On Your Health

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Four Ways to Become More of a Morning Person

Some people are early risers by nature. Larks, they’re called. Up with the sun, cheerfully checking half of the items off of their to-do lists before the rest of the world, especially the night owls, have even showered. Your natural predisposition, whether toward sleeping in and staying up late, or rising and going to bed early, is called your chronotype.

Although your chronotype is somewhat hardwired in, you can certainly change your habits and become an earlier bird. 

There’s an interesting anthropological theory about why people have varying sleep patterns. Back in the hunter-gatherer days, if people slept at different times that meant that there would be someone on the lookout for more hours of the day and night, which meant a higher likelihood of survival for the group. If the span with no lookouts was shorter, it was less likely that potential threats could sneak up on them.  

If you’re a night owl, this may sound familiar: long days leave you wiped out, exhausted and ready to settle in for a good Netflix binge. Bedtime rolls around, but one more episode won’t take that long, plus you deserve it. Your energy level is just fine, so how about another show? You finally turn in for the night a couple of hours later than you planned to and next thing you know, it’s time to get up and get the day started and (no surprise) you’re exhausted. 

When you’re a night owl, you lose important REM (rapid eye movement) sleep in the mornings when your alarm forces you out of bed and this piggybacks on the shorter overall period of sleep. Instead the recommended seven or eight hours of sleep a night, night owls are lucky to get five or six. That’s not healthy.

It’s a lark world, night owls. Sad but true. You can either slog through your days wiped out, which can lead to serious health problems, or you can adapt.  Maybe even trick yourself a little bit. Tweaking your chronotype takes a few weeks, so expect to feel a little off until you adjust. Here’s how to do it:

Change your mindset. Sleep deprivation is not a badge of honor. Getting plenty of sleep is a necessity and a health benefit.

It’s easy to get caught up in the popular mindset that being too busy to sleep eight hours a night is somehow desirable, a badge of your industriousness and toughness. It really isn’t. According to the National Institutes of Health, sleep deprivation affects people of all ages, races and ethnicities. Proper sleep supports healthy brain function, learning and needed repair of your heart and blood vessels. Too little sleep contributes to risk of obesity by causing an imbalance in the hormones that regulate appetite. The CDC reports that, in Oklahoma, as much as 37.9 percent of the adult population suffers from ‘short sleep duration,’ meaning less than 7 hours per night.  

Adopt a regular morning schedule and let bedtime work itself out. 

Too often people focus on going to bed earlier when they’re trying to transition from night owl to lark. That’s hard to do. Staying up late is what night owls love! Attack it from the other end. Try starting with your morning routine instead. Get up at the same (earlier) time every day. If you get out of bed at, say, 6:30 every morning no matter how late you’ve stayed up the night before, eventually you’ll start going to bed earlier because you will be tired. Before you get out of bed, take a few moments to think about your day. Stretch your arms overhead and point your toes a few times. Maybe say out loud that you’re grateful for the day and why. Then, when your feet hit the floor, enjoy your morning.

Use a smart alarm that makes you do a trick before you can hit snooze.

The Mathe Alarm Clock app, and some conventional alarm clocks, require you to solve a math problem before they’ll turn off. Wide awake, solving an equation like ‘ 45/8+14’ is hard enough but working your math muscle as a means of outsmarting your inclination to hit snooze is downright brilliant, and surprisingly effective. Heavy sleepers who worry about sleeping through their alarms can really up the ante by placing several alarms in different rooms. 

If you’re an extreme sleeper, but also extremely motivated to change your habits, several companies offer ‘shock clocks.’ Just like they sound, a shock alarm clock makes a little chirp sound and then gives you a little bitty zap. These devices claim to train you to wake up before they go off because your brain learns when you’re about to get zapped. Of course talk to your doctor before you try a shock clock. 

If that seems like too much of a rude awakening, and frankly it kind of does, you can go the opposite route with an alarm clock, like models made by Barisieur, which gently pamper you awake by literally brewing you a cup of coffee or tea right there on your night table. 

Exercise. In the morning.

A great way to wake yourself up in the morning is to move your body. Going for a jog or meeting a friend for a sunrise yoga class can also really set the tone for your day. Accomplishing something healthy first thing feels terrific and is a smart time to exercise because your day hasn’t really started yet so you’re less likely to become distracted and skip your workout. Exercising in the morning leaves you feeling a healthy sort of fatigue by nighttime, helping you fall asleep and stay asleep.

If you find yourself experiencing disordered sleep that interferes with daily life, make an appointment with a sleep specialist. INTEGRIS Sleep Medicine Clinic can evaluate, diagnose and help you manage snoring and sleep apnea, insomnia, restless legs syndrome, sleep walking and other movement disorders of sleep, shift work disorder and other circadian rhythms disorders.

 

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