In this article, I would share on my transformation from a night owl to a morning bird. It was a necessary but reluctant change. I would also address some challenges faced that prevents a night owl from becoming a morning person. And ways to overcome these challenges.
I was never a morning person. Even from as young as elementary (primary) school, I wake up feeling drained and tired each morning. It took a tonne of effort to get ready. When I was in university, it was tough because a lot of our classes were at 8am, that means getting up early to get ready and going to the campus. I arrived in the lecture hall feeling and looking like a zombie. In the corporate world, going to work in the morning, getting squeezed like sardine in packed trains became too much. I actually applied officially with HR to change my work hours from 9am-6pm to 10am-7pm and got approved.
Yet, now I am a morning person.
First, a compelling reason to be a morning person
Maybe you wish to start a side hustle and the only quiet time you have before the kids get up is early in the morning. Or you need to get up early because your job requires a long commute or you have get up to prepare to food and feed your family.
You need a compelling reason to do so, regardless it is to achieve a goal or it is purely out of necessity.
Initially, for me there is really no choice. I left my corporate job to be a full time caregiver for my mom who have Alzheimer’s. Few months ago, her had problem swallowing, nearly lost her life and have now been fitted with a feeding tube. She is now bed bound and is on diapers. If I decided to sleep in more, then the bed would be soiled and I would end up needing to clean her up, change and wash a lot of bed sheets and linings. Also, my mom is on lifelong medication for her chronic liver condition. The medication must be administered on an empty stomach, 2 hours before meal.
So I had to get up early to get these things done so that she can have her first meal by 8am. I really do not want her to get too hungry.
Hence no matter how tired and drained I felt, I pushed myself to get up way early. There was a time where I need to set up to 4 alarms to make sure I could really be up.
Overcoming obstacles that is preventing us from becoming a morning person
From my personal experience, I realize there are challenges holding us back to be able to wake up early in the morning. I would address each of these issue here and ways I have done to overcome them:
1. Sleep earlier
In order to be able to get up early, we MUST sleep earlier. If we do not change the time we are going to bed, then it will be super difficult to get up in the morning.
I know, I know, there is something about the peace and serenity at night that makes us want to stay up all night. I love that feeling too. If we are still young, we can get away with an all nighter. But once age catches up, we will find that we can no longer go without enough sleep.
From my experience, there is a cut off time that you cannot exceed if you do not wish to wake up early the next day feeling like a zombie. For me, it is by 12am. That means I need to sleep before 12am if I need to wake up at about 5.30am the next day. You need to see your maximum cut off time and take care not to exceed the time.
2. Improving quality of sleep
I am not sure if you suffer from active dreams. A few of my former colleagues who showed up at work looking like a zombie had this issue. That is, almost each night, you feel as if your soul goes to another kind of parallel existence where you meet and interact with people you do not know. Often these people or situation triggers you and cause anxiety, anger or spikes of emotions that makes you feel drained and your head feeling as heavy as a concrete block.
I have this issue for more than 20 years and was only recently I was able to find solve this long standing issue that had caused me to spend a lot of money on strong gourmet coffee. In the end, I have come to accept that the reactions I have in my sleep was from the ‘real’ me deep within. If in my dreams, the people did things to trigger me and I got angry, it was because I still have anger, not able to let go and bad thoughts.
The dreams and nightmares actually gives us a lot of insight to our true self. If we make conscious effort to change who we are from within, eventually the change will internalize (provided we are not being a hypocrite or lying to ourselves but really changing) and our reactions in our dreams would reflect that. For example, in my dreams, I often had situations where I realized that I had an exam to take (and have not studied it) or had to catch a plane that day (but I am still not packed). In the past, these triggered anxiety in my dreams.
But in recent years, I have been learning gradually to let go of situations that I had no control. So I remembered in one of these dreams, I kind of say to myself, ‘well, I will do my best but if I miss this flight, I will just go on and catch the next one, it is okay.’ And with these changes, I no longer feel exhausted. I have written more about this in blog post from another blog.
Spiritually there was also something that triggered these dreams. Aside from changing my attitude, I have also spend more time in spiritual practice before sleep which involves doing prayers, followed by transference of merits. Merely simple recitals are not enough. There is a threshold that I need to reach in order to help bring these dreams to halt. If you find you have a lot of nightmares, my advice is to follow the spiritual path based on your faith, and usually you need to reach a certain level for the nightmares to stop.
3. Have something to look forward to first thing in the morning
Each night before you go to sleep, plan on what you would do in the morning. We do not need to write down in our planner and decorate it with stickers and washi tapes. If the reason is compelling enough, just writing down on your calendar or a notebook using a pen would do.
Select tasks that you are most excited or like the most to do first thing in the morning. For some people, it can be writing and for some, it could be working on their craft projects or building something. Have everything ready so that you need not use effort to set it up in the morning.
For me, the first task I have to do each morning is to change my mom’s diapers. Then followed by phlegm suction. Nothing exciting rite? But I have learned that during the diaper change, I put on YouTube educational videos from my favourite YouTubers. As usually throughout the day I do not have time to sit to watch YouTube videos hence I make use of times like this to catch up. And over time, I find it easier and easier to get up till now it has become a habit. I also have something planned out to do that I look forward to. For example, after I finish attending to my mom, I have some blogging activities planned out which I look forward to.
If I could look forward to getting up even though it means dealing with soiled diapers, I am sure you would be able to have something planned out that makes you want to spring out of bed in the morning.
With age, no night owl will be able to remain productive at night. I have to admit that the best time for me to write is in the morning and afternoon. It is no longer evening or night as I am often exhausted by then. If you find you are tired in the morning, then you need to go to sleep earlier and earlier till you identify the ‘cut-off time’ that enables you to feel sufficiently rested. Also in this article, I have briefly touched on active dreams/nightmares that cause some to not able to wake up early.
And finally, we need a compelling reason. Something to look forward to getting up each day. You need to schedule some of these favourite tasks to do first thing in the morning to motivate you to get up if you are not a morning person.
I have not been a morning person all my life and now I have become one, first by circumstances, but now it has been a habit. I am sure, you can do and achieve this too if you identify the challenges and systematically tackle them. Once you can do this, you will see your life change.