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How I became a morning person (medium.com)
167 points by ingve on Dec 12, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 142 comments

I always roll my eyes a little bit when people say they get extra "free hours" by waking up earlier. In this case it works for the OP, because he has another motive, which is syncing his schedule with his wife so he can spend more time with her. But the extra hours don't come from nowhere... you need to compensate by losing a comparable amount of time at night.

My waking hours are usually 10-11am until 2-5am. It's not a perfect schedule, by any means, and sometimes I consider trying to hack myself into getting up earlier, but it's usually not worth the effort. I'm lucky that I can work flexible hours, and I get some of my most productive work out in the evening and late at night. Not saying that I don't have the potential to be just as productive in the early morning (but I suspect I wouldn't; even on days when I do go to bed early and wake up early, I feel foggy for longer after I wake up), but being a night owl is just how I am.

I just always am baffled that "becoming a morning person" seems to be considered such a laudable goal. It's not. It's just your sleep schedule. If you're changing yours to sync up with a partner, or to be more available at work, or something like that, good on you, but I don't see how it's somehow special. I was curious enough about the OP's method to read the article, but when I see something like "How I became a morning person", I think "Aww, poor guy; glad I don't have to do that".

We're products of evolution and thus we have physiologic reasons to have our sleep/wake cycles tuned to the sun. There's a decent amount of scientific evidence in favor of "sun-conscious" sleep patterns.

e.g. this review article http://www.nature.com/nrendo/journal/v12/n1/full/nrendo.2015...

Where I live, the sun sets in November and returns in February at this time of the year. Sync to that ;)

Likewise it does not set for weeks in summer.

This is a sane idea, but sunrise is often far later than when people are expected to get up 'early'. And add the crazy that DST is to one's schedule, and waking up early becomes a very strange, shifting ideal. (Lately, I've heard 4am to 5am match this ideal; personally I like to have attainable goals, like slouching into work before the crack of noon.)

Yeah DST throws a huge wrench into this whole plan. Good luck waking up with "sunrise" for work.

Sun cycle varies widely during a year i.e. Sun rises at ~8.30am and sets at ~4pm here now, so do you really imply I should sleep 17 hours a day? Similarly, I should get up before 5am at summer. I agree that, ideally, yes, we should align with the Sun cycle, but as many things in real world, it's just not possible or practical.

A sun-conscious sleep pattern in Wisconsin implies a 9-hour waking day for a good chunk of the year. No thanks.

I'm in a similar boat, and I've never understood the patronizing attitude lobbed at night owls by morning people.

I assume you need to stay up pretty late to get all of the presents delivered, Mr. Claus.

I keep similar hours as the GP, which I can do because I'm remote in a group with other programmers around the world. Actually, the late hours have been useful at work, because we get 24-hour coverage without waking people up when lp0 is on fire. Not to mention that the wee hours are much quieter and generally distraction-free.

However, my mood has been better by phasing a little earlier this winter. I think getting under 7 hours a day of sunlight starts up a bit of SAD for me, which is entirely avoidable at California latitudes.

I've had to get up very early to deal with production issues at work (sometimes between 2-3 a.m.), and I actually find those hours very peaceful - just the hum of the heating/AC and my dogs' snoring.

Morning people get grief from night owls as well, try leaving the office at 4pm and see the comments you get even if you started at 7am.

I've kept both types of schedule and while it's true that the morning hours you get by waking up early aren't strictly "free", I have noticed that for me they are often more productive. I suspect this is because in the mornings there are never demands placed on my time by other people or "more interesting" things to do whereas in the evenings I am often inundated with invitations from friends or distracting opportunities.

I noticed that as well when I started getting up early after years of being a night owl.

There simply aren't as many distractions in the morning, because most other people are either still sleeping or at work.

I guess the same would work if most of your workday were really late at night (e.g. midnight to 8 am), but for most people, that kind of lifestyle tends not to be very compatible with the other demands of life and business. So working from early morning until early afternoon seems to hit a nice balance between lack of distractions and compatibility with other people's schedules.

If you really need to be a night owl, well, haven't we got the technology to adjust the lighting in our buildings so that you feel like it's afternoon even when it's only 8 am?

I think there are a lot of people for whom "becoming a morning person" actually means "overcoming this depression".

Maybe so. I guess it's one of the symptoms of depression.

There is also research that indicates that school results improve, and the students report that they feel better if the school starts later in the day, in sync with what appears to be their natural clock. So maybe there is a correlation, but the causation might be just the opposite unless we are talking about clinically depressed people (that I don't want to trivialize in any way.)

I doubt that there is anything natural at all about the standard office-hours, and I also doubt that we are a exclusively day-active species. There are many accounts of alternative sleeping patterns or segmented-sleep.

I wish we could implement the siesta. I find I'm most productive from about 6 am to 11 am, and then again from 5 pm to midnight. The middle part of the day is kind of a waste, but I have to be on the clock then.

I relate to OP's notion of "free hours". Simple programming tasks took me twice the usual time late at night, and after 1am I just couldn't come up with anything creative. That's great that you work well in the evening, but not everyone works this way. When I shifted to morning schedule, I didn't waste time on doing tasks slowly at night, so these are my free hours.

I think it varies quite a bit from person to person. For me, the peak productivity time is 11-3 (PM). I wake up at 9:30, have breakfast and coffee while doing some casual reading and then work until 5ish with a break for lunch. On this schedule I'm usually at least as productive as the people I work with even though I'm "on the clock" for fewer hours. I find I tend to have extremely high productivity but I can't maintain it for as long, so it balances out. Keeping going after I'm tired to meet an 8 hour requirement is just a waste of time and the work I do after I'm burned out is crap.

When I've tried working longer hours (by starting earlier) my total productivity goes down significantly. I know a lot of people who just say you get used to getting up earlier, but I never do. Even maintaining an early-ish schedule waking up at 6:30 for a full year, I was just plain miserable every day and it never got better. On the other hand, I know plenty of people who only get stuff done in the morning and rise early. Whatever works, but it sucks when jobs force everybody to start on an stupendously early schedule. But it cuts both ways - I don't want to force other people to work on my schedule if that makes them miserable.

I do understand your point but I still feel you're missing something. It's not pure coincidence or random that there is not a lot of advice out there about how to stay up late and sleep in. Nor is it completely irrational that there is a lot about waking early. There's something to being in sync with nature and the sun, maybe, or the psychology of the /idea/ of getting an early start, even if it is just an idea. I would stop short of prescribing the precise reasons why this is a goal, but there are reasons.

While it's certainly no coincidence, there's a lot of confounding reasons. The industrial revolution's timing of shift work placed a very long-lasting and extremely strong weight on punctuality. And that punctuality often run 24/7, meaning that the clock's crucial tipping points often landed at unpleasant hours like 7am (be at your station at 7am, which means getting there between 6:30am and 6:45am, which means leaving the house by 6am, which means waking by 5am...)

Add that a lot of people who work physically hard in that sort of tiring shift work (especially people my parent's age) learn to consider early rising a moral virtue and a badge of worth, and you've got a lot of pressure to hold it up as an admirable standard. It can get pretty silly, to the point that I've seen people promoted for punctuality despite a record of poor performance; factories are different, of course, but America was built on the power of heavy industry, so it's a philosophy that pervades. To wit: even in fields where work spans months instead of hours, getting up daily 'before your competitors' gives you an 'edge'. It's a really odd notion if you look at it closely.

On the other hand, I find the added mild stress of waking early, combined with a ritual (absolutely and especially like making coffee as noted in the article) helps me have an excellent start to the day. I don't usually do that, but I really like it when I do.

Waking early is nice, so long as I'm not horribly sleep deprived to start; or so stressed that I can't fall asleep early.

EDIT: I should note that I'm just skimming the surface here. That industrial timing may really be rooted in how trains had to be critically on-time, which forced plants to be ready or miss the ride, and vice-versa. The whole topic is stressful to read about, but really interesting.

"But the extra hours don't come from nowhere... you need to compensate by losing a comparable amount of time at night."

I agree, but personally I find I am in the mood for being productive but in the evenings I tend to surf crap websits and not do anything useful.

Curious if others feel the same on this?

For most people free productive early morning hours mean time when other people are disturbing them, which usually starts happening at 9 AM.

To him a night owl is up till midnight. To me, midnight is super duper early. I struggle to sleep before 5am. At midnight I wake up and have been known to gut clean the entire house then. Even if i've been awake for over 24 hours i wake up at night. I cycle around my sleeping pattern often, i'll get up at 3am. I'll try and get it slowly to 5am wake up, then 7am - normal time. I can usually keep it there for about a week then my sleeping goes back to normal. No matter what I do, what time i woke up or went to sleep I still struggle to function before 2pm.

Camping and being in the outdoors with natural light definitely helps, but it still never solves the problem for me, i'm always the last one to sleep and wake up.

I have a similar sleeping pattern. Over time it tends to shift a couple hours. For instance, I slept from 9am until about 330PM today. By Tuesday it will likely be closer to 11am until 5 or 6pm.

It will occasionally adjust itself to something more "normal" but never for more than a week before it starts rolling again.

I work remotely and my wife is a bartender, so it's never much of a problem for me. When I interact with clients I usually end up with a multi-sleep schedule where I'll sleep for 3-4 hour stretches. As long as I don't force it in any direction it doesn't really have an adverse affect besides the occasional weirdness of not being sure if it's 6am or 6pm at certain times of the year because the sunlight is about the same.

It normalizes for me when camping as well. I went on a 3 week road trip this summer with just under half our nights in a tent and pretty much fell asleep by midnight at the latest every night.

Have you tried melatonin? Again doesn't solve the problem for me and still makes waking up difficult, but it means I can generally get to sleep by 1am with good sleep hygiene and keep it there a bit longer than a week. But yea one night out and it all messes up. I also use a sunrise alarm clock, that helps with morning waking especially in winter. Again, none of these all solve the problem,but combined I'm having my first manageable year and not needed to take any time of work.

I have not. Generally I truly appreciate my schedule. It works very well for both focusing on work and enjoying my late-night social life, although I usually have no idea what day of the week or month it is. I spent two years in Seattle where I had an apartment way up on a hill with huge plate glass windows and an inescapable amount of sunlight. My schedule regulated a bit more while I was there, although when I was really into a project it would start shifting again.

I try not to fight it much without having a valid reason - like a tight deadline. And in those instances, coffee will generally put me to sleep within an hour. And if I fight it for longer than, say, a couple weeks, I end up sleep deprived. The only time coffee "works" for me is when I'm not stressed, which is to say not when I "need" it.

That wasn't the case in my twenties, though. I could work on something for 36 hours, sleep for 4-6 and do it all over again for a couple months at a time before I'd start losing my way. I was also drinking a LOT more alcohol back then.

