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Ask HN: how to become a morning person?
153 points by zxcvvcxz 2408 days ago | hide | past | web | 101 comments | favorite
I feel like my body just can't accept a static bedtime on a 24 hour cycle. I remember many a summer where I would operate on something closer to a 27 hour day which is pretty awesome but messed up in terms of integrating with the rest of society, which I assume most of us need/want to do. Also, I've never been a morning person - the closest thing I've had to a regular sleep schedule is like 3:30am to around noon.

Anyone else experience similar issues and shift their schedules accordingly? What helped out, and what kept it sustainable long term?

Getting lots of exercise makes it easier to fall asleep at night. The ultimate solution, however, is to have a small child.

What time does your small child go to bed? (Not your point, really -- having lots to do, including lots of physical play, does a great job exhausting you... but I'm looking at many of the responses to your comment.)

I can't tell you how many parents I know that complain (sometimes bitterly) about how early their kids wake them up, and I find out they put the kid in bed at 7pm. Or 6pm, even.

My wife works best in the morning (and I work just fine whenever), so we play with our almost-2-year-old in the evenings and she generally goes to sleep at 11pm or sometimes later, then wakes up normally about 10am. She's never had a bedtime earlier than 10pm.

I don't know about every other parent (and how this would fit in with life) but this works great for us. We can go out to dinner and/or see friends in the evening when we want to (we take her along), we get lots done in the morning, and she gets her sleep.

Is there some other factor I'm missing? Why, when a child wakes up at 5:30am, is it not automatic for the parents to think "we're putting her to bed 2 hours too early"?

A possible enabler, now that I think about it -- we have great shutters on our windows, so it's dark until we open them.

Because not all kids work this way. If I put my daughter (17.5 months) to bed any later, not only would she wake earlier but she would wake up in the night more too.

I do know of another couple who have a similar system to you though; Dad works all day so they keep their boy up later and let him sleep in to get more family time.

This has always confused me. I have memories of some vague but very young age of me being put to bed when it was still light outside.

Agreed on having a small child. I now get up at 5:30 everyday, even if I don't want to.

Same here. I was a "top of noon" riser for years, then I got married and had a kid... Now my two boys are 5 and 7, they both wake up reliably between 5 and 6am everyday. Also, relatedly, though, they go to sleep at 7pm. To deal with such an early rise, I often fall asleep at 7pm, too. If you still want lots of sleep, go to sleep early. Simple advice like that is often hard to follow.

I have definitely become more of a morning person since becoming a dad, but not because the kid wakes me up. My wife handles the baby in the morning. I just find myself waking up early so I can spend some time with the baby before I have to work.

YES! Wearing yourself out does wonders for your sleep. I'd bet that 99% of people with sleeping problems have sitting jobs.

Only exhausting your brain without exhausting your body will just make you weary without making you feel sleepy. Your mind needs rest but your body is restless because it wants action :)

I remember when I had to do a mandatory 6-month army service period after college and during that time it took me about 2 minutes after lights-out to fall asleep. Actually, I was sooo sleepy all of the time that I learned how to take short naps whenever and whenever I could (especially after lunch).

The experience made me realize that, for most of the people who have it, insomnia was not a health problem that should be treated with drugs but just an imbalance between body and spirit, if I may say so :)

Just to add on, I would recommend getting that exercise in the morning or worst case, more than 4 hours before bedtime.

My boss has a couple of children, and he is very much a night person. He'll be working on stuff till 2, and then be up again at 7 because of the kids. I'm sure that isn't healthy either, but that is when he is most productive.

I myself have found myself to be more productive at night as well. For some reason I am just able to get more work done, faster, and more efficiently and best of all with less distractions from "the real world".

Let me just preface this by saying that I think kids are great (and this is not taking into consideration the other benefits of having kids, like happiness and sense of purpose and things like that), but if your goal is not just to get up early for the sake of getting up early but to get up early in order to get things done, it seems like having a kid would not necessarily be a net benefit time-wise as the reason you need to get up early with a kid is to spend time taking care of them. Of course, I don't think having kids ever stopped anyone from taking over the world, so this may be an invalid point.

I can't tell if you're trolling or not, but I believe the suggestion of having kids wasn't intended to be taken seriously.

Oh I got that impression too, I was just being literal for the sake of discussion :)

Exercise makes or breaks a good night's sleep for me. It's so necessary in fact that I'd equate my need for a good run to my coffee addiction.

Two staph infections this past year that have prohibited me from running, my preferred exercise, causing me to be completely unable to sleep without drugs. Fortunately, a symptom of a staph infection is a prescription for hydrocodone.

As Richard Branson declared, the secret weapon to productivity is exercise.

amen to that. the problem with the luxury of time is that you tend to piss it away on things you don't really need to do. having kids, or other time sensitive commitments really forces you to make the most out of the "spare" time you do have.

Try getting up early to cycle to work, which worked brilliantly for me when I was able to do it.

Looks like you have DSPS .

There's a good wikipedia page on it ; go read that , read the whole thing . http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Delayed_sleep_phase_syndrome

I got my diagnosis 3 years ago , after a melatonin-test . I had to do 24 saliva samples at 24 consecutive hours , they tell you from the graph whether your melatonin production is off .

