Ever wonder why you’re able to stay up until 2 am, while your best friend can's make it until 10 pm? It has everything to do with your internal clock, says Tracey Marks, M.D., an Atlanta-based psychiatrist and author of Master Your Sleep: Proven Methods Simplified. “Most people’s internal clock has 24 hrs, but if it’s a little longer, then you will be pulled in the direction of not feeling tired until later and later each evening.” Don’t fret night owl—it is possible to train yourself to be more alert in the mornings than in the evenings. Here’s how.
1. Slash An Hour Off Your Day
If you want to wake up earlier, trim down those evening obligations, says Dr. Marks. We know what you're thinking: How can I not overextend myself? “We typically overestimate how much available time we have and take on projects that we have no business committing to,” says Dr. Marks. “For the sake of decompressing your day, assume you have one less hour in the evenings (to be set aside for a wind down period) and say no to things that infringe on that time.” Sorry, Saturday Night Live.
2. Pile On the Protein
You know the saying: “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” So if you’re trying to make mornings more bearable, a cup of coffee and a stick of gum isn’t going to cut it. “After sleeping all night, our metabolism and blood sugar are at their lowest; we need a healthy breakfast to re-energize us,” says Rebecca Scritchfield, R.D., a Washington D.C. based nutrition and exercise expert specializing in weight management. Her breakfast of champions consists of a protein, a colorful fruit or veggie, and a whole grain (Think: Greek yogurt topped with fresh blueberries topped with granola and chia seeds). And if you’re a walking zombie without your morning caffeine fix, Scritchfield suggests adding a spill of milk or fortified soymilk (i.e. lattes and café au laits), which spikes your beverage with calcium and protein.
3. Reward Yourself
Yes! You did it! You didn’t hit the snooze button! “Once up, take advantage of the extra time you’ve given yourself to build in a few minutes of a ‘reward’,” says psychologist Patricia Adson, author ofA Princess and Her Garden. Read a favorite newspaper or blog column, listen to a few minutes of the morning news, do an exercise routine, or meditate. Even having time for an extra cup of coffee or not having to race out the door can be a reward. Select something that means something to you, says Adson. “Later, notice how you feel about yourself when you have given yourself the time to get a good start on the day.”
4. Give Yourself A Pep Talk
“Remember, you don’t have to want to get up, you just have to do it,” says Adson. As you get going, ask yourself what it is you get to do that day, rather than what you have to do (that will come soon enough).
5. Exercise When the Sun Comes Up
We're wired (via circadian rhythms/our internal 24-hour clock) to have peak alertness around mid-morning, says Dr. Marks. “Early morning exercise can help boost the morning energy surge, as you will have elevated body temperature and elevated adrenalin levels for several hours after you exercise.” Need an extra incentive? Research has shown that exercising before breakfast burns more fat calories and results in more weight loss than exercising after breakfast, says Burr Leonard, founder of The Bar Method.
6. Style Strands Before Bedtime
To cut down (um, erase) morning drying time, Ashley Stone of Beauty Entourage, a traveling salon, suggests washing hair the night before and putting it into a loose braid. In the morning smooth your mane with a quick blow dry and style as usual for mega volume and bounce. To control static, spray strands with a leave-in conditioner or use a comb dipped in cold water.
7. ... Or, Braid Hair in the Morning
A tell-tale sign that you are not a morning person? Your hair. But whether you’re already an early riser or you’re still working on it, a braid can disguise all levels of mane-mess—from a little frizz to a bonafide bedhead, says Morgan Willhite, creative director at Ouidad Salon in New York City. And the best part is that there’s no wrong way to plait it up— loose and low, French, or even Katniss-inspired from The Hunger Games. If your strands are too short for braids, accessorize with a cloth headband.
8. Revamp Your Makeup Routine
Keep your face polished and fresh, while cutting minutes from morning prep time with these tips from Iralis Stone of Beauty Entourage:
- Use a liquid to powder foundation so you can skip the step of having to use power to set your makeup. Try Hourglass Immaculate Liquid Powder Foundation.
- Cream blushes and eye shadows are great for a quick application with your fingertips. Not only will you save time—they also give the skin a great dewy glow.
- Line only your top lash line and apply mascara only on the top for a naturally pretty look.
9. Invite Light Indoors
“Bright light from a light box that is designed to emit light similar to sunlight is probably the most powerful thing you can do to force your body awake in the mornings,” says Dr. Marks. Your brain is sensitive to light and temperature, which is why we don’t sleep as well after a certain time of morning even if we’ve had the longest, hardest day and go to bed way past our bedtime. Light boxes can range in price from $50 to $200, so if spending the money on a light-emitting box doesn’t sound like a bright idea, place your bed in front of big, blind-less windows so that the sun can wake you in the morning.
10. Turn Everything Off
Keep the radio and television volumes low in the evenings in order to create an atmosphere that lulls you into sleepy mode, suggests Dr. Marks. This helps you associate the evening with slowing down so that you can mentally prepare your mind for sleep. “It’s hard to do this if at 9 pm. your house is just as loud and bright as it is at 4 pm,” says Dr. Marks. Touché.
This article originally appeared on RealSimple.com. More from Real Simple: