Posted by: Alison Greenland, Freelance Blogger
The snooze button-- the first resort and biggest impairment for a night owl. Without it, me getting up, nevertheless just waking up, probably wouldn't happen. It's something that I've come to rely on yet want to eliminate as my crutch for getting out of bed every morning.
I know I'm not the only one who no matter what cannot seem to get to bed at a reasonable hour which results in a nearly impossible feat of getting out of the covers the next day. I stay up late and like to sleep in and that's how I've always been. But this old dog can
learn new tricks and is determined to do so. My job--and body--depends on it. (Yawning yet? Stay with me here...)
The tough part is having a lifestyle, like most people, that doesn't run on whatever sleeping habits they may have; in my case all the bad ones. I admit that I probably don't take all the necessary measures to help improve them, like watching TV or using my computer in bed, but at the same time it seems like even when I do shut everything off and stick my nose in a book I still find myself up long enough to finish the last page.
For those wondering "Can I change?" the answer is yes! But, of course, change doesn't happen over night. After all, old habits are hard to break especially if they've been around for as long as you can remember. It's not impossible, though, and I've found ways that can help myself and fellow nocturnals become the morning people our lives demand us to be.
WHY USE A CLOCK TO GET UP WHEN YOUR BODY HAS ITS OWN?
Ever heard of a Circadian rhythm
? Me neither, up until now. It basically refers to your built-in body clock that roughly runs on a 24-hr cycle. It adjusts to the environment using external cues called zeitgebers
, one of which being daylight.
The cells that run your body clock are located in the hypothalamus
of your brain. When your body senses sunlight, the cues for consciousness start ticking. There are also chemicals in your body that work with your clock that move to this rhythm.
At night, your body secretes melatonin
to make you sleepy and at about 2 a.m. you get your deepest sleep (well, you're supposed to at least). Then by daybreak when your blood pressure begins to rise back up the melatonin secretion stops and you get your highest alertness a couple of hours before noon. This is all based on a schedule of someone who typically rises early, eats lunch around noon and is asleep by 10 p.m. For everyone else, our clocks become way out of sync. Now is the time to reset it.
On average, adults should be getting about 7-8 hours of sleep a night. To get your internal clock back on track, let your alarm clock take a little vacation. Set up a time schedule for going to bed and waking up that accomodates those sleep hours and be strict about it. That means no cheating on weekends when you're used to sleeping in. Sticking to a regular schedule helps your body get out of sleep debt and add energy to your morning routine.
TURN YOUR BED INTO A TEMPLE OF SLUMBER
In order to get some good sleep your bed must be the right temperature otherwise you'll be too uncomfortable to ward off fits of tossing and turning. The magic number is about 69 degrees Farenheit and as you sleep your body temperature drops with the flow of melatonin.
For your body to chill out, your mind has to first. Watching TV or surfing the internet before bed keeps your brain active making it hard to shut down for some shut-eye. To help, take a hot bath or shower to relax you and the decrease in body temperature when you step out encourages the melatonin to kick in. Make sure to keep your room dark to avoid adding stimuli to your brain as it continues to interpret them even while you sleep.
If you're still having trouble sealing those eyelids, engage yourself for about a half hour in a light activity like a puzzle or book in a dimly lit setting until you reach droopiness.
SUNLIGHT: BREAKING DAWN
Getting out of bed is just the beginning. As tempted as you are, you must refrain from hitting the snooze button or you'll find yourself back at square one. The easiest way to do this is to keep your alarm in a place where you'd have to get out of bed for it. My alarm also happens to be my cell phone which makes me reluctant to detach it from my reach (because I get so
many important messages after 10 p.m.), but I know I'm just in denial of my lack of willpower.
Try preparing for your early rise the night before by picking out what you plan to wear. Even leave something aside to look forward to waking up to like the new coffee you've been wanting to try or an album you've been waiting to listen to. If that motivation isn't enough, the surefire way to avoid being a zombie is to get outside and take in the fresh morning air.
You'll realize fast that your reintroduction to the outside world shakes off any remnants of your sleepy self. Personally, once I remember that there's a world out there ready for me to get into action, I wonder what was so appealing about staying in bed in the first place (but only until the next morning when the world turns back into a cruel, cruel place).
THE SAME YOU AT A DIFFERENT HOUR
Once you discover your inner sleeping beauty waiting to be awoken, your new routine will shine a light on a whole different side of the world--a brighter, happier side--and show you what you've been missing out on while trying to squeeze in those extra minutes of sleep. And since I'm sure I'll need them just as much as the next person, I've compiled a few quick reminders for transitioning night owls with lingering old habits...
- ROUTINE, ROUTINE - get to bed and arise at the same hours every day
- GET SOME SUN - sunlight gets your inner clock tick-tick-ticking
- SHHH FOR SHUTEYE - wind your brain down by shutting the electronics down
- R&R - Rest and relaaaxation. Hot bath, cool room--nighty night.
- YOU SNOOZE, YOU LOSE - get a good night's rest and avoid having to hit the snooze button-- ever again!