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If you normally go to sleep at midnight and get up at 8 a.m., you will not feel rested if you suddenly switch your bedtime to 9 p.m. and get up at 5 a.m. (The American Sleep Association recommends seven to nine hours of sleep per night for adults.)
You probably won’t be able to make yourself go to sleep that early anyway, Augelli says.
Instead, change your sleep schedule by 30 minutes at a time, Augelli says. Start going to sleep at 11:30 p.m. and getting up at 7:30 a.m. Do that for about a week and then roll back another 30 minutes. Do that for about a week and then roll back yet another 30 minutes. Repeat until you land at your desired wake-up time without needing an afternoon nap that day.
Weekend cycles should stay fairly close — within an hour or two — to the weekday cycle.
“Our bodies don’t know what a weekend is. It’s social construct, not a biological one,” Augelli says.
She has some advice for getting to bed earlier — and sleeping better:
Even if you wake up rested, how do you get motivated to go to a class or out for a run?
Do something you enjoy
Melissa Westman-Cherry, a Washington resident and daily gymgoer, says that when she started working out a little over a decade ago, she chose evening Zumba classes when she needed a class that felt playful in addition to being physically strenuous.
“It was a really fun class and it got me into a routine,” she says.
Work up to it
Now, she gets up at 4:40 a.m. every day and is at the gym by 5 a.m. Her routine is so set that her dogs don’t even get out of bed when she leaves before sunrise. They know to wait until 7 a.m. for their walk.
Remove the obstacles
Westman-Cherry doesn’t necessarily consider herself a morning person, but getting her workout done early is the only way to fit it in. She makes sure she sets out her clothes, water and car keys the night before.
“Plus, there’s a sense of pride in having accomplished so much so early in the morning,” she says.
Look for outside motivation
Becky Schechter, a 38-year-old D.C. resident and working mom with two young children, says she does best when someone else designs her strength-training routine, which is why she does a morning boot camp twice a week when she’s not running. That said, she always makes sure she has a backup plan if it rains: old boot camp routines she can do in the comfort of her home.
Make consistency a priority
“Exercise has to become a part of your lifestyle the same way that brushing your teeth is a daily routine,” says Art Weltman, professor and chair of the department of kinesiology at the University of Virginia.
Aim for a minimum of 30 minutes of exercise per day five times a week. This is better than 150 minutes on the weekends to prevent injuries and feed the brain natural antidepressants as regularly as possible. Can’t string together 30 minutes at a time? Split it up.