The 'fix' is to take melatonin , as a pill , same time every night . For some that's close to a cure , for others it isn't (it drags my sleep phase about 50% towards a normal phase , if i take it further than that the fatigue kicks in again ) . Once you get diagnosed a doctor would start you off at 5mg , you can lower the dose later on .

So go get diagnosed , unless you think you can diagnose yourself .

I wish your reply was higher.

Chances are if OP is asking the question the standard reply of "sleep hygiene" isn't a useful answer.

OP, have a consultation with a sleep specialist. And, take lbk's advice of reading the DSPS page and also potentially: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Non-24-hour_sleep-wake_syndrome

It could change the way you view both yourself and your life.

And, to everyone else, consider that, sometimes it isn't just a matter of "more willpower" or just doing whatever worked for you.

I need to stress this some more .

Most of the advice in this thread is about sleep hygiene . That's important but it wont rid you of DSPS if you have it .

Then there's some comments about playing with 'zeitgebers' , by fasting , or light-therapy , or dark-therapy (F.lux, you can even wear blue-blocking sunglasses) . These will help you influence your sleep phase .

But the thing is : all of this doesn't do enough for the more serious cases . Those just need melatonin .

And yes if you tend to go into a 27-hour cycle in the summer , you're considered a serious case .

I'm a big sleeper. I really enjoy sleeping, but I usually get up at 4 am. I'm not necessarily recommending this, but here's what I do:

- I drink a lot of caffeine (studies show that after a regular, high level of caffeine intake it doesn't affect your sleep patterns anymore).

- I take a 1 hour nap every day (usually around 3 pm)

- I go to sleep around 11 pm

- I naturally wake up around 4 am with no alarm

I like this schedule because I get a lot done before everyone gets up and then I have the whole day ahead. Plus, I really like taking naps.

Edit: Just wanted to add that I'm not naturally what you would consider a "morning person". My previous schedule for the last several years was something like: wake up at 2 pm, work, go to sleep at around 6 am, rinse, repeat. I kind of stumbled into my current schedule by accident.

I've found Flux[1] to be very useful in stopping the constant forward-shift of my sleep schedule. Now I actually get tired at night. Perhaps it was simply over-exposure to blue light all these years...

[1] http://stereopsis.com/flux/

+1 anecdotal to Flux.

I went all kindle | paper in bed (no more backlit things), and simultaneously also started using Flux, and it seems to have helped me actually stop working and fall sleep.

You get used to it in about three days, and then if you use the temporary-disable command to see what your monitor looked like before, it really does sear the eyes like when those nazis opened the ark...

I use flux as well. I still don't get tired at night (not if I'm working on something remotely interesting...), but it does seem to help me "settle down" a bit at night, so when I decide it's time to pack up for the day, I can often be asleep within 10 minutes (this used to be harder for me).

Pretty cool tool. This would not be as useful to someone doing design work that requires color accuracy though :-\.

It actually has a setting specifically to accommodate this. From their FAQ:

"f.lux was created by people who care a lot about accuracy in colors. We know you want to make sure your colors are perfect so there is an option to disable f.lux for 1 hour at a time (for example, while using Photoshop). This setting returns your screen to its normal settings. In the future we plan to allow automatic disabling of f.lux when you launch certain programs. f.lux is not designed for use during advanced color work, but it's fine for layout or HTML. Currently, we don't recommend running f.lux on calibrated systems running Windows, but we expect to have a solution for this soon."

Doing design work (or anything significantly intellectually stimulating) late at night isn't conducive to becoming a morning person.

Wow! This is amazing! I can't believe I never thought to look for something like this before.

Get out of bed immediately when you wake. Then drink a tall glass of cold water. Do not go back to bed.

I'm not a morning person, but if I've been up for more than an hour or two, eaten breakfast and gone for a walk before the events of the day start, I could probably fool you. The trick is to get up and get started.

I transition between morning and night, and it's basically getting into a consistent cycle. If you get out of bed at the same time every day for two weeks, you'll alter your cycle. The main idea is: don't go back to bed, get out of bed, take a shower, go for a run. DO NOT go back to bed.

I had issues with sleeping when others do for a long while. I do not anymore (although get out of sync again about 2x a year).

1. Caffeine and you: You have a certain sensitivity to this drug. You may also be misusing it. Generally speaking, it's a late morning, early afternoon only drug. Late morning is the only place it starts working as its an adenosine antagonist, and you don't start getting adenosine in any really effective amount in your brain until then. (Adenosine is the neurotransmitter which makes you sleepy because you've been up for a certain period of time).

If you drink coffee (or soda) when you wake up stop. Cup #1 of coffee is the Earliest you should use it, and shouldn't happen before about 13 hours before you want your "bed time" to be or about 3 hours after you get your butt out of bed (so let's say "11 am". All it does before then is a brief heart rate spike from the adrenaline surge, or possibly help with caffeine withdrawal from yesterday (which you will not have issues with if you use your caffeine only between say 11a-4p)

The bloodstream half-life of caffeine is 4.9 hours That means it takes about ~10 hours to 1/4 the amount of caffeine in your system as when you stopped drinking it. Additionally, as its an adenosine antagonist, its effectiveness skyrockets the later in the day you have it in you. So if you're shooting for a 12pm bedtime, stop drinking by 2pm-5pm to significantly reduce your blood stream level by bed time.

