If that morning alarm clock is getting harder and harder to wake up to every morning, that’s more or less what’s supposed to happen.
It’s one of the quirks of human biology that our daily circadian clock doesn’t operate exactly on a 24-hour cycle. Instead, it’s ten to twenty minutes longer than that.
That’s not the end of the world. But added up, it can make that alarm clock harder to bear.
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It also makes it more difficult to emulate all those successful entrepreneurs, like Board of Directors founder Stefan Kazakis and five:am yoghurt founder David Prior, who start their days before 5.30am.
“That’s when we milk our cows, but it is a personal thing for me too – I get up every day at 5am,” Prior says.
But our circadian clock is not the only way our bodies work against us when it comes to being a morning person.
For many of us, we’re genetically predisposed to a lifestyle utterly different from the one we want, says associate professor Dr Sarah Blunden, the head of paediatric sleep research at Central Queensland University.
“The human race is more or less split into those that prefer the night and those that prefer the morning,” she tells SmartCompany. People’s body clocks, or circadian rhythms – when they feel like they should be awake and when they feel the need to sleep – rarely match up to society’s accepted waking and sleeping times. “It’s a temperamental and genetic trait. And many of us inadvertently choose jobs that go along with that – night people often choose work in hospitality, for instance.”
But biology is not destiny, at least, not entirely. Many people’s careers require them to work early, and there are some strategies you can use to help your body adjust.
Dr Blunden can suggest a few.
Rhythm and rhyme: our bodies adjust to what’s regular
The first step, she says, is to build regularity into your daily routine.
“It’s just basic sleep hygiene,” she says. “Give yourself external cues – like your alarm clock, having breakfast, your morning coffee – to train you to be habitually awake and alert at the same time.
“With habit, we can override that desire to sleep in later. Not that that’s a problem, but it can be if you need to get up early.
“You want to keep that rhythm as habitual as possible. Of course, you can sleep in on weekends. But it’ll make getting back into that rhythm hard. Your body clock will move forward, particularly if it’s predisposed to doing this.”
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