Just like every other creature on earth, we humans have an internal body clock that determines our 24-hour rhythms. Clinically called a chronotype, and often referred to as our circadian rhythm, each of us has a different natural rhythm to our sleeping patterns.
Getting up early to make the most of the coming day is often touted as the one thing many successful people have in common. Oprah, Richard Branson, Michelle Obama and Apple's Tim Cook are all reported early risers. Those who are up well before the hum of the day are often reported to be more productive, are likely to have more willpower at this time, and are better able to plan their day.
How much sleep do we really need?
It varies for everyone, but the optimal amount of sleep we should be aiming for is between seven and nine hours each night (kids under 18 need more, while adults over 64 can get by with less). So if you want to start catching that worm, you’ll need to go to bed earlier too, to avoid being wiped out by lethargy, or just a general case of the blahs, the next day.
If you’ve got a bad case of hitting the snooze button, it can be difficult to fight your own DNA (though not impossible). And if you're willing to embrace a few new habits, you've got a good chance of winning the battle.
Here are a few tips to get you started on your journey to morning glory:
1. Power down
Light exposure is one of the key factors that can shift your circadian rhythms. Research has shown that the blue light emitted by electronics like laptops and mobile phones can disturb sleep. If you're trying to change up your sleeping patterns and you're constantly glued to your phone, television or computer screen, you're going to struggle to nod off. Instead of flicking through Instagram before bed, power down at least an hour before your intended bedtime, just like AIA Ambassador Dame Valerie Adams.
2. Prep before bed
Now you've got an extra electronic-free hour, use that time to organise everything you'll need for the following day. You could pack your breakfast and lunch, or get your gym bag sorted. Shortening your morning to-do list might make it easier for you to jump out of bed.
3. Get in the groove
If you're aiming to get up earlier, you'll need to get to bed earlier. Start by shifting your bedtime forward by 15 minutes at a time. This will help gradually clue your body into what's going on. Adjustments any larger than this are likely to have you bouncing between early and late bedtimes, rather than creating a habit you’ll actually keep. Once you’re in that groove, stick with it. Even AIA Global Ambassador David Beckham understands the importance of setting achievable routines around sleep.
4. Active AMs
A University of Copenhagen study found that early morning exercise may help the body metabolise sugar and fat. If you're looking to tone up, fasting and exercising (i.e. when you haven't had breakfast yet) could be better for you, as opposed to exercising on a full stomach – just make sure you stay hydrated and eat a good breakfast afterwards. Also consider committing to exercising with a friend – you’re less likely to hit the snooze button if you’ve got someone relying on you.
5. Be mindful
How you start the morning will set the tone for the rest of your day, so it's a great time to take one, two, ten minutes – whatever you can spare – to settle your mind with a moment of mindful meditation. Research has shown that regularly taking the time in the morning to centre your thoughts and be present in the moment can help you better deal with stress throughout your day.