2. Your bed and you: What are you allowed to do in your bedroom from now on? Have sex, sleep, get dressed. That's it. If there is a tv in your bedroom, say bye bye. If you read in there, say bye bye. If you touch your bed during the day, stop it. If you're sitting there with thoughts for tomorrow, stop that. If you can't stop that, you have to schedule a time of day considerably earlier than bedtime where you lay out tomorrows tasks.

If you're laying in bed for more than 30 minutes without sleep, up and at em, go read in a different room.

3. Routine: You need to get into a set pattern. Set yourself a bedtime. Start winding down before that, not playing video games or watching TV, (especially sports or TV with lots of faces) in that hour before bed. Setup a ritual for sleep, including oral hygene, preparing for tomorrow, etc.

4. Reduce alcohol consumption: Alcohol lightens the depth of sleep. Especially while getting used to a schedule, restrict your intake.

5. Cool down your house at night. I don't care if you like the thermostat in the high 70's most of the time, at night you want high 60's and hide under warm blankets. It really really really will knock you out.

6. Lights are something people are sensitive to in varying degrees. I suggest erroring on the side of expecting yourself to be light sensitive. Use tools like f.lux to drop monitor brightness after sundown. Use timers to turn on/off lamps to make your house have a sundown. Eschew bright, overhead lights before bedtime. If your TV has multiple video settings, even make a TV setting that's overly dark to use past a certain hour.

On the flipside, try to get a North eastern room with lots of windows. Try to live as far south geographically as you can. Make lights turn on like crazy (again, timers) before you want to be waking up. Create lots of noise in your living space (not alarms, but things like tvs, etc) around the time to get up.

7. Eat breakfast, and to really reset yourself, eat nothing 16 hours before you want to wake up. (This works VERY well to fix jetlag).

Re: #2 "read in a different room"

Inapplicable for me - I often lie in bed for a long period of time with my mind buzzing about work/responsibilities/projects/news/... But if I read a few pages of a novel in bed, it shifts my brain right out of "active" mode into "sleep" mode, and I can fall asleep easily. Reading in another room involves climbing the stairs and puts me right back into active mode.

The important part is that in-bed activities prepare you for sleep, rather than encouraging wakefulness. (e.g., my wife will read to the end of the novel rather than going to sleep...)

8. Drink a glass or two of water just before bed time, so you need to wake up to pee at the right time in the morning :) Calibrate the amount so you don't wake up in the middle of the night.

I'd say: "Drink a glass of hot water just before bed time". Hot like a cup of tea. Sip it slowly but steadily. This is relaxing your throat and your brain. They all do that in China, call it "white tea". Helps also if you have headache.

I don't agree with the "don't read in bed" advice. It's good to read in bed. Read something interesting enough to wipe your mind away from work or project-related thoughts, but avoid a book that will keep you awake for too long, prefer non-fiction or short stories.

These aren't my tips. Sleep doctors say don't read in bed over and over:


I know it's nice to read in bed, but it's bad for sleep. It's not like you have to do everything in the list up there to get sleep, but the sacrosanct "Bed is for sleeping, only" is the #1 thing for many people.

I often read Before bed, but on the couch, not IN bed.

I don't know. Skimming over this page you linked I have again those thought about how the world is filled with so many different customs, people, problems, even sleeping habits.

I leave in China right now and these tips look very weird, exotic from here. For example, what do they (ASA) have against a short nap? Here the countryside girls selling vegetables in local markets do nap on their lines of carrots. I bet you they do not have any sleeping problems.

They (ASA) say "When you watch TV or read in bed, you associate the bed with wakefulness". That's true for most recent TV programs, because they punch you in the face constantly (it has not always been the case), but most books I read do not push me in a "state during which [I am] conscious and aware of the world." On the contrary, good reading brings a soft transition between full awareness of the real world and the dreams I'll get during the night. Maybe it is a drug, but I tell you: I always read in bed before sleeping, even if I'm too tired. I just can't climb the couch and sleep right away. Sorry for not being able to agree with this American Sleep Association advice.

Naps are fine if you can still sleep at night. These are for people who can't sleep when they want to.

I have a secret weapon: decaffeinated tea-bags (from Marks&Spencers).

I stick to the rules for caffeine consumption, except I can always go for decaf in the evening.

I've been using Flux on my computers, I think that also helps.

Finally I just set a timer now when I go to bed. Usually 7.5 hours sleep plus 12 minutes to fall asleep is perfect for me, so when that timer goes I actually feel like getting up. And also if I wake up earlier I never stress about what the time is because I know I'm still on the countdown.

These are good tips; I'd add that it's quite important to reduce the amount of refined sugar you consume during the day (and particularly late in the day).

I've read about this, but also noticed a pretty strong effect personally... when I eat any significant amount of sugar late in the day, it's noticeably less pleasant to get up the next morning (like a kind of mini-hangover).

Going to sleep isn't ever a problem (unfortunately, this is at least partly because I'm normally relatively sleep-deprived...) but of course sending your blood sugar spiking up (and plummeting down) all day is likely to make it harder to settle down at bedtime for most people.

