If you're a night owl whose evening activities are starting to interfere with your 9-to-5 job, here's what you need to do to become a morning person.
Most people follow a sleep schedule that involves going to bed some where around 10 or 11pm and getting up eight hours later. These sleep preferences are at least partially baked into our genetics (sleep preferences are almost 50 percent genetic) and driven by biological clocks called circadian rhythms. So if you are trying to switch up your sleeping habits and become more of a morning person when you're really a night owl, you'll be waging a tough battle against your own genes, says Dr. Ilene Rosen - a professor of clinical medicine at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.
The most effective way to change your natural sleep patterns is by doing chronotherapy, according to Dr. Rosen. Chronotherapy involves going to sleep two hours later each successive night while using an alarm to get up eight hours after going to bed. Through this method, a person who normally goes to sleep at 2 AM will be going to sleep at 10pm after about ten days. However, using this method also means that you've got some pretty weird sleep/wake up times to deal with in the interim (like hitting the sack at 10 AM and rising at 6 PM), so you'd probably have to take a couple weeks off work to attempt this approach.
Another, gentler means of adjusting you sleep schedule is bright-light therapy. A person undergoing bright-light therapy goes to bed a half hour earlier than they normally would and wakes up eight hours after that using an alarm. They would then expose themselves to bright light immediately after waking for anywhere between 15 and 30 minutes, which serves as a natural stimulant, boosting alertness and wakefullness. Rosen suggests you take 0.5 milligrams of melatonin two to three hours before your planned bedtime to help you fall asleep.
However, this method can take quite a long time to get a person to their desired sleep/wake times, as it's not recommended that you move up your sleeping time more than twice a week. You'll also want to do your best to make sure that you don't get exposed to any light while you're sleeping either, as this can seriously mess up your progress.
"It's not as simple as going to bed three hours earlier and setting an alarm for the time you want to get up and exposing yourself to bright light," Dr. Rosen told The Wall Street Journal.
And staying on you're new schedule isn't easy either, Rosen warns, as your genetic clocks are very powerful.
"We use cues like light and alarms to override our internal clocks, but the one day you don't get the cue, or the one night a child is sick, you have lost everything you did to get you to wake up early," Dr. Rosen says. "You go right back to how you're programmed."
The best thing you can do, says Rosen, is find a job that works with your natural sleep patterns and build your lifestyle around that. This isn't always possible though. So if you do need to force yourself to become a morning person, you're going to have to make sure you stick with it.