Rise and shine! Early bird gets the worm! Up and at ‘em! If those chipper lines elicit eyerolls, you’re not alone. We’re not all morning people, by nature.
But we can be. Why? Because the human body is capable of distinguishing a.m. from p.m., and seizing the day… all day.
Imagine being stuck deep inside a dark cave for weeks, with no communication with the outside world. No devices to keep time. And, most importantly, no light coming in.
What would happen to your sleep? Would your body completely lose track of the hour? Would you be able to get your normal eight hours or shut-eye? Or would you devolve into a random cycle of naps and wakefulness?
Believe it or not, this exact experiment has been performed. And, believe it or not, participants still woke and slept in a roughly 24-hour cycle. Why? Because all living beings have an internal body clock as a result of evolving on a planet with a 24-hour day/night cycle. As humans, our official timekeeper is located deep in our brains. It’s called the suprachiasmatic nucleus. One important role of this clock is to make us feel sleepy and awake at different times.
The typical circadian rhythm makes us feel increasingly awake as the morning passes. But, between 1 and 3 p.m., we can struggle with a sluggish streak we often blame on lunch. Even if we skip the midday meal, we feel drowsy because of the signals our body clock sends. Then, as the afternoon and evening progress, our clocks make us feel more alert. Thankfully, as night approaches, the circadian rhythm sends us into a sleepy state… and keeps us feeling that way until the next morning.
For some people, the 24-hour cycle is a bit delayed. These so-called “night owls” feel awake much later into the evening and have the desire to sleep in. In contrast, “morning people” have an earlier clock, so they feel sleepy early in the evening and wake up early without effort.
How to Reset Your Internal Clock
With work and school typically firing up soon after sunrise, we’re challenged to rewind our body clocks. If you struggle with waking up early and are looking for tips on how to be a morning person, rest easy knowing you can reprogram your internal body clock with some simple strategies.
The key is simple: proper timing of exposure to light. Glowing light from TVs, smartphones and laptops at night tricks your brain into thinking it’s still daytime, keeping you up and delaying your circadian rhythm. Be sure to avoid bright light for at least 30 minutes prior to bedtime. On the flip side, getting plenty of bright, preferably natural, light in the morning shifts your brain’s natural sleep and wake time earlier.
Adjusting your internal clock to fit your schedule can make a big difference in your sleep and keep you from wondering how to wake up early (and fresh) in the morning. Simply remember to unplug your devices at night to help your brain rest, but recharge in the morning with plenty of bright light. Your internal clock will thank you.