8 tips to becoming an early bird like Pat Kiernan
You can’t become an early bird overnight.
Just ask Jessica Williams, star of the upcoming Netflix movie “The Incredible Jessica James,” who said she struggled with her daily 6 a.m. call times because, “I am not a morning person.”
She’s got plenty of sleepy bedfellows. More than half of Americans (57%) slap the snooze button every morning, perhaps because almost half of us aren’t getting the recommended seven to eight hours of shuteye a night.
Even after 20 years of rising at 3 a.m. to shine while anchoring “New York 1” from 5 to 10 a.m., Pat Kiernan tells Moneyish that, “it has become my routine, but I still haven’t gotten used to it!”
Yet research shows that the early bird really does catch the worm. A 2012 Gallup poll found that most Americans (57%) said they felt most productive before noon.
And some of the biggest movers and shakers only function on a few hours’ rest, such as Tesla Motors and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk (six hours a night), media mogul/homemaker Martha Stewart (four hours a night) and President Donald Trump (three to four hours.)
So if you’re looking to be more productive or squeeze in regular morning workouts – or you don’t have a choice about sleeping in anymore, since you’ve been given an earlier shift – Moneyish tapped Kiernan and Dr. Ashley Mak, a physical therapist and performance coach who runs Hudson River Fitness, to share their tips on seizing the day at dawn.
Sleeping well is a must. “There’s no amount of coffee that makes up for missing three hours of sleep,” said Kiernan, who tried a few different sleeping patterns until he found what works for his extreme schedule: A two-hour nap, usually from noon to 2 p.m., and sleeping another four or five hours from 10 or 11 p.m. to 3 a.m. So if you’re looking to wake at 5 a.m., you’ve gotta hit the hay between 9 and 10 p.m. to be rested enough to do so.
Lay off coffee, booze and sweets. Sugar and caffeine in the afternoon can keep you up too late, and alcohol wreaks havoc on your sleep quality. “If I’m jonesing for caffeine to perk up after 2 p.m., I sip green tea,” said Mak, who gets up at 4 a.m. to open his gym for 5 a.m. private training sessions. “Or take a walk around the block, get moving to get your energy going.” And save happy hour for the weekend. “If you insist on partying with your 10 a.m. job pals on a Thursday night, and don’t cut out before them, you’re going to suffer on Friday morning,” said Kiernan.
Create a screen-free zone. Watching one episode of “Glow” or answering a few emails in bed easily becomes being glued to your phone or tablet until 2 a.m. Plus, the blue light from screens messes up your sleep cycle. “I try not to do any screens one to two hours before bed,” said Mak. And Kiernan sets his phone to sleep mode, so texts, emails and calls from his night owl friends won’t ping him awake at 10:30 or 11 p.m. when he’s trying to fall asleep.
Set multiple alarms – but not all on your phone. “First, setting an alarm sets an expectation for yourself to wake up,” said Mak. “But then having another alarm set elsewhere – like your significant other’s phone, or an alarm clock across the room, makes you get up and switch it off in case you start to sleep through the first alarm.” And once you’re up – well, you’re up.
Don’t hit the snooze button. You’re not only fragmenting your sleep, but you’re also letting yourself slip into a new sleep cycle that will make you feel more sluggish when you’re snapped out of it again.“The snooze alarm is a recipe for sleeping in,” agreed Kiernan. “Just figure out what your minimum prep time is, set the alarm, and get up when it goes off.”
Make your mornings easy. Have your work or workout clothes already laid out. Prep overnight oats the day before for an instant breakfast. Set the coffee pot ahead of time. Make sure your purse or briefcase is pre-packed. “Make it as mindless as possible so you don’t have to think the next day, you can just get up and go,” said Mak.
Stay consistent. It takes about three weeks to make a habit stick, so follow a regular early bedtime/early wakeup schedule until it becomes routine. That means you shouldn’t sleep in on weekends. Kiernan likens it to jet lag. “If your body was on British time, and you come back to New York, you feel five hours off,” he said. “So if I sleep until 10 a.m. on the weekends, I’m seven hours off when I try waking up on Monday morning.”
Appreciate seizing the day. Take a minute each morning to feel gratitude about how much easier the commute is before rush hour, or to savor the quiet before your kids wake up. This will turn mornings into a blessing, not a curse. “It’s a time for self-reflection before the day breaks through,” said Mak. “Plus, I like to treat myself to a good, hot breakfast so that I have something to look forward to.
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