I love the quiet of the night :). I will spend some time every few months reverting to an entirely nocturnal pattern, just to be able to enjoy the peace of the night and not have to fight against myself at all :).

Melatonin has helped me to keep a bit of a balance though (not that you need one, it depends on your life :)), living half in this real world and half in mine has helped me order life a bit and i'm no longer constantly cycling around my sleeping. It's well recommended for circadium disorders.

But I'm lucky to have a job I can start at 11am, even if that's tricky. But with the use of melatonin and loads of other things I don't have to fight myself as much as I used to and can generally get to sleep before 2am(sorry not 1am as above, that would be a miracle). Acceptance definitely helps :).

Haha, I used to do the same with working! I remember once after about 2 weeks straight working 24-40 hour stints I turned to my friend and said "I think i've forgotten how to sleep.". I realised then that sleep takes concentration and if I was overtired I don't have the concentration to get to sleep.

Being overtired can definitely be a problem as well. I'm on a bit of a stretch right now, as a matter of fact, but I'm planning to avoid my office until late tomorrow to balance it out.

On the other side of the same coin, I've learned not to bother trying if I'm not ready to sleep, and so when I do go to bed, it's because it's time. My wife gets annoyed with my ability to fall asleep about around the moment my head hits the pillow, as it takes her at least 30 minutes.

As for the job schedule, I recently rejoined the freelance world and I'm elated by the idea of going back to MY normal schedule. The company I was working with gave me plenty of [relative] slack because I was productive, but there were still a few too many meetings that kept me on a schedule that didn't really jive. I think that very schedule inadvertently contributed a great deal to my reasons for leaving.

So, my sleep cycle was about like what yours sounds like, I'd often slip back half an hour from one day to the next... But rarely if ever had a sleep cycle under 24 hours. Tried out f.lux a month back, and... Well I'm still on a strange sleep cycle, but a different one. lol. Slept from 8pm yesterday to 3am today, snoozed until 4am. Often I've slept a bit less than normal, but starting far earlier, and waking up early. Maybe that's just a result of only using it for a month, so far.

Probably helps too that I have beige walls and a small desk lamp beside me. Using the desk lamp instead of the full room light / a completely black room helps limit eyestrain.

I have a cheap lamp pointed at the wall behind my monitors that helps immensely with the eyestrain[1]. I like f.lux, but when my schedule gets into full-on night mode, I end up turning it off - especially when working with video[2] or graphics - and forgetting to turn it on it by the time I get back to something more "normal".

1: blinking is a big deal, and I tend not to blink much when tired but focused. Eye drops help.

2: spent a few years working with a company where video is everything.

That makes it sounds rarer and worse than it is. I think its more a choice than a medical disorder.

Its quite normal. If you work at home and have no family or other obligations that keeps you in sync, you tend to sleep in a bit longer than strictly necessary simply because you can. Naturally you go to bed later also. Now your day has become more than 24 hours. If you are allowed to do this every day, you get very out of sync with the rest of the world and occasionally line up with it again.

I assure you, a circadium rhythm disorder is not a choice.

For some staying up late is a choice, it may be environmentally caused but for those with a disorder it's not. It's a problem from birth. I'm speaking more about delayed sleep phase syndrome though, I dont know much about non-24.

I have the same problem with a shifting sleep schedule, and I don't have it while traveling. It seems to be cured by daily extensive walking.

Just curious - what do your coffee consumption and exercise pattern look like?

I don't drink tea or coffee - i'm not usually on time enough even for a morning one :).

Play badminton once a week. Street dance one a week. Bike to the train station for work every morning (only bike 15 mins each way though). Meditation 15 minutes every evening after work.

I should add that even as a baby, I was awake all night and slept during the day.


I'm in my early 40's and have been a NO for as long as I can remember. To at least 5th-6th grade, and my mom (she too is a NO to some extent) tells me even before then I was up later than rest of house. Reading books/mags, a little late TV, etc. Needless to say, school was not easy for me.. ever. Elementary school wasn't so bad as I still got enough sleep, but junior high - HS was basically a half day for me as I was a zombie until lunch. Grades reflected it.

When I saw him say "midnight" and that was his concern, I was like, "Really"? That is like the near end of my prime time most alert. I too have been known to start mopping the house at that time or change the oil on my car, then go to gym after then come home and do some client work, work on my PC, etc. I have always felt most productive when I have my time when house goes to sleep and it is quiet. It is no different than the morning one early risers claim they have. That serenity. Just different time block.

The majority of people have no idea what it is like to be a NO. It is reflected negatively and many many times in my adult life have had to brush off the topic when it comes up in gatherings. Little jabs and stuff like "I have to go to gym at 6am tomorrow, hey you could give me a wake up call". Or stuff like "what do you DO all night"?. I really feel like it is looked upon as just being lazy or associated with deadbeats UNLESS you have a direct NEED to be a NO (your job is overnight shift for example). Even then, you are still considered odd because masses just don't associate success with the NO schedule and it is considered a rut to get out of. I guess it is true to some extent because how many 6-figure+ professions are there that are night-owl's?

I am very lucky to have a wife I have been with a long time and just rolls with it. She has not always been happy with my schedule and wants us more in-line, but overall it works. My son, now five, also makes it tough to continue being a NO. It was perfect first few years as my wife and I had whole day covered without either of us being zombies from lack of sleep, but now I just feel weird coming down at 11am when him and mom been up since 8am.

