Shifting Sleep: Going from Night Owl to Early Bird

My life was shifted in a rather serious way during the latter months of 2015, and little did I know at the time that I was about to embark on a journey that would change my life forever. This paradigm shift was the result of many factors, but one of the key lifestyle changes was without a doubt the inspiration I gained from reading Hal Elrod’s ‘The Miracle Morning: The 6 Habits That Will Transform Your Life Before 8AM’. This fantastic little book talks in depth about the benefits of making the simple change of getting up a little earlier, and of adopting a morning routine.

I’ve talked about Hal’s work before, and how much it’s been an influence in my life, but I need to make clear how important this idea of a morning ritual is. So many of the World’s success stories have morning routines that they move through each and every morning to start their day in order to set themselves up for success. This practice not only serves to focus the mind on the goals and outcomes one wishes to achieve in any given day, but also is the reason and the motivation for rising early – it is the acknowledgement of the positive effect a morning routine can have on your day that makes you excited to get up and do it every day. No more hitting the snooze….

But, is it really that easy? You just decide one day that now you’re a morning person and you can spring out of bed with a smile on your face as you skip down the corridor to the bathroom to brush your teeth? Maybe for some. Not for me; and I’m sure there are many others in the same position. After making my commitment to myself and setting the alarm for 6am the night before with a renewed sense of purpose, I still didn’t want to get up. My eyes were fused shut until half way through the first cup of coffee and I don’t even know what I put on my toothbrush that day. The point is, just because it’s a great thing to do to set yourself up for the day for a multitude of reasons, doesn’t mean it’s easy.

For those of you who are trying to shift your lifestyle from night owl to early bird, having either been inspired by Hal’s work or by necessity, I want to share a few hints and tips on how you can adapt your lifestyle to rising earlier ready for your morning routine.

Avoid self talk when you first wake up – instead, count to five

One of the biggest problems for a lot of people is being unable to resist the temptation to hit the snooze button when their alarms go off in the morning; all the while completely disrespecting the fact that it was they who set the alarm for that time in the first place and therefore must have a had a good reason for doing so. An excellent way to set yourself up to fail. The best remedy to combat this that I’ve come across is to make the first thing you say to yourself when you wake up a simple count from 1 to 5. This serves to focus the mind on an innate task so it forgets to start that pesky internal dialogue which is eventually responsible for convincing you that it’s a good idea to disrespect your own intentions and hit the snooze button. What a waste of potential. As you count to five, slowly get out of bed and start to get dressed – by the time you’ve finished counting, you’re committed to starting your day, as your motivation level has been given a little more time to rise whilst you preoccupied your conscious mind. It also now involves some effort to remove clothes and go back to bed, so not quite as inviting as just staying where you are in a nice warm, cosy wrap.

Leave your phone downstairs, buy an alarm clock and put your alarm clock away from your bed

This is a classic tactic and works simply because it forces you to get up out of bed in order to be able to turn it off or hit the snooze button. This again serves to give more time for your motivation level (or WUML – Wake Up Motivation Level as Hal describes it) to rise and means it now takes effort to go back to bed, so you might as well get up. The added bonus to this one is where you have a family, partner or small children in the close vicinity – trust me, they don’t appreciate the annoying sound of an alarm clock at 6am so that alone serves as ample motivation to get your arse out of bed to turn it off!

Make your first job brushing your teeth

We all know it’s a jolly good idea to brush our teeth twice daily for strong healthy teeth, and making this the first job on the agenda once you’ve hauled yourself out of bed is another good way to give yourself a bit more time to wake up.

Have a reason to get up – make it compelling

So, for me it’s my morning routine. It’s having that time in the morning to set myself up for success, and do what I need to do before the rest of the house starts to rise and shine. Just having that time alone starts the day in such a relaxed fashion compared with rolling out of bed 10 minutes before you need to leave and guzzling a coffee as you hop out of the door. Just knowing you have plenty of time to do your morning routine, have breakfast with the family and prepare for your day leaves you calm and relaxed.

Another of my compelling reasons to get out of bed in the morning is because I want to smash my day. I am always learning and always working on multiple things so I’m always very excited to get up and start preparing for my day – the more I prepare, the more I set myself up for success. As the saying goes, ‘fail to prepare, prepare to fail’.

Go to bed earlier

This is really important; you can’t all of a sudden start getting up at 5am whilst still staying up until 2am. That’s called burning the candle at both ends, and will only lead to burnout after burnout. Getting enough sleep is so very important for your physical and mental health, and so it’s one of the most important things for you to take care of.

The best way to think about it is that you’re simply shifting your 7-8 hours sleep backwards around the clock. So if you were previously going to bed at 2am and waking at 8:30am, then in order to awake at 6am and maintain the same number of hours in bed you would have to shift your bedtime back to 11:30pm.

It is best to shift your sleeping patterns like this over time if possible as to make a shift of several hours straight away can be a shock to your system and all the more difficult to see through. Instead, try adjusting your bed/wake time routine in increments that suit you -a shift of 15 minutes per night would allow you to gradually ease into your new chosen routine, and you’ll be at your target times within a week or so (depending on how small or great the shift in time needs to be).

Drink less coffee, drink more water

Some great advice for general health and wellbeing is to not overdo the caffeine intake, as doing so can definitely affect your quality of sleep and leave you less likely to feel as rested as you should. I am a huge fan of coffee, and it’s my go to when I first get downstairs in the morning, but I try to limit my coffee intake to the mornings, and none after 12 noon, as this is what I’ve found has the least detrimental effect on the quality of my sleep. Ideally, it’s recommended to limit your coffee intake to 2-4 cups per day.

Drink plenty of water too; especially when you first get up in the morning. Remember, you’ve been asleep for 6-8 hours and not consumed any food or water in that same time period. You’ll be dehydrated first thing in the morning, so drinking a couple of glasses of water is a great way to get your body and brain rehydrated first thing in the morning.Drinking plenty of water has the added benefit of aiding fat loss too, so getting more water in your life is a win/win.

In summary, the above are some great hacks for adapting to getting up early that have worked well for me. The big one though is having a reason to get up at whatever time your predetermine (and stick to it) that is a must win. I feel so much better from doing my morning routine daily that I look forward to the benefits I get from it daily – it motivates me to make the effort to get the result. Having so much going on in my life and passionately working to smash it all is another hugely motivating factor in why I get up.

I’ve found my purpose in life, and it’s like a fire in my belly – when you have something as powerful as that fueling you there are no limits to what can be achieved. For that, we must train our bodies and our minds to do what we say, when we say, rather than letting them talk us out of committing and hitting the snooze button. Find your compelling reason to be alive, whatever it is, and use your mornings to focus yourself totally and utterly towards the fulfillment of that goal.

What more motivation to get up early in the morning do you need than that?


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