The definition of being a “morning person” can vary from person to person, but for the most part, people who are excited about waking up before the sun and attacking their day seem to be in the minority. Maybe you can’t possibly wake up before 10 am. Maybe you’re a snooze button regular and just aren’t the type to jump out of bed with your first alarm. And maybe waking up earlier to get a head start on life has been on your to-do list for ages but you can’t seem to make the habit stick.
Whatever fits you, there’s growing evidence that “morning people” are less prone to depression, which could be reason enough for all of us to become early birds. In a study published by the Journal of Psychiatric research earlier this year, 2,581 cases of incident depression were observed over a 4-year period to determine that middle to older-aged women were over a quarter less likely to develop depression when committing to waking up early. Scientists argue this is a symptom of what they call social jet lag, a “condition where our hours of peak alertness are in conflict with the social impositions of morning meetings, late-night networking, and other work demands scheduled outside of our control.” From a biological and evolutionary perspective, we’re not designed to spend our days indoors and out of the sun, and the lack of light puts us at a higher risk of depression. Now throw in the stress factors of rushing into work at a specified time, having only focused our attention and energy on paying the bills until time for social interaction and human engagement finally comes in the evening.
“Spend 15 minutes meditating, closing the windows, and reconciling your previous day so you’re not stuck processing old information and being backlogged into the next day,” says Pedram Shojai, a New York Times bestselling author of The Urban Monk and The Art of Stopping Time.
But as we all know, this kind of shift to creating “me time” in the morning rather than rush time is easier said than done.
“Changing our biorhythms isn’t immediate,” says Arlene B. Englander, a licensed clinical social worker. “Start by going to bed 15 minutes earlier each week and in a month, you’ll be going to bed one hour earlier and waking up one hour earlier, as well.”
According to counselor William Schroeder, it’s important to identify why waking up early is so important. This will help you stick to creating the new habit. Most tips for waking up earlier simply start with the night before, rather than in the morning. Setting a consistent bed time allows your body the chance to learn when it’s time for rest and in turn, when it will be time to wake up. Turning off mobile devices and laptops at least an hour before bedtime also helps you wind down as well as helping to ensure better quality sleep throughout the night. And there is also growing evidence to support that not eating within a minimum of two and as many as four hours before bedtime will also grant you a better night’s rest. All of these simple tasks can add up to being more refreshed and energized in the morning and hopefully creating a cycle that lasts.
“You can’t make everything better overnight, but you can build things into your day that make you happy and worth waking up for,” Shojai says.