The best fix I have come across though is to just travel east for like 10 days and get up to that time zone. Then come home. When I go home for summer every year it is two hours later than where I live. Even sleeping in there till 10 is 8am where I live. Doing that for a week plus and when I come home, I can't keep my eyes open past midnight for few days. I could then stick with it but I just start to slowly revert. Or one diet coke too late and I blow past the midnight till 2am once and now am ruined again.

I sometimes do wish I was early person. Just for the conformity of it and the associated praise from others that I see all around me, as if it is something regarded as accomplishment. My wife sometimes gets up at 5:30am to run 6 miles and all of our friends "wow" her and tell her how awesome that is. If I were to tell them right after that I too ran 6 miles but it was at midnight, I just get a laugh like I am goof. Just not the same stigma. Benjamin Franklin's saying "early to bed..." still has powerful influence.

My biggest issue with an off-schedule is trying to maintain a routine. So many dietary, exercise, or prescription recommendations are based upon a time-of-day routine. Intermediate Fasting seems to be based upon skipping breakfast, which doesn't jive well with sleeping twice a day. A "morning run" doesn't make as much sense at 3am, depending on where you live. Same goes for prescriptions.

I've had a few relationship troubles in the past - in-part because my hours were too weird to cope with over time. Fortunately I've married someone who not only understands, but appreciates my schedule. I'm definitely worried about what it'll be like when we finally get a family started.

I bet your parents loved that :)

After years and years of trying anything that came my way and seemed credible, the only thing that ever worked to change me into a morning person was living in an apartment that was so bright in the morning that even drawn blinds and an eye mask wasn't enough to keep the light from getting to your eyes. A few exhausted weeks after moving in, I was getting up with the sun naturally and feeling great about it. Since moving away, I haven't been able to replicate the effect in my new, dimmer apartment, no matter what I've tried.

Didn't work for me. I moved into an apartment with a sun roof. Made the bedroom super bright in the day and no way to cover the sun roof. I was worried I wouldn't be able to sleep because of the light but I was still able to stay up all night and sleep all day no problem. One of my best friends also has zero problems sleeping with the curtains open and sun streaming in.

I had a similar experience when I moved from my cave of an apartment in Brooklyn to an apartment high up on a hill in Seattle comprised mostly of windows overlooking the the city. That didn't "fix" my schedule, but it regulated it quite a bit when I wasn't entirely focused on a project. If I were in-need of something more predictable, I'd try to find something similar here in Chicago. But personally, I prefer having a weird schedule.

For better or worse, there are no hills in Chicago

Yep. This works.

Can confirm. Have a circadian rhythm disorder where I pretty much can't wake up earlier intentionally; very common in teens, but occasionally it sticks as an adult. In my case I actually cycle around, living >24 hour days left completely unchecked, which is probably worse than it sounds (but extroidinarily unlikely; guess I'm just lucky). The prescription is to get bright blue-spectrum light-box and have it within the field of view for 15-40 minutes in the morning. Or stare at the sun. I also cut out blue light at night (f.lux and custom arduino-controlled lighting.) People were built for the light; some more than others, but it still holds true.

I go camping on occasion to reset it as well.

Edit: For those without disorders it works similarly. Doing my routine would have you comfortably waking up a bit earlier each day, but just getting some sunlight in the morning and toning down the blue at night would work.

Please DO NOT EVER stare at the sun

Not literally.

There are still only the same number of hours in the day, though. You're making pretty fundamental alterations to your habits in order to 'reclaim' time that isn't really lost.

That's what I really had trouble with. There have been times in my life when I've been exceptionally motivated: pet projects, new girlfriend, etc. I'll wear out, get to bed at 8pm, wake up early and keep working or go to the gym.

But I'm also really productive between midnight and 4am. That's where I got my best work done during University and when I quit my job last year and went on a 9 months sabbatical.

How about we get rid of this horrible idea that we all need to be up early? If you're a morning person and that works for you: great. You should keep that shit up. If you don't think you are, then you should at least try it. Maybe it would work better for you. Don't discount it.

But if you try it and don't really like it, then why the hell should you have to be at work at 8am? Especially in IT. Our morning commutes clog up our motorways. If people adjusted and spread out office work schedules, it would make our transportation systems that much more flexible.

We don't all need to be morning people.

For me night time is lazy time. The world is asleep and it doesn't demand anything of me. So I take it easy and dont get much work done. I wake up late and have to play catch up with the world again.

The few times I wake up early I have a head start on the world for once. Feels good.

> The world is asleep and it doesn't demand anything of me.

I really like night time for the same reason, but I think I interpret it in exactly the opposite way you do: Nobody is bothering me with things (or distracting me with interesting conversation and fun group things to do), so I can finally get some quiet, unbroken work time in, where I can get in the zone and work for four hours without any interruptions.

He was referring to time with his spouse, so he was reclaiming time in that regard. Some time is more valuable than other time.

His wife is at work in the morning anyway, not sure how waking up early makes up for that?

Because they can both stop working around the same time.

true, but personally I can think more clearly after I'm well rested - rather than at the end of the day, before resting, when you're often quite tired.

Still need minium external distractions for this to work, though

Did you read the part about how he wanted to sync his schedule with his wifes schedule, so they could spend more time together?

If his wife is on morning meetings anyway - what's the point of waking up early for him? They probably see each other after her work anyway, he was awake at that time even when he had a night owl schedule. I don't see how he won any time by shifting his schedule, he still needs to do work, he just does it now while his wife is at work, before he used to work when she was sleeping.

