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A night owl's guide to better mornings

A smiling woman stretches as she lies in bed.

Aug. 22, 2022—If you're a night owl, waking up early can feel like a daunting task. But it's never too late to try new habits to transform into more of an early bird.

Feeling energized, clear-headed and ready to take on whatever comes your way is the best way to start your day. And, according to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), being an early riser is also associated with better mental health.

According to the APA, your sleep patterns and preferences can change throughout your life. They're affected by your age, environment and activity level. So making gradual changes to manage your mornings more smoothly can make a real difference. Get started today with these research-based strategies from the American Heart Association, the Sleep Foundation and other experts.

The night before

Most adults need about 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night, so the path to a productive morning starts well before your morning alarm. If you're an evening person, make the most of that late-day energy to prep for success in the morning.

  • Prep breakfast, or stock your pantry and fridge with healthy "grab and go" items such as yogurt, instant oatmeal and fruit.
  • Set out your clothes or workout gear to make it easier to get moving.
  • Set a bedtime alarm or phone reminder that signals you to start winding down in the evening—and try to stick to a consistent schedule.
  • Limit caffeine, screen time and light exposure in the hours leading up to bedtime.
  • When you set your morning alarm, place it out of reach of your bed.

In the morning

A morning routine can help you feel focused throughout the day. A gradual change may be easier to stick with than a harsh wake-up call. Start with one positive behavior and add new routines gradually.

Here are a few ideas to start with:

  • Don't hit the snooze button—it will likely make you feel groggier.
  • Set up your bedroom so natural sunlight wakes you up first thing, or open your blinds right after you wake up to get the benefits of exposure to sunlight.
  • Take 10 minutes to focus on your mental well-being—it may help ward off stress and anxiety throughout the day. Stretch in bed and take mindful breaths.
  • Wake up your body with exercise.
  • Make time for exercise

    Morning exercise is a great way to start the day, but it's not for everyone. The important thing is that you move your body during the day so you can fall asleep at a good time and get better quality sleep. Pick a schedule that works for you and your internal biological clock.

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