH 10/1/2020
So many great ideas. Thanks! Report
TERMITEMOM 10/1/2020
With this pandemic I have become a night owl! Thanks for the ideas. Report
CD26136708 10/1/2020
I'm already a morning person and love these ideas! Report
CECTARR 10/1/2020
Thanks Report
AQUAGIRL08 10/1/2020
Thank you for sharing all of the great information! Report
EMGERBER 10/1/2020
I am a morning person and I use that extra morning time for things I want to do for me. I have no problems getting up early it is my time. Report
FERRETLOVER1 8/15/2020
I am already a morning person, but there are some good ideas here. Report
I am so glad i am not the only one without a TV. I haven't had one for over 20 years and I don't miss it one bit. Report
EVIE4NOW 7/1/2020
I love being retired. I can burn the candles at both ends and get a nap in. Report
GETULLY 5/26/2020
I sometimes plan for tomorrow by leaving out my clothes - all ready if I know I have a fast break in the morning. Report
WILDKAT781 3/22/2020
worked night shift too many years to be a morning person Report
KITTYHAWK1949 3/21/2020
I think I'm more a middle of the day person. :) Report
SNUZYQ2 3/16/2020
Thank you for the detailed description of your routine! I still dream about becoming morning person. Your story gives me some hope! Report
RAPUNZEL53 2/21/2020
I was always a morning person. Report
KHALIA2 2/14/2020
Great ideas! Thanks for sharing!!!! Report
LIL-VIXEN 1/6/2020
I am not a morning person even though I have to be at work at 6:30 in the morning. I am not good until I have my first cup of coffee. Your blog was great, I enjoyed reading it. Report
ATEAMSIS08 1/6/2020
Unless I have a job where I work late, I normally head to bed early every night. Even my boyfriend attempts to call me a little before 9 pm just to say good night.
I have been a morning person for the past 15 years or so. Usually the 1st one in my home to wake up. Report
I have always been a nite owl but when working 8-5 had to convert. I agree that planning ahead is necessary. I'd figure out my outfits for the whole week. Prepped lunch the nite before til hubby retired, then he'd make one for me to take. In winter I would bathe at nite, summer a quick morning shower was manageable. Still I was heading out the door with scarcely a moment to spare. Good thing I lived close to work, 10 + minutes away.
Now I'm retired & back to bring a nite owl, up late & sleeping in. They say it's based on time of day you were born - I arrived at 7:50pm. Not going to blow that theory. 🤞🐨 Report
Thanks Report
This only works if your job is a day job. Report
I can think of no earthly reason to become a morning person. Morning people should grow up and make a concerted effort to become night owls.
Great tips! Report
I don't think it's possible for me to become a morning person. Even as a child it was a struggle to get me to school on time. My mother would wake me up & tell me to get dressed only to return 10 minutes later and find me still sitting on the edge of the bed, barely conscious. Fortunately I never had to punch a time clock in my work life — I'm sure I would have been fired for chronic tardiness. Now a retired senior citizen I have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep. A few times a month I'm still tossing & turning at dawn. Before she died my mother said my insomnia now was just balancing the books for all the sleeping I did as a teenager! Report
Great tips! Report
Thank you. I have become even more of a night owl since retirement because I know I can sleep in the next morning. However, if I go to bed early, I have more trouble falling asleep. When I was working, I was still a night owl, I just got by on less sleep than I do now. Maybe I'm just wired that way? Growing up I lived on a
farm, and you went to bed early and got up early. Now, I seem to get some of my best work done at night. Report
Great article! Thanks! Report
Because of SparkPeople and being in the hospital 2 years ago I now get up at 4:30 am without an alarm and I do 2-3 hours of exercise everyday (I put a gum in my basement, it saves me travel time). This gets it out of the way and everything else I do is a bonus. Report
Sometimes morning workouts, sometimes afternoon Report
Great tips! Report
Nice ideas, thanks. Afraid ill.always be a look at the stars girl at heart living a up before sunrise life. Report
Thanks. Report
I am definitely a night owl, but have gotten much better. Report
Thanks for the article. I'm a morning person. I think I coild DC o it. Report
Good ideas, but I am so much a night person. Report
Great ideas! Report