I assumed he meant that his wife would get home at say 5pm, while he, with his later schedule, work work until say 7pm (and then perhaps more later when she's asleep). So by shifting his schedule earlier perhaps he stops working at 5pm as well and gets 2 more hours with her.

From my own experience - he was probably getting up later, going to work later, and getting home a while after her, which is where the real 'time together' was gained (him leaving work earlier). Also a lot of people like to be winding down and going to bed together, which doesn't work if one of you is going to be up for another four hours.

His wife wakes up at 5AM, works until 5PM, and then goes to bed at 9:30PM.

Previously, he woke up at 10AM, worked until 8PM, and went to bed around 2AM.

That gives husband and wife 1.5 hours together per day, maximum. Probably less when you factor in chores, cooking, etc.

If husband mvoes his schedule to 5AM also, and works until 5PM, then goes to bed at 9:30, then now he and his wife have a maximum of 4.5 hours together per day.

Do you understand now?

I'm decent (not awesome) at choosing one and going with it for a few months.

I find that when I'm a morning person I'm much better at getting "needed stuff" done and also take better care of my health. When I do the night-owl thing, I'm far better at the more forward-thinking things but struggle more with taking care of myself and can procrastinate on short-term requirements.

I also find that night-owling can make me feel depressed after a while, not taking care of things that I should, whereas being a morning person can make me feel trivial after a while, not really putting any deep thought into things.

There's some quote the origin escapes me like "they wake up so early because there's so much to do, and go to sleep so early because there's so little to think about" (I'm thinking Middlemarch, but can't find it), which pretty much sums it up. You can't win. (That said I'm pretty happy when on a multi-week solo bike tour and waking up early every day).

In all my years as a software developer the morning hours were just absolutely perfect for me to get the hard stuff out of the way. I reserve afternoons for the drudge work, but in the morning I have much better cognitive ability.

Better yet, if you work from home you can wake up at 6am, start your workload early and you have the entire afternoon off for whatever you need, it's a sweet system!

I do exactly the same thing. I get half of my work done before anyone shows up, and just cruise the rest of day or leave early. I don't play the game of staying late to make it look like I'm working hard. I let my work speak for itself, which is easy because I feel great in the morning and there is no one to bother me, so the quality speaks for itself.

Exact opposite here - more or less severe brain fog until the sun sets. Then I can start getting things done.

This is exactly my experience, recently I have sometimes worked 9-5 got nothing done and gone home feeling like shit for being so unproductive. Then, to make up for it, I would find myself working some late nights and always made up for the lack of outputs. I now just start late and work late, which actually means I get more free time because I don't need to make up for anything.

As in interesting point, when I was working 9-5, I noticed that most people at work were incredibly unproductive all day so maybe it is somewhat a social construct also. When alone at night without distractions, without the context of people slacking off, I find it far easier to get focused and I don't just talk nonsense to anyone nearby.

I've had "brain fog" in small spells over the years, particularly when my depression went unmanaged. I can't imagine having it every day, I'd get nothing done and hate myself. It sounds like you have more self-awareness than I did though.

> I can't imagine having it every day, I'd get nothing done and hate myself.

Yup. You'd do exactly that. You learn to live with it (while putting down fire after fire that lack of productivity causes). Source: personal experience.

The author comments, "We enjoy dark chocolate after dinner most nights, but I learned the hard way about its surprising caffeine content."

It's worth noting that some people find (fortunately?) that caffeine does not disrupt their sleep.

Caffeine's relationship to one's chronotype (and genotype and sleep quality) will hopefully receive more study, since it's becoming clear that not everyone needs to heed the "don't consume caffeine before bed" common wisdom.

Here's a short article in Scientific American on one such study.


The paper referred to is behind this paywall. Didn't pay; can't read. It claims preliminary evidence.


Interesting. My personal experience is that I can usually 'choose' if coffee will make me be more awake or make me sleepy. I just wonder if it affects sleep/REM quality regardless.

Maybe there is a certain amount of the placebo effect for you in there. For me it does not disrupt my sleep, but it certainly makes me more awake.

There is a good research base showing that there are gene variants for human response to light in resetting the circadian rhythm. The evolutionary history of this is so deep that the same gene variant appears in fruit flies, where it was first discovered.[1] But even at that, light influences everyone's circadian rhythm, and a smart, timed use of light can help you reset your biological clock. This article is an interesting account of one person's effort to do a habitual reset that seems to have worked. Benjamin Franklin wrote, "Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise," and there seems to be a social and economic advantage in being a morning person in many life circumstances.

[1] https://global.oup.com/academic/product/how-genes-influence-...

Waking up early means going to bed early. That remains the hardest to do.

That's my thing too -- I very much enjoy going out evenings & nights, often fairly late, most weekdays. Getting up reliably before 9am when I'm out until 12-2am (perhaps followed by working for a couple hours, or just winding down), is difficult enough to be not worth trying for me. I'm single right now, but when I'm with someone who goes to bed much earlier, I suppose I do sometimes shift my schedule earlier as well. (I guess that's similar to one of the OP's justifications of doing this to have more time with his wife.)

Lots of people seem to have significant "difficulties" with sleeping and waking, or at least a strong preference that demands willpower and tricks and habituation to steer away from.

My body just doesn't really seem to care. If travel or work demands it, I can pretty easily get up at any time in the morning. Usually I enjoy it. I almost always wake up right away if I've set an alarm, and have little inclination to snooze unless severely sleep deprived. But usually I just go to bed 8.30 hrs before I need to be up, and things take care of themselves.