Edit: forgot to add -- I'm interested to notice disagreements with the "no reading" rule. In my personal experience, this is an iron-clad rule. If I read "before" bed, even if the material is fairly dry, my brain kicks into gear, and all sleepiness disappears unless I'm seriously deprived at the time. And I don't generally have much sense of time passing when I'm absorbed, so I've had many experiences of slowly realizing that the room's appearance has changed (and there are new noises) because the sun is up, and the birds are going nuts outside my window. And the 2-hour drive I have to make that day (or whatever it may be) is going to be painful.

All great stuff. The other thing you can do is try to reset your body clock by going to bed early, or (if you're brave) skipping sleep for a night, then going to bed early next evening. The former is better as the latter messes you up for a few days but if you have the time will be quicker. Then keep going to bed at around 8-9pm, you'll be up before 6am quite easily.

I'd also recommend drinking lots of water and a large glass before bed.

To expand on number 7, the best way to maintain an early morning routine is to eat within 1 hour of waking. I went from a night owl to a person that wakes up every morning at 5am to run 5k and work out. Now on the weekends I can't sleep in past 7am.

I would add natural supplements (which every person will react different too):

Melatonin (fails after a few months for myself, 1-3MG)

The trifecta: GABBA ZMA Holy Basil Extract

Really helps with ASSISTANCE to sleep, these are not medications such as Ambien, Lunesta, etc.

I post these as Assistance to sleep. The goal of supplementation is to get on a good natural sleep cycle.

Another point, do not sleep in so heavily on the weekends if your work / life schedule demands an early wakeup on the weekdays.

Eventually, your body becomes a "natural" alarm clock where you cannot sleep in past 7am, 9am.

Don't fight it, be productive :)

Edit: Snoozing has been the devil for me waking fully in the morning (meaning, get UP when you actually wake from sleep).

All great points, I would add one more: forget the alarm clock. If you can afford a variation of 30 mins - 1hour in wake up time, get up when you wake up naturally. Access to natural sunlight in the morning is best. It's amazing how precisely wake-up times synchronize automatically, but I find the alarm clock really really harmful. See this for a strong opinion: http://www.supermemo.com/articles/sleep.htm

There are plenty of alarm clocks available that either fade in ocean noises (or similar), or will play an MP3 that you upload (and you can choose something like that -- slowly fading in white noise).

I actually generally agree with the advice -- my wife and I only use the alarm clock when we have some kind of morning appointment or travel -- but in that case the one we have works well -- it gradually increases the lights and fades in the "alarm" (mostly white noise), and it's gentle enough that when only one of us needs to get up, it's pretty rare that it wakes both of us, just the one who's "primed" to wake up unusually early. And it never wakes the baby (who sleeps in the bed with us).

So yeah, any kind of "jolt" alarm clock is a really bad way to start the day, but they're still useful devices (and waking to an alarm doesn't need to be so painful).

If you don't have that luxury, Sleep Cycle is a pretty good iPhone app for waking up. It attempts to learn your sleep phases via the accelerometer and wakes you up during the closest light sleep period to your alarm time.

I'm not convinced about 1. entirely, but for the rest - I agree. Especially the Cool Room part.

Another thing that has always helped is going to bed 8 or so hours before wake up time, consistently. Even, yes, weekends.

It's a bit boring and 'old people' in my mind, but the ideal schedule IMO is 10:30-6:30, every single night of the week. Really killed late-night hackfests though. :-/

>Use tools like f.lux to drop monitor brightness after sundown.

And fwiw, Redshift is another alternative, in case you have trouble with f.lux. I couldn't get f.lux to actually flux on my Ubuntu 10.04 workstation or UNR netbook, but Redshift works fine on both.

When I've had to adjust my schedule quickly, it has helped to take melatonin in the evening about 30 minutes before I wanted to be asleep and co-q-10 in the morning to help me wake up. If I can arrange to do this for 3 days beforehand, it does wonders.

I used to have really serious insomnia and I took co-q-10 in the morning for several years to help adjust my brain chemistry in terms of the sleeping and waking cycle. At one time, I didn't tolerate melatonin very well. If I took it, I felt half asleep for up to three days. Co-q-10 is the co-enzyme for melatonin. Taking melatonin does not cause the body to produce more co-q-10 (which is made in the body in a complex multi-step process and is often deficient because of a bottleneck at one or more step). But taking co-q-10 does cause the body to produce a melatonin spike something like 12 hours later. So if you need to adjust your brain chemistry in terms of the waking and sleeping cycle, co-q-10 addresses both halves of the equation whereas melatonin only addresses one half of it. I routinely recommend it as a means to address such issues.

I actually found that for me it seemed like that spike came more like 14 hours later rather than 12 but my body doesn't work right to begin with. I no longer supplement with co-q-10 but took quite high doses of it at one time and took it consistently for several years. I have heard that a magnesium deficiency is one of the things that will cause a co-q-10 deficiency. So I think treating for underlying deficiencies can eventually help the body produce its own supply and stop needing the supplements. I've worked really hard on underlying health and I no longer need this as a supplement and sleep a lot better than I used to.

