Here’s Why You’re Not a Morning Person — and what to do about it
Here are four reasons why your mornings suck and four ways to deal with it.
You’re awakened by the sudden, blaring sound of your alarm. You try to ignore it, but the intense ringing is too much. You reach out into the darkness, desperate to turn it off, doing your best to avoid its blinding blue light.
Eight alarms later, the dread of waking up finally sets in. You can no longer delay this (but sometimes you do anyway) and you reluctantly roll yourself out of bed.
You make it to work, barely. Your chirpy co-workers greet you with the same, lame, overused joke in reference to your Walking Dead-like appearance — ‘Whoa, someone had a late night!’
All you’re able to do is muster up a painful groan (but wishing you had the energy to flip them off). Straight to the coffee machine you go and three cups of espresso later, the feeling of getting hit by a car starts to fade away.
In a society that praises early risers, it’s normal to feel pressure to conform to the schedules of our ‘morning people’ counterparts. You may see it as a way to fast-track your career at work, a way to do more with your day, or simply believe it leads to major health benefits.
But it can also be quite devastating when you commit to changing your lifestyle, only to fail and revert to your old ways.
Well, I’d like to share a few points on why you may be experiencing such a challenge and also offer a few ways you can start seizing your mornings.
Science has confirmed that our genetics play a huge part in whether we’re morning larks, night owls, or somewhere in between — our chronotype.
One study even suggests that genetics may contribute to almost half our preference to prefer the morning or night.
I have so many friends who brag about how they’re able to run 5 miles, eat a hearty meal and read an entire book before I’ve even opened your eyes. Great for them on their genetic predisposition. I’m just not wired that way, and it’s no one’s fault.
We can’t change our genetics (not easily, anyway). But by recognizing where you fall on this spectrum, you’ll be able to make the proper adjustments to shift towards a more morning-centric lifestyle if that’s what you desire.
2. Poor Planning
People who struggle in the morning tend to spend a lot of effort summoning up the energy to go about their day.
When you’re already finding it difficult to keep your eyes open, what chance do you have in completing your tasks?
This is when having a plan helps. You already have a terrible time in the morning trying to stay awake, why pile on to that by spending precious energy thinking about what you’re meant to be doing that day?
For me, I like to plan my day the night before — which I do by making a list through a task management app or in my notebook.
This accomplishes two things for me. First, it helps reduce the stress of uncertainty when I can see what my next day is going to look like. Second, in the morning, when I’m a walking zombie, there’s no guesswork for me. I look at my list and start going about my day.
3. Bad Routines
A routine is a defined procedure of actions you complete on a consistent basis. Most people tend to operate under a set of routines.
From brushing our teeth to working out, there is likely some part of your life where you do the same thing over and over again.
Routines are neither good nor bad. But the types of behaviour you enforce through your routines can either have positive or negative impacts on your life, including how you function in the mornings.
I have a friend who is notoriously anti-morning. So much to the point where he would be constantly late for work and absent-minded when he did show up. When I talked to him about how he would spend his nights, he said that he’d guzzle down anywhere between 3–6 beers to help him ‘relax’ before bed. Alcohol is long-established to be detrimental to one’s sleep quality so it was no wonder he struggled in the mornings.
His routines were causing him to have lousy mornings. So correcting this was the first place to start.
Everything from our appetite, energy levels, and focus can trace back to the types of routines we’ve created for ourselves. How successful your mornings go is no different. Consistent patterns of poor behaviour (especially in the evening prior) lead to crummy mornings.
A routine can dictate whether you have a good morning or a bad one.
Creating a routine that emphasizes good behaviours such as getting ample sleep, lowering stress, and good nutrition can ensure that you’ll have the best mornings possible.
Common bad habits to stay away from in your routines:
- Consuming caffeine too late in the day
- Consuming too much alcohol
- Looking at device screens before bed
4. Lack of Motivation
You ever feel that jolt of energy when you’re excited to do something? That feeling where you can’t wait to get started and always wishing there was more time to do it.
Then there’s the opposite feeling where you’re dreading what lies ahead for you and find every reason to drag your feet and not get going.
The path laid out for you when you wake up can influence your morning experience. And if you’re part of that second group I mentioned, chances are:
- You’ve lost the passion/interest you once had for something
- You have a problem you’re putting off
- You’ve been putting up with doing something you hate
- You’re bored or in a rut
- You’re burnt out
- All the above
Any one of these reasons could make for difficult days, and mornings especially challenging. It’s true that life, with its endless peaks and valley, is never going to be perfect. But when your day’s activities align with your life goals and values, getting up in the morning isn’t so difficult.
I’m not saying that every morning will be amazing as long as you have goals and aspirations for yourself. Life will always have its ups and downs. But when you have a general feeling of purpose and a goal that drives you, the desire for success simply outweighs the chore of getting out of bed.
What can you do?
