When you transition from student to adult, pretty much every aspect of your life changes: your finances, your social life, your responsibilities, schedule, weekends, and among other things, your sleeping habits. This last point may not sound as important as the others, and if I hadn’t just experienced it myself, I wouldn’t have thought it even mattered, but it does. It matters a lot.
In my college years, it was the norm to live life in an over-caffeinated, over-worked – yet still somehow very social – manner. Our schedules changed and so our routine varied, plus if we overslept one day, the worst that could happen was that we would miss class or fail an exam, while now in real life, a mistake like this could actually cost us our jobs. For many years now I have considered myself a night owl, and because I went to art school, I made myself adapt to a lifestyle that consisted of creating by night and sleeping by day. It worked out great for me through my college years, but now that I have a 9:00-5:00, it simply doesn’t. It’s been a year now since I graduated. It’s also been a year since I’ve felt fully rested and alert at work… so I figure, maybe it’s time for a change?
While I tried to convince myself for five years that being a morning person simply wasn’t for me, it took me about one month at my full-time job to realize that I was very wrong. Of course everyone’s sleeping schedule is different, and nobody can expect to change their internal clock from one day to the next, but it’s all about organizing your priorities and deciding for yourself what works best for you. While I still have much to learn – seeing as I am currently writing this article at 11:00 pm on a Monday – I have come up (with help from the experts) with a few simple steps that have helped me and could help you transition from night owl to morning person, and from zombie to real life professional.
Set your alarm on the other side of the room (& don’t press ‘snooze’)
While it may be extremely frustrating to have to get up out of your comfy bed to shut off your screaming phone on the other side of the room, well that’s the point. Once you’re up and moving, you’ll just feel guilty if you cuddle back into bed, so may as well put on a smile and hop in the shower. The key is not to want to get up, but to make yourself get up. After that, everything gets easier.
Shower in the morning
Nothing – not even coffee – scares off sleep like a rush of cold water. I used to be a loyal night shower gal, mostly because I did sports or went to the gym after school, so a warm shower helped me sleep better. It actually still does, and I usually shower at night anyways just because I live in NYC and daily life is dirrrrty, but I also take a quick rinse in the morning, purely to wake myself up and start the day off feeling fresh.
Make a morning to-do list instead of cramming at night
We’ve all heard from doctors, health experts, and probably our moms that our brains tend to be much more alert early in the morning. I used to find this hard to believe, especially because it used to take me about an hour and two cups of coffee to fully wake up, but after some consideration and lots of practice, I finally believe they were right all along. Starting a new day is like opening up a brand new sketchbook and staring into a world of endless possibilities. Even though it’s only a few hours, sleeping through the night and waking up to a new morning simply makes everything clearer. If you’re like me and foully awake at night thinking of all the things you have to do and your never-ending list of responsibilities, well, cut it out. I’ve learned that when I overwhelm my brain with that amount of stress and pressure, I get nothing done and on top of that I get insomnia, so it really is better to make a list, set an alarm, erase everything from your mind (temporarily) and go to bed – you’ll take care of it tomorrow.
Make yourself a protein-filled breakfast
Let me tell you what you already know, “breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” So yes, if you plan on having an energetic and productive day, a cup of black coffee and and apple aren’t going to work. After hours of sleeping, our metabolisms and blood sugar are at their lowest in the morning, so we need a good hearty meal to feed us energy and get our brain juices working. According to expert nutritionist Rebecca Scritchfield, an ideal breakfast should contain a protein, a colorful fruit or veggie, and a whole grain. In my case, I go for oatmeal with soy milk and sliced banana, but you can be creative!
Exercise in the morning
If I’m being honest, this has been the most difficult step for me. It’s like… ‘I already have no energy, and now you want me to run?’ I know. Trust me, I feel you. It requires a whole lot of will-power, but I can tell you that the few times that I have actually been able to do this, my days have been amazing. There is something about pushing yourself to produce energy and begin the day with a boost of action that simply brightens up your mood and lights up the rest of your day. It’s strange but even though the last thing you want to do when you’re exhausted and drowsy is get your butt to the elliptical, it is actually exactly what your mind and body need. I mean, if you can do squats, eat breakfast, shower and dress up all before starting your work day, what can’t you do?
There are many ways you can set up your schedule to become the active morning person you strive to be. It take persistence, practice and one or two life hacks to get you going, but later it becomes a routine. If all goes well after just a few weeks, waking up early will seem just as natural and feel just as good as your morning coffee. Good luck!