If you’re not up with the sun and all bright and bushy-tailed by the time you drop the kids at school or walk into the office, you might not be getting enough sleep… or you’re simply not a morning person. Can you change that?

One of the most annoying sounds in the natural world is the song of the early bird. “Mor-ning… mor-ning,” they warble as they breeze into the office.

Don’t hate them. It’s mostly in their genes, say experts such as Dr W. Christopher Winter, medical director of a sleep medicine centre in the USA. He explains that genes determine your “chronotype”, which is either morning or evening person. It's often similar within families, but it can be influenced by other factors like age and lifestyle.

Why would you want to be a morning person anyway? Most important activities start in the morning: work, school, exercise, meetings, new projects. So if you could feel fresher and more energetic when you start the day, chances are you'll be more focused and productive.

Your brain and body will need about two weeks to get the hang of this morning person thing. And you must stick to it – no sleeping in on weekends.

The key is getting up at a set time every day. This will reset your body clock (your circadian rhythm). Don’t worry too much about bedtime at first. Thinking “I must go to bed, I must sleep now” will just make you tense and leave you tossing and turning. Eventually, you’ll go to sleep earlier simply because you’re tired after getting up earlier, so it will all work out.

Try cutting coffee after 2 p.m. and stop exercising at least four hours before bedtime, some specialists say. And whatever you do, don’t take daytime naps. For more sleeping tips, click here.

There is research that shows a set time for getting up in the morning makes you crave caffeine less, helps you to be more alert, improves your mood and helps your immune system to work better.

Your brain takes light as a sign that it’s daytime and tells the body to stop making melatonin, the hormone that helps with sleep. In summer, sleeping with the curtains or blinds just a crack open, so sunlight gets in earlier, will help you surface. In winter, trick your brain by turning on bright lights once you’re up.

Experts say just 20 minutes of mild aerobic exercise first thing in the morning improves your mood. This boost can last 12 hours. If you can’t squeeze that into your routine, try to meditate for a few minutes.

Breakfast every day is important. Make it something with protein, which helps you feel awake. Look for a cereal with at least 8 grams of protein and 5 grams of fibre per serving or one that contains nuts and seeds. Oatmeal and eggs are also good options. Carbohydrates promote sleep, so a doughnut or bagel is not a good choice.

Some of the world’s top execs say they always have breakfast with the family. It helps to take your mind of stress by reminding you what matters most: the people you love.

Lunch at the same time every day and try to have dinner before 7 p.m. Late-night snacks aren’t good for your sleeping or your stomach. Your digestive system needs to rest as well and being on your back with a full tummy increases the risk of acid reflux or heartburn.

Don’t be too hard on yourself. Find ways to make the morning easier, such as prepping the night before: pack the kids’ school bags, put out your work clothes, sort the gym bag, put the keys where you can find them with eyes half-closed.

In the end, though, getting enough good sleep is more important than being the chirpiest early bird on the block.


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