So now that we’ve gone through some reasons why your mornings suck, let’s see how we can make them better
1. Supplement with Melatonin
Getting the most out of the morning starts with getting a good night’s rest. No one’s crushing any mornings while sleep deprived. But as discussed in the section about genetics, trying to fight your natural preference is easier said than done.
In situations like this, you’ll need to slowly get your body accustomed to sleeping earlier.
Melatonin is a hormone that is naturally created in our bodies that tells us when it’s time to sleep and when it’s time to wake up. Many studies have lauded supplementing melatonin as an effective way to synchronize your circadian rhythm (your internal body clock) to your desired time. This has proven to be especially helpful for those suffering from jet lag.
So my advice is to start small. Always aim for an adequate amount of sleep, which is usually somewhere between 7–8 hours for most adults. Set the wake-up time you want and work backwards to arrive at the time you would need to go to bed to get enough sleep. Then move your bedtime 30 minutes earlier every week until you reach it. If you find yourself wide awake at these earlier times, take a melatonin supplement 2 hours before your target bedtime to speed up the process.
Keep your doses small in the beginning — experts recommend taking between 1–3 mg to start. And as always, please seek the advice of your medical professionals before taking any new medications.
2. Get Some Sun
Our bodies produce melatonin which tells our body it’s time to sleep. Well, sunlight and by extension, blue light, makes our bodies stop producing melatonin — signalling to our bodies that it’s time to wake up.
So if you’ve managed to complete the hardest part of the day by turning off your alarm clock and getting out of bed, the next thing you should do to get yourself pumping with energy is to get some sunlight.
There are a few alarm clocks on the market that mimic sunrise — which many people have found helpful. Depending on where you live, it may also be just as effective to leave the window in your room open so that natural light pierces into your room in the early morning.
3. Establish Positive Routines
Changes in lifestyle to become more morning focused relies on are consistency over time. In order to achieve the type of consistency that can promote real changes in our lives, we’ll need to rely on routines that incorporate positive behaviours.
The battle of the morning is won during the night prior so make sure you follow a good night time routine that ensures you’ll be well-rested.
Here’s a snippet of my nighttime routine that I’ve found helpful:
- Start winding down about 2 hours before the time you intend to sleep — turn off any TV or device screens
- Take a melatonin supplement if I’m still feeling pretty awake
- Plan out my next day’s tasks in my notebook or on a task management app
- Take a warm shower followed by my bathroom routine of flossing, brushing teeth, etc.
- Do some reading on my Kindle for 30–40 minutes
- Lights out
4. Stress Management
People who live stressful lives also tend to sleep poorly and are a higher risk of mental and physical health problems. Needless to say, the amount of stress in our lives can have a significant impact on how our mornings go. If your constant stress is making it hard to sleep, it’s time you do something about it.
Here are some effective things you can do to help reduce some of the stress in your life:
Exercise is one of the most studied and battle-tested ways to lower your stress. From low impact aerobic exercise like walking to higher intensity Crossfit workouts, it doesn’t really matter what you do. As long as you’re making a conscious effort to be active you’ll be able to feel the many positive effects on stress, tension, and anxiety.
If you ever feel like there are way too many thoughts racing through your mind and aren’t quite sure what to do about them, meditation may be for you. This act of centring your mind and body has been practised for thousands of years, spanning cultures around the world.
As a stress-reduction technique, it helps by concentrating your attention away from the chaos and stimulus of the outside world. Once you’re able to step back, you can focus on relaxation and tranquillity. Regular practice of meditation has been shown to help alleviate tension, reduce stress, improve self-awareness, and remove negative emotions.
Try something new
One of the most stressful things you can experience is the constant feeling that you are not achieving to the best of your capabilities.
Whether you’re stuck in a dead-end job or comparing yourself to your more ‘successful’ friends, feeling like your life is suboptimal can be very detrimental to your life and health.
So whether you’re in a rut or looking to overhaul your life, one of the first places to start is by pursuing something new. And if work sucks, I always suggest doing something outside of your professional life.
Pursuing your passions is another way to put it, but most of the time you won’t know what that is yet. So my advice is to go out there and do something, anything. You never know when inspiration may hit.
When I started learning how to golf, I loved it so much that it was the only thing I wanted to do. All my focus and energy went into improving my skills as much as I could. Every morning I would wake up early to go to the driving range before work, practising techniques I learned on YouTube the night before. Waking up at 6 am was never a problem so easy because I was so excited to practice, to get better.
Find something that gives you that kind of purpose.
Some Parting Words
I’ll close by emphasizing a few points I’d like everyone to take away from this article.
There is no need to feel ashamed if you’re not an early riser.
If you wake up at your preferred time and lead a happy, healthy, and productive life, don’t feel pressure to change.
And for those who aspire to conquer the mornings but find it difficult, remember that there are many things in your control. It’s a long and painful journey but with a bit of persistence, you can get there and taste the sweet rewards of your labour.