Here in Thailand where I'm staying there's a custom of waking up before sunrise, so I've been going to sleep around 9 to wake up at around 5.30, enjoying the sunrise with a cup of Nescafé and some reading.

I think the fact that my 3G is metered, plus the warmth and the dark evenings, make it rewarding to sleep early. And I do love the early mornings. Walter Benjamin has a quote that I can't help but agree with (in One-Way Street):

> Anyone seeing the sun come up in front of him while awake, dressed–out walking, say–will retain throughout the day above all else a sense of the sovereignty of an invisibly crowned king, and anyone having the day break over him at work will feel, around noon, as if he had crowned himself.

I can't identify with being either a night owl or a morning person; I just go to bed when I find it reasonable and wake up 8 hours later. The struggles some people have with sleep seem tortuous; I feel blessed.

However, if someone is snoring ever so quietly... Or a clock is ticking... No sleep for me until the infernal noise is silenced. Rain audio works too.

I always find people who claim they can't function before a certan hour kind of dumb. Suggest that they go to bed an hour or two earlier, and they claim that they can't sleep. Yet twice a year we shift our schedules by an hour and usually after a couple of days no one notices.

I used to came out with the same sories until travelling in Chile and Peru. There is a two hour time difference at some points of the year, even though they are on the same longitude. After a couple of days I didn't notice, and I realised it's just a number that you are becoming attached to.

I've become a morning person very recently (past two weeks). The hardest part for me was waking up earlier. I started researching sleep trackers and decided they were too expensive. I thought the sleep tracker apps for your phone where it uses your microphone or accelerometer didn't work.

But, with the app Sleep Cycle being free, I gave it a shot. And it works. Surprisingly well.

Placebo? Maybe, but I don't care. The point is the past week I've been waking up from 4:30 to 5:00 AM easily. Before with my usual double alarm setup of apple watch on table across from room and phone on night stand, I'd wake up at 5:30 AM, turn off the phone alarm and walk to my apple watch and turn it off. Then promptly went back to bed because I was groggy. This doesn't happen to me with the Sleep Cycle app.

Some people in this thread are saying you don't actually get extra hours because you end up sleeping earlier. While that's true, I've found that I am much more productive before my work day and can get my side tasks/work out of the way. Normally, after work, I can't get anything done due to being tired and constant distractions. Now, I get things done before work and still manage to accomplish nothing after work. A net gain of a few hours.

Just a final thought, I used to love being a night owl because there weren't any distractions for me. I'd have to wait til everybody in the house fell asleep to focus on work, and by then I'd be tired. I'd push on a little bit, sleep, and wake up for work the next day tired. I'm finding that I get mostly the same benefits if not more by waking up early.

Long story short, try the Sleep Cycle app. Maybe it'll work for you too.

In addition to "Pay attention to how food and drink affect your sleep", I would add Pay attention to how exercise affects your sleep.

In my case, nighttime cardio can keep me awake later. On the other hand, weightlifting late is a significant sleep aid to me.

I've noticed the same thing re: lifting late. I get the best sleep when I go to bed immediately after lifting.

You guys should try sex one day...

You missed the comment about "nighttime cardio" keeping one awake.

No, I didn't.

You should try getting a sense of humor one day...

I'll throw that one right back at you. ;)

haha touché

Well, obviously. But the last time I tried that in the gym, they suspended my membership.

I used to work hard to be a morning person, but the result was miserable. Laying in bed wide awake at 11pm, hitting snooze on all my alarms, over-caffeinating the next day. It never worked. Eventually, I decided to just embrace it. I don't feel guilty anymore, I don't lose precious work hours late at night, and I don't spend all day being groggy.

(That being said, the one trick that worked for me was finding a gym with non-refundable classes in the morning, which forces me to get up.)

Did you try spending the entire day outdoors. Working on a shaded porch or something like that. If you do that, you'll usually crash the second the sun goes down.

I tried that but can't fight my need to make the day last longer. I'm also quite productive late night. It makes me eat more in the evening and skip breakfast the next day (at the opposite of most nutritionists recommendations).

The main issue with being a late night worker is that for most of us it means starring at a screen and this affects sleep in a bad way.

I've noticed that as well. Even on (rare) days when I wake up earlier than usual, I don't find myself getting tired enough to sleep earlier than usual. I just want to make the day last longer. And even if I am a bit tired, I've found my ability to find a second wind to be reliably excellent.

There are plenty of apps to mitigate screen caused sleep disturbance. I am using f.lux on osx at the moment and it works quite well.

I use redshift on Fedora, which works perfectly for me. The big gap at the moment is my phone screen -- f.lux and Apple not getting along has made it much tougher to read on my phone at night without getting stuck awake.

I've given up on this. A single late night will derail your schedule for a couple weeks (if you're being honest with yourself about how much sleep you need.)

Yes, you have to be rigorous. Or if you have a late night, compensate with a daytime nap

And then have no chance of sleeping that night :)

The best way to 'resync' for me is, is to just to skip the daytime nap and go to bed as usual. This works fairly well, but you are sleepy the whole day of course.

Give up coffee, work out regularly, go to bed at the same time every night, get tested for sleep apnea.

Changed my life.

This makes perfect sense, why downvotes? It's maybe not for everyone, but keeping a regular and consistent 'beat' works for most things.

Exactly. This is a much more sane and healthy approach than the whole sugar and coffee rhetoric, to say the least.

