If you’re not a morning person, you know it. You press snooze on your alarm more times than you can count. And when you finally do drag yourself out of bed, you can barely function until you get a cup of coffee in you. No doubt you’ve fantasized about the day in which you finally rise and shine like a champ. But one question remains: Is it actually possible to change your ways?
According to New York City-based psychologist Paulette Sherman, past research has shown your genetics might play a role in your early-riser or night-owl ways. “Scientists recently discovered more than 300 places in the genome that influence sleeping habits and that people’s brains react differently to external light depending on their genetic code,” she says. Researchers have also found morning people might be more left-brained (or more analytical and cooperative), while night people might be more right-brained (or imaginative and individualistic).
There is good news, though: Even if genetics play a role in your ability to be a morning person or not, there’s still room for change. “Some researchers say 47 percent of your chronotype—when you’re more genetically inclined to sleep—is inherited, so I guess the rest you can work with,” Sherman says. And one of the best ways to begin making that shift is to utilize a prime factor that affects your circadian rhythm: sunlight.
“If you want to advance your sleep-wake schedule, this is best achieved by exposing yourself to light in the morning hours right after waking up. Light is the single best way to entrain a circadian rhythm,” says Nate Watson, MD, a scientific advisor for SleepScore Labs and professor of neurology at the University of Washington. “This could be outside or inside—the brighter the better. Although even the most overcast day still provides enough light to entrain these rhythms.”
It also helps to start preparing your brain for early mornings the night before. To make sure you rise a little easier, a good night of sleep is incredibly important—and there’s a trick that will help you put an end to your night-owl ways.
“In the evenings, taking melatonin for a few weeks—just 1 mg about three hours before your intended bedtime—can advance a circadian rhythm and make you more of a morning person,” Dr. Watson says. “This could help make ‘evening-type’ people into more of a ‘morning-type,’ but achieving success to become a morning person may be a bit more of a challenge for these individuals.”
That’s not all you can do.
“Drink your last caffeinated beverage before noon. This might sound crazy to some people, but caffeine stays in your system for at least five hours. This will help your body wind down naturally,” says Hilary Hinrichs, certified nutrition coach and founder of Holistic Hilary. “Also, doing something calming in the evening—like reading a good book or doing light yoga or meditation—can put you in a more relaxed state.”
Another biggie? Stop spending your evenings staring at a screen. Okay, okay—you can still watch a little Netflix. But that time right before you hit the sheets should be spent doing something else.