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In a recent Student Health 101 survey, nearly 40 percent of respondents said they’re naturally “night owls.” At the same time, almost 80 percent noted having responsibilities at 9:00 a.m. or earlier on weekdays.

As the proverb goes, “The early bird gets the worm.” But how can you possibly get everything done and still be a morning person?

Early-Bird Perks

There isn’t anything inherently wrong with being a night owl. But most academic programs and jobs have morning hours. Varsity sports may even practice before dawn.

There are also many other reasons to get up early, such as:

  • Peace and quiet
  • Time for breakfast, reflection, and a nap later on
  • Increased productivity
  • Time to yourself

Shift Your Schedule

Almost 35 percent of the respondents to the Student Health 101 survey said it’s “always” or “usually” difficult to wake up before 9:00 a.m., even when absolutely necessary. Another 48 percent said it’s “sometimes” hard. Many people believe you’re either wired to be bright-eyed in the morning or you’re not. In reality, adopting specific habits will make it easier for you to wake early. Here’s how:

Start Gradually: Adjust your schedule in increments.

Become a Morning Person in Only Two Weeks!

Making a shift in sleep habits requires not only a change in thinking, but also a physical adjustment. Your body can’t make a big leap all at once. Instead, set yourself up for success by taking a gradual approach.

Here’s a sample schedule to follow over the course of two weeks. Adjust as necessary based on your commitments. This plan allows you to get up earlier but actually increases the amount of sleep you’ll be getting!

DAYBed TimeWake TimeHours of Sleep
Usual Weekday Habit1:30 a.m.8:30 a.m.7
Saturday -Sunday12:45 a.m.9:45 a.m.9
Sunday -Monday12:30 a.m.8:30 a.m.8
Monday -Tuesday12:15 a.m.8:15 a.m.8
Tuesday -Wednesday12:00 a.m.8:15 a.m.8.25
Wednesday -Thursday11:45 a.m.8:15 a.m.8.5
Thursday -Friday11:15 p.m.8:00 a.m.8.75
Friday -Saturday12:00 a.m.9:00 a.m.9
Saturday - Sunday12:00 a.m.9:00 a.m.9
Sunday -Monday11:15 p.m.8:00 a.m.8.75
Monday -Tuesday11:00 p.m.7:45 a.m.8.75
Tuesday -Wednesday10:45 p.m.7:30 a.m.8.75
Wednesday -Thursday10:30 p.m.7:15 a.m.8.75
Thursday -Friday10:15 p.m.7:00 a.m.8.75

Continue with this sort of pattern until you reach your goal sleep-wake schedule.

Prepare Ahead: Set out clothing, review your schedule, and make lunch the night before. Isabella O., a graduate student at Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, says, “I shower at night. When I get up I simply get my things together and leave.”

Exercise: Exercise increases alertness. Kimberly U., a graduate student at Lehman College, The City University of New York, feels best when she works out in the morning.

Get Consistent Sleep: Adults aged 17 and up need seven to nine hours of sleep every night. Dr. Michael Decker, a diplomate of the American Board of Sleep Medicine, explains, “A regimented schedule, especially on weekends, [is essential].”

Set an Alarm: Try using your favorite song for motivation or setting two alarms-15 minutes apart-to ease yourself out of bed. There are also many smartphone apps that track your sleep cycle and wake you at an optimal time. When you get up, open the blinds.

Enjoy Breakfast: A healthy meal will help you energize. Prepare something that combines protein, whole grains, and some fruit.

Making the most of mornings can help you maximize your day and go to bed feeling satisfied.

What are the components of a “full night’s rest?”

Complete Sleep

There are two kinds of sleep, and each benefits your body in distinct ways. Over the course of a night, a person cycles through both phases. Depriving your body and brain of necessary sleep significantly affects your overall health, mood, and academic performance.

Rapid-Eye-Movement (REM)
REM sleep is lighter and more active, and supports daytime performance. Here’s how:
  • Energy is restored to the brain and body.
  • The brain is active; dreams occur.
  • Muscles are turned off, so the body is relaxed and immobile.
Non-Rapid-Eye-Movement (NREM) NREM sleep is deeper and heavier. During this phase, energy is restored in the following ways:
  • Tissue grows and is repaired.
  • Muscles relax and the blood supply to them increases.
  • The body releases the growth hormones essential for development.
  • The hormone ghrelin is regulated. It’s directly related to hunger and weight maintenance.
Over the course of a night, 25 percent of sleep is REM and 75 percent is NREM. A full night’s sleep allows you to complete cycles of REM and NREM sleep without interruption.

More Early-Bird Perks

There are lots of reasons to get up early. According to the respondents to a recent Student Health 101 survey, here are some a.m. benefits:
  • Less traffic
  • Time to get errands done
  • A calm, relaxed pace
  • More sunshine
  • Relaxation at night
  • Light and time for physical activity
  • Getting to sleep earlier

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