-- Michele, BioHacker (thanks to pumpmylemma for that term :-) )

I wonder, OP, if you've considered the idea that your not being a morning person ins't a bad thing? You see, I've been a nite owl since I was 8 years old. Unless I'm sick, drunk, or have been up more than 24 hours, I am never tired before 4 or 5 am. I've had job after job in my time that required me to be at the office early, and I needed to wake up at the last possible second or else, I'd go back to sleep. Finally, I realized that just like there are some people who are left-handed, people's sleep schedules can and do vary. So what I would do were I in your situation is instead of seeking to "cure" the fact you aren't a morning person, accept it and look for people like us, and jobs that don't require you to be at work before noon. They're out there, I guarantee you. Good luck, and welcome to the club.

Agreed. I'm one of them too. Yes, I can change it for a while if needed ... but I'm at my best when I embrace it.

Sounds like you're exactly like me -- if so, then probably nothing will work. You're options are: 1) Be out of sync with everyone else, or 2) Feel half dead throughout the day.

I stumbled across an illuminating graph on the trends page of my Google Web History: http://imgur.com/Or18c

I've got that 3 am to noon gap, just like the OP describes. I used to think I was on a 25+ hour cycle, but now I'm thinking I just generally like to go to sleep late. If something grabs my attention and I end up staying awake a few hours later than usual, the sun comes up and that makes it harder to go to sleep... thus leading to what seems like a > 24 hour sleep/wake cycle.

Exposure to sunlight seems to help somewhat.

Maybe consulting a professional would be a good idea. Prescription drugs. I never cared enough to go that far.

I have the same problem. I can stay up until 8am no problem working on something moderately interesting, but I can't go to bed early and wake up at 8am if my life depends on it. I think this is a genetic thing so it's not a simple change, like all the early risers like to claim. All my life people said "when you are older, you will start waking up earlier"--they said this about college when I was in high school, about work when i was in college, etc. Well I'm nearly 30 and it hasn't happened yet. If anything, I want to sleep in even later than when I was younger.

I'm lucky to work at a company that isn't retarded--I can show up at noon and as long as I get my shit done, they don't care and I don't feel like a slacker. However, waking up at 10 is still hard, and I drink about 2 cups of coffee a day to cope. My last job I had to be there at 8am sharp--I worked there 2 years and wasn't much more than a zombie with computer skills. Not worth it if you ask me, which sort of, you (by you I mean OP) did.

If you are in good health, try fasting for a a week or so. I know, it sounds crazy, and everyone tells you that you must eat 3 meals a day, or else you'll die of malnutrition.

Turns out that you can go about 40 days without food and sustain no irreversible damage (although only 1-2 days without water). The first two days are often hard, but that's because you're experiencing carb withdrawal symptoms (yes, you ARE addicted to carbs). Afterwards, you just don't think of food at all until at some point (in my experience, 7 to 30 days later), all of a sudden you can think of nothing but food - THIS IS HUNGER. what most people call hunger is appetite or carb additiction.

And each and every time I did this (would be around 10 now), it fixed my sleep schedule for a few months afterwards.

NOTE: This is not medical or nurtitional advice. Please research this yourself and consider getting advice for a medical professional.

I just received my Wakemate a few days ago. My sleep has been improving ever since.

I'm slowly starting to feel less groggy every morning therefor enjoying more my days. This, inevitably makes me be more productive during the day which in turn makes me spend more energy feeling more tired earlier, thus going to be at more reasonable hours. A good vicious cicle if you will.

Also, I started swimming for about 45 minutes around two to three hours before bed time. Guaranteed Knockout.

When I still used to live with my parents we had a pool as well. Even if I went swimming an hour or two before bed I would just become more refreshed and more awake and still not go to sleep. For some reason swimming triggered my brain to wake up and start working on more new problems.

So this advice may not work for everyone.

Try jumping in the pool and swimming first thing. :) I love waking up like that.

Steve Pavlina wrote a good article a while ago: http://www.stevepavlina.com/blog/2005/05/how-to-become-an-ea... Don't miss the links to more sleep experiments at the bottom.

I've had to get up at absurd hours (0200 flights, 0400 boat trips an hour away, ops windows, etc.).

I've discovered a few tricks:

1) Never rely on the alarm clock if I'm going to bed less than an hour or two before wake-up time (it's easy to sleep through). I'm probably going to make a much more substantial alarm clock and "here's what happened while you were asleep" briefing system using a TV, computer controlled room lights, etc. Other good alarm clocks: a cat which is trained to expect food whenever you wake up, or a girlfriend (or boyfriend, whatever is desired) who is a morning person.

2) Make sure the "wake up, become functional" process is inherently streamlined; get clothes, bags, etc. all ready the night before.

3) Remove any willpower from the "wake up, begin getting ready" process; once you make it a decision, vs. automatic, it becomes easy to just hit snooze over and over, and makes the actual waking up process itself more stressful. I usually feel great 1-2 minutes after I wake up, and almost always feel great once I'm fully awake, in the shower, etc., but the first 5-10 seconds is not as good -- and that can drag out to hours if you stay in bed trying to decide if you should wake up or sleep longer.

I've noticed a lot of discussion about the topic of sleep during the past months.

Am I the only one who believes we should maybe consider changing a few things in the way the whole thing works?

- A lot of people are clearly way more productive durring the night. I've seen this applying to coders and to people that need to write essays but I guess there are more categories that fit into this.