I struggle to get up at 5 each morning, it's harder and harder the older i get. I've never really been a morning person. I am most alert and happy and productive when i can go to bed around midnight and get up around 8 am, when it is actually light outside. But, my office has other ideas! I get up because I have to, but it is hard and i feel sleepy and cranky and off-balance until close to 8 am, no matter how many hours of sleep i get. I think the luckiest people are those that can work a schedule that their bodies are in tune with. Report
Thank you Report
I hate alarm clocks, so my husband handles that part of life and wakes me up. We have dogs that have early morning rituals that want attention as well. Plus, my husband often needs me to drive with him to work so I can have the car available for later. I used to do early a.m. walks before it got too hot, but the unleashed dogs in our neighborhood stopped that practice -- so now I find a different time for exercise. Report
I am not a morning person, but since my work shift starts at 6am, I need to be. I do some of the tips listed. 1 I would add, is put your alarm clock where you have to get up and turn it off. But can relate to night owls. I would prefer a later work shift, but I do love the people I work with and most know I am not really awake until after 8 am coffee and are very patient with me. Report
When I try to get up consistently at 5 am my heart starts behaving irregularly, I'm pretty sure I have a delayed sleep phase disorder. When I was in highschool on my summer vacations I would stay up until sunrise then sleep until 11 or noon. My mother tells me when I was a toddler I would stay up till midnight and sleep till 11 or noon. It's just in my blood, and trying to get up earlier just makes me miss any chance I have for halfway decent sleep leaving me quite sick and a lot of stress on my body that I feel in scary ways. Even getting up for my 8 am job everyday means I spend most of my life exhausted and in a brain fog. I frequently wonder how much more successful and intelligent I would be if I were allowed to follow my natural rhythms. Report
I am retired, but still get up about 5 in the morning. I guess I haven't gotten over the fact of getting up early. Report
I found the AutoMEQ test online and took the whole test. It only took a few minutes. My score put me as Moderate Eveningness, for a "natural" bedtime of about 1AM. I found this to be very accurate.

I have worked second shift whenever given my preference. I know I am not a morning person so why force myself to be if I don't have to?

I do think there is a tendency for people who are morning people to act as though that makes them more virtuous somehow. They seem to think it's hilarious when a more evening-oriented person comes into work in the morning not at their best. Everyone is different and there is no meaningful reason for someone else to have that attitude. Report
I am a pro at packing the night before... I would rather do that than rush through in the morning... Report
Started out in the early years getting up at 6:00 a.m. Eventually as jobs changed it became 7:00. Now that I am retired for 20 years it has gradually shifted to 8:00. Have never gone to bed much before midnight and even then have always had trouble getting to sleep even when I was up at 6 and always tired in the morning. I am a night owl and no amount of effort can change it. My sister was the same way. Report
I was an early morning person all my life until circumstances made me get an over night 12 hour job, I just can't seem to get back into the day shift no matter what I do, I either wonder around in a daze or just sleep until I wake, since I am alone I have chosen the sleep until I wake mode, which wouldn't matter since when I am that exhausted I don't hear an alarm. Maybe some day I will get back into daylight mode but it is not looking good Report
never hit the snooze button! Report
Junes-Hope, I was thinking the same thing! No kids, no others to take care of. I will agree that routine is helpful. Although, sometimes if you need to do something out of the ordinary, it can work against you! Report
I would get totally sick to my stomach if I took vitamins on an empty stomach & especially followed by coffee. This plan is easy for a single person with cats, not for a person with young children & a Hubby. I do feel good when I work out in the morning. However, the body continues to work out for like 2 hrs after you've stopped, so working out at night seems good too, since your body will basically be working out while you are settling in for the night, & going to bed. The best time to work out is ANYTIME. Report