Coffee definitely won't affect your sleep if you have reasonable amounts and only in the morning.

Sleep apnea is a big thing. I haven't got there yet, but getting tested and starting to use a CPAP machine has been a huge improvement for my Dad.

No matter how much sleep I get, I find it very difficult to drag myself out of bed. I always hit snooze until the very last minute...

I hate going to bed 'early' because I feel like I'm losing out on valuable time - but I inevitably just sit on reddit/HN until 1am anyway.

How I became a morning person? I had kids! They completely resynced my whole day. I don't know if this works for everybody but It worked for me and I can't belive now how I could take lunch at 5pm before.

Your kids must have been rather different to mine - I didn't become a morning person - just a perpetually tired person.

Best comment ever ^-- right here.

I can't compare just using HN! but I can say that I also go to sleep earlier.

Having kids did it for me.

And reaching out to my father did it for me. Earlier this year I had a deadline and asked him to call at 5AM every day for a few weeks. But we since kept it up as an excuse to talk to each other daily. We barely spoke once a year prior to that.

The phone call starts off with him ordering me to enable my speaker phone, then drop and do push-ups and sit-ups while simultaneously reciting a poem/pledge/prayer/mantra.. basically any low IQ task for about 2 minutes. Then we spend another 2 minutes chatting. The call is over in 5 minutes but by then I am wide awake.

Works best if your Dad is a former drill sergeant, in a different time-zone, is retired, and doesn't like to talk much. :)

This is beautiful.

That's what I came here to say too. The damn kids now happily sleep until noon, but I just can't anymore. Grumble.

oooh, parent porn, when does this start? My 1 and 3 year old are up at 5am every day...

Just wait until they're teenagers.

But you might not find it that exciting then, having teenage kids has its own drawbacks.

Same here, though the point remains. I've been trying to make the most of the time when my child is still asleep. Bonus is than when she wakes up, I'm less groggy and can better be present for her. But it's still very much a work-in-progress for me. :(

I've been thinking about buying a light therapy box[0] and adding an esp8266 or similar to connect it to my home network. I could position it above my bed and have my phone's alarm trip it on. It would be interesting to see if it gave me a motivation boost throughout the day in addition to helping me wake up.

[0]: http://www.amazon.com/Verilux-VT20WW1-HappyLight-Intensity-I...

I use Philips Hue and am very pleased with it. You can schedule it to lower the lights at night and raise them in the morning. Sometimes it wakes me without the alarm.

I used to have that. It was waking me up for the first couple of weeks, and then I got used to it, and slept right through.

There's already a "thing" similar to this idea, look up Dawn Simulator.

I usually sleep crazy hours, in bed no earlier than 3AM. I also am affected by lack of sunlight and seasonal depression (SAD). Both combined were terrible, I'd get up to the sun setting, and then spend most of my wake hours in the dark.

3 weeks ago I decided to wake up at 5h30 every morning and go to the gym until 7h, when the sun rises. It's been really good and making the most of light hours in this season has been a major boost on my moral.

To start waking up earlier, I set my alarm clock five minutes earlier every week. I gave myself permission to hit the snooze, but the alarm was going to wake me up regardless. When I'd freed up about 40 mins or so, I switched my gym routine to go in the morning rather than at night. Totally worth it.

I hope to maybe be able to get some work or chores done in the morning eventually.

For me the trick seems to be quite the opposite: set the alarm clock so much earlier that it actually matters.

I have started waking up at 04 in the morning since May and it works really well.

I can wake up like that pretty easy if I have a real reason to. But once I don't, I lose motivation real quick. 5 mins a week gives my internal clock time to adjust.

I successfully transitioned from a night owl (bed at 2-3am, up at 8-9am) to a morning person VERY easily -- but I cheated:

I moved from NYC to SF, but I didn't change my natural sleep schedule when I did ;) I just didn't let myself slip -- so the first week, I woke up at 5-6am every day and started to get tired around 11, and 3 years later, I'm on the same routine.

How do you deal with late night events?

I could get used to early mornings, but right now is 3:45 and I'm on the train home after a concert and nightclub. I can't wake up at 5 with only 1 hour of sleep, and I doubt I could do it on Monday, even if I was used to it.

I switched. Here's how:

I was training martial arts like crazy at the time, after work 5 days a week.

I wanted to compete in a tournament. To qualify I had to attend 'special' classes early in the morning. They started 6:30AM, and that meant a 5:30AM wakeup for me.

So I set an alarm and did the first morning. I put the alarm in the next room, so I'd be forced to get up and turn it off.

Going out in the dark felt as weird as going out without any pants on. I was convinced no one else would turn up for the training. They all did, of course.

I did this 5 days the first week, and spent all day at work half-asleep at my desk.

By the end of the following week I felt normal, and it's been my routine ever since, tho I'm not training any more.

I'm still not a 'genuine' morning person. I can't maintain a conversation before 7AM, but I am productive.

Speaking of being more productive: if I head to work at 6AM, the couple hours I get of no interruptions are guaranteed to be the most productive in my day.

I have considered myself a night owl all my life, ever since I was a kid. I typically stayed awake until 4am or later. Weekends, always sleeping super late -- 2pm, often later. Having a 10-6 job has always been hell (and 9-5 impossible), with frequent oversleeping. The last few years I have been going to bed around 1am, but still struggling to get up early.

