There are two types of students in this world: those who pop out of bed ready for the day at the crack of dawn, and those who stay up until 2 a.m. studying (or going down the rabbit hole of cat videos—pick your poison).
In a recent Student Health 101 survey, 60 percent of respondents said they’re naturally “night owls.” At the same time, 92 percent noted having responsibilities at 9:00 a.m. or earlier on weekdays.
As the proverb goes, “The early bird gets the worm.” And so does the research. According to a 2009 study of university students published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, morning people were more proactive than night people.
There isn’t anything inherently wrong with being a night owl. But school likely requires you to get up pretty early. If you’re on a sports team, you may even practice before dawn.
There are also many other reasons to get up early, such as:
- Enjoying some peace and quiet
- Having time for breakfast, reflection, and even a nap later on
- Increased productivity
- Time to yourself for whatever you’d like to start your day right, whether it’s meditation, a cup of coffee, homework, or journaling
According to the respondents to a recent Student Health 101 survey, here are some a.m. benefits:
- A calm, relaxed pace
- A quicker commute
- More sunshine
- Relaxation at night
- Time for physical activity
- Getting to sleep earlier
Shift your schedule
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:
Adjust your schedule in increments. For example, try going to bed 10 minutes earlier tonight and waking up 10 minutes earlier tomorrow. Raise it another 10 minutes the next day, and so on.
Prepare ahead of time
“I make sure to take care of things the night before,” says Max, a sophomore in Port Townsend, Washington. Set out clothing, review your schedule, and make your lunch the evening before.
“I go to the gym in the morning, which energizes me for the rest of the day,” says Maria, a student in St. Louis, Missouri.
Get consistent sleep
Teens need about eight to nine hours of sleep every night. “A regimented schedule, especially on weekends, [is essential],” says Dr. Michael Decker, a diplomate of the American Board of Sleep Medicine.
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 aim to wake you at an optimal time. “I set my alarm for several minutes before I need to wake up so I have time to wrap my head around things before getting started,” says Reagan, a sophomore in Hayesville, North Carolina.
A healthy meal will help energize you. Prepare something that combines protein, whole grains, and some fruit and/or vegetables. “I use getting ready in time for a hot breakfast as an incentive,” says Annie, a senior in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
How you can 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.
If your usual weekday habit is to go to bed at 12:30 a.m. and wake up at 6:30 a.m., that means you get six hours of sleep.
On Saturday night, try going to bed at 12:45 a.m. and waking at 9:45 a.m., resulting in nine hours of sleep.
On Sunday night, go to bed at 12:15 a.m. and wake at 6:30 a.m., for six and a quarter hours of sleep.
On Monday night, go to bed at 12:00 a.m. and wake up at 6:30 a.m., for six and a half hours of sleep.
On Tuesday night, go to bed at 11:45 p.m. and wake up at 6:30 a.m., for six and three quarters hours of sleep.
On Wednesday night, go to bed at 11:30 p.m. and wake up at 6:30 a.m., for seven hours of sleep.
On Thursday night, go to bed at 11:15 p.m. and wake up at 6:30 a.m., for seven and one quarter hours of sleep.
On Friday night, go to bed at 11:45 p.m. and wake up at 8:45 a.m., for nine hours of sleep.
On Saturday night, go to bed at 11:30 p.m. and wake up at 8:30 a.m., for nine hours of sleep.
On Sunday night, go to bed at 11:00 p.m. and wake up at 6:30 a.m., for seven and a half hours of sleep.
On Monday night, go to bed at 10:45 p.m. and wake up at 6:30 a.m., for seven and three quarter hours of sleep.
On Tuesday night, go to bed at 10:30 p.m. and wake up at 6:30 a.m., for eight hours of sleep.
On Wednesday night, go to bed at 10:15 p.m. and wake up at 6:30 a.m., for eight and one quarter hours of sleep.
Finally, on Thursday night, go to bed at 10:00 p.m. and wake up at 6:30 a.m., for eight and a half hours of sleep. You’ve now shifted your sleep schedule.
Continue with this sort of pattern until you reach your goal sleep-wake schedule.
What are the components of a “full night’s rest”?
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.
Dr. Michael Decker, associate professor, Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing at Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio, and diplomate of the American Board of Sleep Medicine.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2018, February 22). Sleep. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/sleep/
Go Ask Alice! (n.d.). Wake up, it’s time to go to school again. Retrieved from http://goaskalice.columbia.edu/wake-its-time-go-school-again
Harvard Medical School Division of Sleep Medicine and WGBH Educational Foundation. (2007, December 18). Natural patterns of sleep. Retrieved from http://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/healthy/science/what/sleep-patterns-rem-nrem
Harvard Medical School Division of Sleep Medicine and WGBH Educational Foundation. (2008, December 16). Sleep and memory. Retrieved from http://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/need-sleep/whats-in-it-for-you/memory
National Sleep Awareness Roundtable. Retrieved from http://www.nsart.org/
National Sleep Foundation. (n.d.). What happens when you sleep? Retrieved from http://www.sleepfoundation.org/article/how-sleep-works/what-happens-when-you-sleep
American Academy of Sleep Medicine. (2017, November 6). College students: Getting enough sleep is vital to academic success. Retrieved from http://www.aasmnet.org/articles.aspx?id=659