June 20, 2021

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15 Morning Routine Tips For Night Owls, Straight From Experts

9 min read

If you thrive in the darkness, chances are you’re not going to become a morning person overnight. In fact, science proves that some people naturally feel more productive in the evening. That doesn’t have to mean you can’t improve your a.m. habits. To help, experts are sharing their morning routine for night owl tips that’ll make waking up less of a drag.

“People who have energy at night can have a hard time finding that same energy in the morning,” says Nawal Alomari, LPC, a licensed counselor and life coach. “When you wake up in a rush or with stress because of a late night, the whole day feels like you’re trying to catch up.” That’s where having a morning routine comes in to help: According to Alomari, the first part of your a.m. can really set the tone of your day. “Taking time for yourself can make you feel more relaxed and proactive,” she says.

Sure, going for daily sunrise runs, making pancakes, and doing a meditation all before 8 a.m. may be a pipe dream for night people, but fear not: here are 15 morning routines for night owls that’ll help you slay the first part of your day without the need for a super-early wake time.

1. Be Consistent

Despite your best attempts, night owls often can’t help but stay up late. And that’s OK, says wellness coach Erin Clifford, JD, as long as you have a consistent sleep schedule (and yes, that includes weekends). “Whether you’re a night owl that sleeps in or has to wake up early, keep those times consistent,” she tells Bustle. “When we regularly go to sleep and get up at the same time, then our bodies get used to that routine.”

Besides helping you rise and shine, research shows that regular sleep helps you think clearly, focus, feel good, and even reduces your risk for heart disease, mood disorders, and other illness, which means there are plenty of reasons to have a nightly bedtime.

2. Resist The Urge To Snooze

It’s time to acknowledge that the snooze button is your frenemy, and that it’s time to end this toxic relationship. “You want to get up when the first alarm goes off because the sleep you get after that is not good sleep,” says Debra Swan, a certified health coach and personal trainer. Those extra 10 minutes of ZZZs actually hurt more than they help: One study found that disrupting your sleep, which can happen when you blow through five morning alarms, ramps up stress, messes with your ability to think clearly, and can even put you at higher risk for disease (such as cardiovascular disease).

Her tip for kicking the habit? “Put the alarm out of arm’s reach so you have to get out of bed to turn it off,” says Swan. “If it’s hard, try doing it in increments by hitting snooze six times one day, then only five times the next.”

3. Create Your Ideal Morning Routine, Then Make It Mini

Ambitious morning plans may sound like a good idea the night before, but when the time comes to wake up, it’s easier said than done. That’s why Alomari suggests mapping out your dream morning routine, then shrinking it down to just 10 or 20 minutes. “In my ideal world, I’d wake up at 6 a.m., drink some water, make my bed, work out, have some breakfast, and start my job,” she says. “Instead, minimize that routine to the best or most important parts. If you enjoyed the 10 minutes you set aside for a mini routine, that positive reinforcement will make you want to keep doing it.”

The idea is that over time, you’ll be motivated to expand it. Consider it a highlight reel of the morning routine you could one day do on the daily.

4. Soak Up The Sun

Catching some rays first thing in the a.m. can help a night owl adjust to daytime, according to Swan. “Get bright, natural light first thing in the morning,” she says. “Open your curtains and get a face full of sunlight if possible, because this will synchronize your circadian rhythm and tell your brain that it’s time to be awake.” As an added bonus, vitamin D from sun exposure can also help promote immunity, strengthen your bones, and boost your mood.

For those who are stuck in grayer locations or who rise before the sun, you can trick your body into daylight mode by turning on all your bedroom lights in the meantime, says Swan.

5. Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate

If it feels like water is the answer to everything, that’s because it usually is. Keep a large glass of water next to your bed so you can gulp it down first thing in the morning, says Swan.

“Lots of people grab a big cup of coffee first thing in the morning,” she tells Bustle. “But you want to have water before that.” That’s because it rehydrates your body after a night’s sleep, boosts your metabolism, and helps you feel energized. Plus, coffee can be dehydrating and sometimes irritate an empty stomach, so go for the water first. “No one feels energized when they’re dehydrated,” says Swan.

6. Keep A Caffeine Journal

Caffeine is the elixir of many a night owl. But even though it might help you wake up (after that water, of course), ingesting caffeine too late in the day can mess with your sleep and set you up for a tough time the next morning, according to Clifford. She suggests tracking how your favorite brew affects your energy so you can figure out the best caffeine cut-off time for you.

“Caffeine affects everybody differently,” says Clifford. “You might be fine drinking coffee until 2 p.m., but that might not work for others. Keep a journal of when you have caffeine and alcohol, even for just a week or two, to see how it affects your energy levels and sleep.”

7. Separate Your Morning Routine From Your Workspace

If you’re working from home, the lines between work and personal time are blurred. That’s why Alomari recommends doing your morning routine in a different area from your work station if possible. “Starting your morning in a different room, like in your kitchen with a cup of tea or outside on your patio, separates your downtime from the place where your responsibilities lay,” she tells Bustle. This can help create some much-needed boundaries to help you get the most out of your me time.