- We don't all need the same amount of sleep. My almost-60 years old father can work intensively for around 12 hours (he is a taxi driver in a place that's like hell during the summer months), then work a bit more relaxed for 5-6 more hours and only needs a few hours of sleep every night (usually 3 to 5). Now, compare this to me: I just can't function properly if I don't get at least 6 hours of sleep (and that's a rather positive number, I usually need around 10 to bet completely okay).

- And then, summer people have no standard needs and can live with one hour of sleep now, then a few hours of work, then some more sleep, and so on.

I am not able to suggest a particular new system of daily life but I think we should discuss the topic. Maybe less days with each day being bigger and two "cycles" of productivity at each?

In my experience being a morning person is mutually exclusive to integrating with (most of) the rest of society.

I was born a morning person, but high school and college forced me to abandon that lifestyle. Eventually my body caught up to me (10 years later) and I had to go back to being a morning person again. It was a simple thing to fall back into... I just started going to sleep around 9 or 10 in the evening. The nice thing is I now wake up without an alarm after 8 hours. Getting some early morning exercise and a decent breakfast help, too. Cutting back on caffeine as well - I dropped coffee for a few blends of tea, mostly green.

(The one thing that doesn't help is being up at 12:30 AM on a Saturday morning waiting for the cross-compile of a linux kernel for my used-to-be-Nook to finish. This is almost as slow as bootstrapping Gentoo from stage1.)

I'm 42 and have never successfully conquered my sleep issues. I am still a late night person and will stay up all night every now and then just to get back to a "normal" cycle (which never lasts).

Traveling abroad highlights my problem. In China I will be up at 5:00am (and enjoying it and wanting to make it last) the first few days, then my schedule will start to drift later and later until I am all screwed up again. As a dad I simply have to get up early sometimes and these fall asleep at 2:00, 3:00 or 4:00am get up at 6:30am days just wreak havoc on me and, sadly, I do not "adjust".

What's more, I had a job where for several years I had to get up every single morning at 5:15am. I was told "You'll adjust when you are forced to do it long enough". Nope. I never did. I'm becoming convinced some people just can't. It sucks, by the way.

I was just like OP for a long time. If I couldn't sleep until 10 or 11AM I was just desperately groggy until mid-afternoon. It just didn't matter how early I went to bed. At the same time I could happily function on seven hours or so of sleep, as long as those seven hours were between 3-10AM. Trying to work a day job with regular office hours was hellish.

What finally saved me was a combination of herbal sleep aids and caffeine pills. Every evening I put a caffeine pill on my nightstand and popped it the second the alarm clock went off. Mid-way through my shower, I would actually start to wake up. (For some reason, just drinking coffee in the morning never helped much). I can't tell you how good it felt actually to be awake in the morning, I can't imagine heroin feels any better.

My body still wanted to stay up past midnight many nights... I found that taking kava or valerian before bed would allow me to get enough restful sleep before the alarm went off.

This regimen changed my life and made it possible to be a much more productive and creative person. After about five years, my internal clock finally adjusted somewhat, and I was able to do away with the pills and function normally in the mornings without them. I still keep some around for backup, but I find I can now make reasonable choices of sleep and wake time without recourse to drugs.

I don't know if it's wise to recommend such a plan to another, but if I could go back 20 years and tell myself one sentence, "valerian" and "caffeine pills" would be in it.

Figure out how much sleep you need per day, and try to set up a rigid schedule where you wake up when you want to and go to bed the required hours before the time.

Hacks for getting to sleep at a specific time:

- Take an hour long walk, go to the gym or go running during the day to get more tired.

- Try to get exposed to direct sunlight during the day, this is supposed to do something in your brain that helps it maintain the circadian cycle.

- Use F.Lux to keep your monitor from blasting your brain with sunlight analogue wavelengths in the evening.

- Try a cold shower or a cold bath about an hour before bedtime. Several people have reported that this helps them sleep.

- Have a schedule for doing specific non-open-ended stuff that doesn't get you anxious or worked out for half-an-hour to an hour before bedtime. The repeating ritual will prime your brain for sleep.

- Don't read in bed. Make your brain associate being in bed only with sleeping.

- Try meditation. Either do sitting meditation right before bed, or do mindfulness meditation while lying in bed.

- Maintain a very small sleep deprivation, like sleeping half an hour less than you would without any alarms, to fall asleep quickly.

- Fast during the day and eat a carbohydrate heavy meal right before bed. Post-dinner coma will knock you out.

Hacks for waking up:

- Set an alarm 60 or 90 minutes before the time you really wake up, eat a 100 mg caffeine pill and go back to sleep. The caffeine will kick in while you're asleep and you'll wake up when it's fully effective.

- Get a sunrise lamp or rig one up yourself with a power timer. The light will prime your brain for getting up when it's time to wake up.

- If you have a smartphone with an accelerometer, see if there's a smart alarm clock app that will detect when you're sleeping lightly and wake you up then. There's ElectricSleep for Android and EasyWakeup for iPhone.

- Committing to attending something early in the morning like 8 AM will make you anxious to wake up and get up in time. Anxiety isn't very fun though.

- Use mind judo to get up from bed without willpower: http://lesswrong.com/lw/fh/willpower_hax_487_execute_by_defa...

- If you've gotten yourself out of the bed at the time you want, but feel like going right back in, try a shower, a walk, or a run to make your body wake up a bit more.

