Wake up! 4 ways to become a morning person

Couple lying down in bed, young attractive man smiling and looking at camera while beautiful woman sleeping next to him. iStockphoto

(MoneyWatch) Are you a morning person? Up and running by the time it takes you to open your eyes and turn off your alarm? Wait...you don't need an alarm, ever? Then you probably don't need to read the following -- but feel free to forward it to any friends who aren't so bright-eyed in the wee hours.

If you're relying on a combination of Starbucks, brain-blasting alarm clocks or a sympathetic partner to pry you out of bed in the morning, read on for some eye-opening tips from sleep experts:

Give yourself something to look forward to
Sure, if you love your morning activities - whether it be a pleasant commute, lively morning meeting or friendly school run, you might hop out of bed. But for those of us who have tasks we dread scheduled first thing, getting up and at 'em can seem like a terrible idea. Making a nice breakfast for yourself the night before can motivate you. "A person can train themselves to dread the mornings if they see it as the beginning of pain and suffering. Similarly, you can condition yourself to pop out of bed if the morning is associated with something pleasurable," says psychiatrist and sleep specialist Tracey Marks, M.D., the author of Master Your Sleep. One recipe to try: overnight oats. Basically, they're oats prepared ahead of time and served cold, making them perfect for the hot summer months.

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Open your blinds ASAP
Your instinct may be to pull the pillow over your head to get a few more seconds of snooze time, but that's only going to hurt your effort to become a morning person, says Kevin Gregory, vice president of Alertness Solutions, a scientific research firm. "Light exposure is the key to the timing of your body clock; getting sunlight early in the day can help push your clock and timing of your typical sleep period a little earlier," says Gregory. If you have time, go for a short morning walk or jog. The combination of light exposure, fresh air and increased blood flow will send an indisputable signal to your brain that this is the time to be up--and eventually, it will remember that message. Read: You'll be a morning person.

Make yourself very, very tired
Sounds crazy, right? But driving yourself to semi-exhaustion (we're not advocating aiming for narcolepsy here) can help reset your clock. "For a period of several days, restrict your sleep by forcing yourself to wake up an hour [even] earlier than usual; sleep pressure will build up and make it easier to get to sleep earlier," says Gregory. Now that you're falling asleep earlier, waking up early will come more naturally, and less painfully.

Try lights and/or drugs
If these simple steps aren't helping, there are more sophisticated solutions. Chris Winter, M.D., medical director of the sleep medicine center at Martha Jefferson Hospital in Charlottesville, Va., recommends light therapy devices, melatonin and alertness medications to his patients. The lights turn on timed to your body's circadian rhythm (e.g. our internal clock) and gradually changes it by replicating daylight. Melatonin, a homeopathic remedy, can induce sleepiness, helping you get on a healthy sleep cycle. And other drugs, like Provigial and Nuvigil, promote wakefulness, which may also help reset your body's natural patterns. Talk to your own doctor about which of these, if any, may help you.

  • Amy Levin-Epstein On Twitter»

    Amy Levin-Epstein is a freelance writer who has been published in dozens of magazines (including Glamour, Self and Redbook), websites (including AOLHealth.com, Babble.com and Details.com) and newspapers (including The New York Post and the Boston Globe). To read more of her writing, visit AmyLevinEpstein.com.

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