Good news for night owls, and anyone else who doesn't bound out of bed when the sun comes up: You can learn to love your mornings. Even small changes to your routines can boost your mood and energy. Little tweaks can help you get the shut-eye you need, too. When you're well-rested, it's not a struggle to get up.
PUT YOUR ALARM OUT OF REACH
Let's face it: Unless you have another hour or 2 to sleep, hitting the snooze button won't really help you feel less tired. But there's another reason to get up when you first hear that annoying beep. When you get up and go to bed at the same time every day, you'll keep your body's internal clock in sync. That makes you more alert in the morning, and sleepy when it's time to call it a night.
LET IN THE LIGHT
As soon as you wake, open the curtains or blinds. Or step outside. Natural light gets your brain going and keeps your body clock on track. If it's gloomy out, turn on the lights. A light-up alarm clock can help. And it may be less jarring than a noisy alarm. If you struggle with a.m. brain fog or have seasonal affective disorder or depression, try a light box (or sunlamp). It can lift your mood and help you feel more awake.
ENJOY A MORNING SPLURGE
To curb your urge to stay under the covers, plan something to look forward to each morning. You could read your favorite web site over a tasty breakfast, or go for a walk in a scenic park. Anything that excites you or brings you pleasure helps to rouse your brain and makes you less sleepy.
SIP A CUP OF JOE
Just make sure your java's the caffeinated kind. Caffeine pumps up brain chemicals like serotonin and dopamine. They boost your mood, spike your energy levels, and help you focus. (Regular coffee drinkers are also less likely to get the blues than those who rarely or never sip the strong stuff.) Not a fan? Opt for a cup of black or green tea. They have caffeine plus other healthy compounds.
SCHEDULE A MORNING SWEAT SESSION
Jumping jacks or a brisk walk can get your blood pumping and rev up your nervous system. You'll feel more alert in the moment -- and hours later, too. If you work out first thing, you'll fall asleep more easily than if you do it later on. At least try for several hours before bedtime. Any later and you may find it hard to nod off. Or do yoga -- it's proven to ease insomnia.
No appetite? Try to have a small morning meal anyway. Even a light bite, like an egg with a piece of whole-grain toast or a cup of yogurt with berries, gives your body the energy it needs to get going. Breakfast helps you focus, too. It may even keep your body clock on track. That'll make your morning feel more like morning and less like the middle of the night.
POWER DOWN BEFORE BEDTIME
Bright lights at night can reduce your melatonin levels (that's a hormone that helps you feel sleepy). And it isn't just overhead bulbs that can have you counting sheep. The glow of cell phones, computers, and TVs also slows melatonin production. The fix: Dim the lights in your home, and turn off all screens and tech tools at least an hour before you plan to hit the hay.
SKIP THE NIGHTCAP
Yes, alcohol makes you feel sleepy. But it makes it harder to stay asleep and can make you feel groggy in the morning, too. If you do hit the hooch, stick to one drink and have it with dinner, or at least 2 to 3 hours before bedtime.
This hormone helps your system get ready for sleep. It plays a role in keeping your body clock in check, too. If you have trouble dozing off or you're off-schedule because of travel or a new routine, a melatonin supplement may help. Stick to a small dose (0.3-1 milligrams) taken an hour before bed. And always talk to your doctor before taking any new medication.
FIND A GOOD WIND-DOWN ROUTINE
A relaxing evening helps you fall asleep. Avoid stressors like email and tough talks with family members at least an hour before bed. To get in the mood for slumber, you can meditate, stretch, take a warm shower or bath, or read a book in a low-lit room. If you get at least 7 hours a night but you're still worn out, see the doctor. A health problem or a sleep disorder like sleep apnea may be to blame.