About 4 weeks ago I started limiting my caffeine intake. I only drink a bit of espresso in the morning, then nothing after that. The impact was immediate: I suddenly found myself waking up before my alarm clock, every day. In the weekends I am generally up at 8am, which for me is highly unusual. I'm weirded out by it, actually. Caffeine seems to really mess up one's circadian rhythm.

(I don't think the OP is a night owl; an evening person, maybe, but going to bed by midnight is laughably normal.)

This is all well and good, but consider that this his just his routine; you have to find your own routine to be successful at switching your schedule.

I think the most important tip is just start waking up early. Like 5am early. By the end of the day you are exhausted. It'll get easier to go to bed at the right time and waking up will get easier. Things like stimulants, diet, light, sound, etc are all well and good, but nothing trumps just being awake and active for 18 hours.

It will probably take a week or two for your natural sleep cycle to change. I find morning exercise helps this process. (Yes, you too can be one of those crazy assholes at the gym at 6am!)

I can't even imagine going to bed at around 9:45pm. It's ingrained in my body that around that time is still early and the world is quiet so I can work peacefully. I usually go to bed around 2am and wake up around 9am. I understand the freshness of working on a new body (morning), but I think the best I can do is 12am. Idk, I think its up to you how you manage your hours and how productive you are. 5am's aren't for everybody.

I became a morning person by having a kid. Once you wake up to screaming its hard to go back to sleep. Providing for a family is drive I never had as single guy.

It's funny how things like this seem so ... having trouble finding the word ... "meaningful" ... almost "philosophical" ... to non-parents.

Have a kid. Then you get what you can take what you can get of the hours, minutes, seconds you can find (and/or create) of the hours, minutes, seconds of the day, and you just deal with it.

I'm a morning person now after years of living on the west coast working for an east coast company.

The sad part is I don't get any of the "free hours" benefit. If I'm up at 5am, everyone else is too (8am for them). I'd have to get up at 2am to get any extra time and that's just not gonna happen.

I alternate between being a morning person and being a night owl. The cycle is a month to several months and usually the appearance of a contracting job is what forces me back into the 'day' rhythm. But my best stuff gets done at night, when it's totally quiet.

I agree on the point about coffee being a wake-up process. I do a pour-over as well, and the process of preparing and attending to it for 5-10 minutes helps me wake up and appreciate the coffee more -- not to mention it tastes better!

Right now I couldn't even imagine doing pour-over every morning. I struggle even just using my aeropress in the morning.

I always find morning time more productive than late night, but you get the time pressure of having to finish soon (probably for work) compared to working at night where your sleep time is the only thing holding you back.

I suppose that will come naturally anyway as age progresses, when one will need less sleep ?

As far as I know, the current consensus is that sleep reduces with age because the ability to maintain sleep is impaired, not because the need for sleep is actually reduced.

If you really want to be a morning person: Turn off all lights and machine sounds

Shorter answer: go to bed 7 hours before you need to wake up.

>How I became a morning person

>I went to bed early

>End of Story

I spent about four decades as a night person. It seems to be the default for me. Most notable were how I felt energized, yet focused, late at night, and how a tired feeling didn’t occur until about 2AM. While maybe tied to the long-standing late-night practices more than any internal rhythms, I enjoy the quiet and solitude of night.

But three years ago I launched a business which required working early mornings or overnight. I didn’t want to work overnight because that’s a taxing setup for me and, more significantly, I don’t want a schedule so different from the rest of the world—it makes socializing more difficult and can cause inconveniences in general living that I didn’t want to regularly face.

After three years getting up daily anywhere from 4–7AM with maybe 8 days off in that time, I’m quite fond of having to be up early. No, it still doesn’t feel normal to my body, but the discipline to put myself to sleep is helped quite a bit by the motivation that comes from being a business owner. In my setup, I’m at work 30 minutes after I wake up. My work isn’t physically intense, but I’m constantly in motion. I am always on my feet, moving around often (never standing still for more than a minute or two), and regularly working with my arms and hands.

I was never someone who to explicitly did workouts, not to mention anything particularly active first thing in the morning, yet I’ve found the activity in my work helps my body and my mind. Despite the lack of off days, I have to be cognitively busy throughout my days, and the constant physical motion has been great for me, both in terms of how my body feels and how it seems to benefit my head (much like how taking a walk helps most people keep a clearer head).

Coincidentally, I happened to quit caffeinated coffee about a year before starting this business, and that has continued. I only drink decaf coffee and water when I’m working. I live at a high altitude, so skipping caffeine—which never had any obvious stimulant effects for me—has helped me stay hydrated.

Definitely, I appreciate being around for all the sunlight in each day. It’s especially welcome in the winter months. I live in a place with four distinct seasons, but sunshine is present throughout the year, so getting all of it even on the short days has been great. All told, rarely missing a minute of daylight has been invigorating and calming at the same time.

With the hours I have to keep, this schedule has worked great. Work is handled at the hours the business requires and that doesn’t come at any noteworthy cost to personal opportunities. I’m old enough that friends may do something until late at night, but they start early enough that I can participate amply before having to head home. I’d be able to cheat more and stay out late if my business didn’t operate 363 days a year, but my lack of off days means I have to be mindful of pacing myself through the relentlessness. Maybe if the business grows enough that I have ample staff I’ll get to adjust my schedule.

For me, though, my inclination is still toward the night, but forcing myself into mornings has been great. I needed to start a business to find the necessary discipline to make the switch, so I don’t know if the methods to my conversion are worthwhile for many. But I look forward to mornings and enjoy them every day, difficult as it still is for me to wake up. But once I’m up…

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