8. Have Something To Look Forward To

It may sound obvious, but if you hate mornings, try to make them less hate-able. By starting f your day with an activity you enjoy, then you’re more likely to feel positive about your morning, according to Swan (yes, it’s possible).

“If you’re going to dread the things you have to do in the morning, like cleaning up last night’s dishes, you’re not going to look forward to waking up,” she tells Bustle. “Build a routine that incorporates things you like. Do your favorite yoga video, walk with a friend, listen to a podcast, or try a new waffle recipe. If you’re excited to do something specific in the morning, you’re more likely to hop out of bed.”

9. Eat Some Protein

There’s some truth to the old “breakfast is the most important meal of the day” cliche. Clifford says fueling with protein-rich snacks like eggs, yogurt, or nuts can give you a leg up on energy throughout the day. If you’re crunched for time, Swan recommends overnight oats as an easy on-the-go breakfast.

And there’s research to back it up — one study found that not only can eating protein in the a.m. help you maintain energy levels all day long, but it can boost your longterm health.

10. Try A Morning Workout

If waking up doesn’t come easy, start your day with activity to turn on your body and mind, suggests Swan. If you’re able to knock out a full workout in the morning, all power to you, but a walk outside or a few minutes of simple bodyweight exercises will also do the trick, she says.

Morning activity can also help you feel your best throughout the day. “When you exercise, it releases endorphins that can put you in a good mood, help you feel energized, and make you feel sleepy at night so you get more or better rest,” says Swan.

11. Make a List

List makers, it’s your time to shine. Oludara Adeeyo, ASW, a psychiatric social worker and psychotherapist, suggests starting your morning by writing a list of what you’d like to accomplish in the day — this helps you map out your time and set expectations. “Lists help guide your focus for the day,” she tells Bustle. “You can prioritize what items are most important and tackle them accordingly.” It can also help you relieve anxiety, improve your memory, and feel good about what you’ve accomplished.

12. Set The Thermostat

Nothing will force you back under your covers faster than a freezing bedroom. Enlist your smart thermostat in the battle against rough mornings, recommends Swan. Program your thermostat to go down to about 65°F at night and then rise back up in the morning so that you can roll out of bed in comfort, she says.

13. Plan Ahead

Remember how your parents made you pick out your school clothes the night before? Turns out they were onto something. Whether it’s laying out athletic wear for your morning workout or prepping your breakfast before bed, getting a jump on logistics can save you time for extra sleep or more enjoyable morning activities.

“I swear by this,” says Adeeyo. “This will improve productivity because you can focus your morning time on simply getting ready for the day.”

14. The 20/20/20 Rule

Alomari recommends the 20/20/20 trick to prep your brain for restorative sleep, which can help you the next morning. Start by spending 20 minutes (or 10 minutes, 30 minutes, or an hour) doing whatever you normally do before bed, like watching TV or playing on your phone. Then spend 20 minutes doing something without a screen, like reading or journaling. After that, lie down for 20 minutes to unwind.

“This lets your brain process the day, and your brain will tire itself out,” says Alomari. “That whole time, you’re prepping yourself to fall into a healthy sleep.”

15. Tackle Your Anxiety

Some people who stay up late aren’t doing it by choice: Both stress and anxiety can cause you to toss and turn long after your bedtime. Science shows that having an anxiety disorder can contribute to sleep disturbances or insomnia. “Make sure the reason you’re up at night isn’t negative, because if it is, a morning routine won’t fix that,” says Alomari. “Someone who’s up late with anxiety usually wakes up with anxiety.”

If that sounds like you, Alomari recommends speaking to a therapist to address the underlying cause of your anxiety and help your body return to its natural sleep rhythm.

Studies referenced:

Clark, I. (2017). Coffee, caffeine, and sleep: A systematic review of epidemiological studies and randomized controlled trials. Sleep Med Rev. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26899133/

Kamada, I. (2011). The impact of breakfast in metabolic and digestive health. Gastroenterology and Hepatology from Bed to Bench, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4017414/

Medic, G. (2017). Short- and long-term health consequences of sleep disruption. Nature and Science of Sleep, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5449130/

Philpott, J. (2020). Casein kinase 1 dynamics underlie substrate selectivity and the PER2 circadian phosphoswitch. eLife, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32043967/

Staner, L. (2003). Sleep and anxiety disorders. Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3181635/

Worley, S. (2018). The Extraordinary Importance of Sleep: The Detrimental Effects of Inadequate Sleep on Health and Public Safety Drive an Explosion of Sleep Research. Pharmacy and Therapeutics, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6281147/

Experts:

Oludara Adeeyo, A.S.W., a psychiatric social worker and psychotherapist in Los Angeles

Nawal Alomari, L.P.C., a licensed clinical professional counselor and life coach based in Chicago

Erin Clifford, J.D., a certified holistic wellness coach in Chicago

Debra Swan, a certified health coach and personal trainer based in Chicago

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