How to Go from Night Owl to Early Bird

Ready to trade your midnight-loving ways for early-morning sunshine? Here’s how to smooth the transition.

This content was created by the National Sleep Foundation

Thanks to circadian rhythm, your body feels more awake or asleep at different points of the day. It’s a naturally occurring phenomenon, and not everyone’s rhythm is the same—some people are full of pep at 7:00 AM (those would be the early birds) while others are most energized at 11:00 PM (night owls). But what if you want to switch from one to the other? Maybe your new job has early hours or your kids have before-school sports practice. Turning yourself from a night owl to early bird requires altering your circadian rhythm, which is doable with these easy steps.

1. Adjust the morning first. One of the reasons night owls stay up so late is that they’re just not tired. You need to make sure you feel sleepy earlier in the evening and to do that, you need to wake up a lot earlier than usual. It’s going to be tough for a few days while you adjust, but be consistent: After several days of setting your alarm for 6:00 AM, there’s a good chance you’ll be tired when 10:00 PM rolls around.

2. Go slow. If a 6:00 AM wake-up is too much to bite off after years of rising at 7:30 AM, ease into it. Start by moving your alarm ahead in 15-minute chunks every morning over the course of a week until you arrive at your new time.

3. Have a bright morning. It’s really tough to feel energized when your home is dark at 6:00 AM. If it’s the summer, throw open the shades. Otherwise, turn on some lamps. The light will decrease your body’s production of sleep-inducing melatonin, making you feel more alert. And whatever you do, don’t hit snooze!

4. Bump up your evening schedule. If your schedule allows, shift the time you do your usual activities—whether that’s hitting the gym, eating dinner, watching TV, or socializing with friends—an hour or so earlier. If your schedule doesn’t allow it, consider which activities could be shortened or done on alternate days to help you move your bedtime forward an equal number of minutes to your new wake-up time.

5. Stay steady. The quickest way to get your body on a new schedule is to stick with it on the weekends. Your body benefits from going to bed and waking up at the same time every day—even on days you don’t have to work or get the kids off to school. Sleeping in can feel good at the moment, but you’ll likely find it harder to go to bed early on Sunday, making Monday morning a rough one.