It's much harder to spend two consecutive nights sleeping much less than usual to adjust to an early wakeup time than a single night.

Hacks for waking up: - Set an alarm 60 or 90 minutes before the time you really wake up, eat a 100 mg caffeine pill and go back to sleep. The caffeine will kick in while you're asleep and you'll wake up when it's fully effective.

Very interesting, will give it a whirl. Hydroxycut could be an alternative. It tends to give me less "jitters" when drinking 4-6 cups of coffee, and more of a longer-term boost with just a single cup.

I COMPLETELY agree that waking up WITHOUT a stimulant is highly effective (natural waking). I tend to drink coffee in the morning out of either habit, or, the love of coffee's flavor.

Have a wind down period in the evening. Monitors and TV screens seem to activate my brain and I have trouble falling asleep if I use them late into the evening. Shut off every monitor at least 10 hours before you want to wake up. Relax in a warm bath for 30 minutes and then perhaps read or write down your thoughts in a journal.

That said, not everyone is a morning person. If you feel better being a nightowl, just try to adjust your life to it as much as possible.

I try to give myself adventures and goals for the morning to at least make it interesting. Some I've tried:

- Figuring out the most efficient way to make an omelet and coffee, in the least amount of time. Since you only get one shot at breakfast, you will have to try again the next day, and eventually build up your craft.

- Outdoor bike rides for both exercise and exploration. I luckily live in Berkeley, so there are plenty of bike-friendly paths and streets, but having the wind in your face, getting exercise, and exploring new areas of your city helps wake my mind up.

- However, the best for me when I was in a corporate job was to set my alarm for 5, have my gym bag and work clothes packed the night before, take the subway to the gym and shower there. I'd eat breakfast when I get to work. Breakfast for a while was granola (carbs), Siggi's yogurt (nice protein boost) and Yerba mate.

It's a shameless plug, but since I'm proud to be a morning person, I'm writing a series of posts called "Morning People Unite" that might help you and others get motivated:



Right now I'm "semi retired" so my alarm clock is my 22 month year old son shouting at us through the baby monitor.

When I was working, my trick was this:

I made a stack of stuff on top of my alarm clock (my iPhone) by my bed in the morning, and kept it far enough away from me that I couldn't just slap it. On top of it, I put my work out clothing and my running shoes.

I also make sure that the alarm clock is loud enough to scare me awake as the adrenaline dump into the system makes it impossible to fall asleep. My wife wears earplugs.

First thing I do is run, usually a 5k or 10k run in the morning depending. It helps clear the head, and I'm awake for the day.

Right now I run at night, which makes me wired, but I find showering and benadryl takes care of that. And also the 22 month old that I'm now home with every day.

As soon as you wake up, turn on a lot of bright light, open the drapes to let the Sun in, and so on. Exposure to light is one of the major factors that is used to reset your circadian rhythms to keep them synchronized with the external world.

2 things made a difference for me, Routine & Age.

If you get a 9-5 job after a while your body learns. I used to wake up at 3pm regularly (and hate myself) but after a couple of years doing the 9-5 I can't sleep in past 9:30 anymore.

I'm only mid twenties now but I swear getting out of bed is easier now than as a teenager.

Unfortunately I am slipping back, I am doing a masters but have no more classes, every night I work a bit later because I know I don't have to be up early, so I wake up a little later, repeat. Its a spiral which I need to break.

Upon waking in winter: "does my clock say 5:30 or later"? -> GTFO of bed. In spring/summer/fall: "is the sky no longer pitch black?" -> GTFO of bed.

I will cheat if I went to bed > 12:00.

Why rise at insane times? Because there are far too many awesome things I want to do that day, and as soon as I wake up they pop into my head. Between 6 and 9 I do whatever I want, so I use it to read about interesting tech stuff, perhaps do a little planning, check Facebook without being stalked, etc.

> Because there are far too many awesome things I want to do that day, and as soon as I wake up they pop into my head.

Sounds like a description of what it's like to be a morning person, rather than how to become one. I do not wake up full of excitement and ideas for the day. I wake up pissed. But by the end of the day I'm full of inspiration and generally get a lot done in the evenings. I don't know if this is something you can change about yourself, at least not easily.

Fair enough, to elaborate: I became a morning person by jumping out of bed as soon as I was awake. Keep it up long enough, and you might notice (as was the case with me) that the morning becomes a fruitful and enjoyable start of the day. The advantage of having good mornings is that it affects your entire day.

Looking out of your window onto sunny empty streets, with a whole day of hacking (and lazy breaks outdoors) ahead of you, is fantastic.

Find a reason to. This morning I got out of bed early for the F1 race, even though I was recording it (I watched the whole thing with about a ten second delay plus my own replays a few times).

One thing that is going to work very often is the need for the toilet. Drink a lot before bed, you will wake up well and roughly at the right time. I've only ever once woken up too early for the toilet, and without turning the bathroom light on, went back to sleep easily.

I have been fighting the same issue myself and finally just asked myself, why do I care about being a morning person? The honest answer was that I thought I should be one.

Since that revelation I have stopped fighting it and just accepted that I am not. I don't sleep more than about 7 hours a day so there is no major problem with this approach.

Try just accepting that you don't really want to be a morning person and see if that works for you.

Don't eat anything 4-5 hours before sleep, no computer / mobile few hourse before, eat light food, less meat, sugar, fat, milk... Drink loads of water, 1.5-2L (but not before going to sleep, kidneys have to rest) and you need loads of exercises. I would also suggest to get one of these recordings to help you calm down http://www.oceen.com/store/

I just don't fight it and live on a 25 hours cycle :)

Indeed. You could simply accept what the preferences of your body are, and make your life fit to that, instead of the other way around.

Take a 5 mg of melatonine at 21:30 and after thirty minutes turn off the lights and the computer, lay down in bed and close your eyes.

After few days of such treatment you'll be more morning person than you've ever been.

Don't try to stop taking melatonine unless you are very strong willed (which you are probably not).

You may want to reduce the dose to 1 mg and 3 mg if you notice it's enough.

Melatonin's nice, but I can't sleep any more than 8 hours on it (I need around 9.5), and if you sleep less than 8 hours it makes the individual groggy.

I also sleep shorter after melatonine, but I feel more awaken then after more sleep without melatonine. Of course that's only after week or two of taking melatonine. First few days when your body clock adjusts might be rough.

Having a wife that you need to drive to work every morning.

I get up at 7 a.m. ; sometimes even at 6:30 a.m. Even if I have periods of time in which I go to sleep at 2 a.m. I still have to get up at 7 a.m.

The golden rule in such a case -- don't sleep during the day; ever. If you worked late last night, and feeling tired, wait at least for 10 p.m. to go to sleep.

I run in the morning on the treadmill to wake up. And take a nap in the afternoon - I find it makes me more productive like starting a second shift.

I heard about this one guy who mastered never sleeping by taking a number of power naps per day - and that it makes for more productivity working around the clock...

For me, it is just a matter of getting to be early enough to be a morning person. I tend to wake up when I've been sleeping for about 7 hours. It also helps if you actually get out of bed when you first wake up. I feel groggy if I go back to bed.

Hope that helps.

I've started dropping my partner in to her work in the mornings. It's a nice time to chat and it means I'm up and ready for the day. I do 'real' work in the morning, house renovation in the afternoon and then more real work after tea.

People say drink something before you go to bed so next morning the urge to pee will motivate you straight out of bed. I hate having to pee really bad when I wake up. But don't shit right before bed for a similar impetus. YMMV.

Best advice you can get in this post: read "The Promise of Sleep" by William C. Dement. It will change you understanding of how sleep works and, hopefully, will also change your life.

1. Find wife

2. Have child

Yep. :)

Nothing turns you into a morning person faster than the first time you get 6 straight hours of sleep after 6 months of 3am feedings.

This is exactly what I was going to say.

you might want to check out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phase_response_curve . a light therapy is mentioned which may help in correcting the sleeping hours.

having a small child did it for me. Now that they're old enough to know how to lie in I find that I'm getting up before them. On the other hand, I'm no longer in a position to pull an all-nighter.

How do you get your username displayed in green like that?

As a guess: Create a new account.

(See: http://news.ycombinator.com/noobstories)

do exercise before bed time, lift weight, eat a bit more and just before bed time have a cup of hot milk with banana or just hot milk....

get a daughter who's required to be at gymnastics practice at 6am :(

See, that's just sadistic. Growing kids need more sleep than anyone, and school system schedules and extra-curricular activities end up forcing them into schedules that are painful even for adults.

When I was a teenager, the schoolbus came at six f#@%ing fifteen in the morning (because they needed to use the same buses for waves of middle school then elementary school kids), to a stop about a half-mile from my house. Waking up was always a horrible experience. Though I did end up doing pretty well on the track team, with the extra half-mile sprint every morning....

I think I read about a guy on Reddit who conditioned himself to become an early riser. In the past, he would repeatedly hit 'snooze' and sleep in. His method was to practice waking up. He did this in the evening by matching conditions to his intended morning wake time (i.e. wear pajamas, turn off the lights), set his alarm for a few minutes in the future, lay down, and wait. When the alarm went off, he would stretch, stand up, stretch again, and begin his typical morning routine.

After enough practice runs, the poster claimed that in the morning he would automatically rise when his alarm went off and begin his morning routine. He claimed that he didn't really fully wake up until later.

A similar response to Pavlov's dogs.

Good point. That, with some Googling, landed me at the original source:


For me, I can become a morning person AND cure my insomnia if I stick to these rules:

1) Set an alarm clock for 5am, and wake up.

2) No caffeine after 12pm

3) Daily exercise

4) No computer use after 5pm.

5) Go to sleep as soon as I'm tired.

* * *

I wish I were one of the elite who didn't need to adhere to these rules religiously to become a morning person, but I know that I need ALL of them. No exceptions allowed.

I think that another one of the reasons that it cures my insomnia is that by getting up early and setting an intention for my day, I get into my purposeful mode and my thoughts become organized accordingly. Good karma. Neuroscience in the Tao te Ching?

Another important component to me being able to stick to these rules is that I have a significantly personally compelling reason to be awake, something to do with my time, but more importantly something to fill all the extra hours. i.e. I need to have a reasonably accurate prediction of how I will spend the next day's time by the night before.

Have a kid. Nuff said.

Another option is join the Marine Corps.

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