Anyone can reprogram their sleep

(Health) Yep, even those of us who watch TV into the wee hours can reprogram both body and mind to wake up early more naturally and to function better all morning:

Dream up a magical morning
Changing your habits can be easier if your identify an intention to get up earlier, says Rafael Pelayo, M.D., clinical professor at the Stanford Center for Sleep Sciences and Medicine. Do you want to linger over breakfast? Whatever you desire within reason, make it your motivation to wake up. If you tend to dread exercise, a 6:30 a.m. spin class probably isn’t a great plan. Save the workout for later in the day, and start your day with something you enjoy.

Get the first five minutes of the day right
Even if the sun isn’t up yet, expose yourself to as much light as possible. “Morning light has a stimulating biological effect even when your eyes are closed,” says David Neubauer, M.D., associate director of the Johns Hopkins Sleep Disorders Center. It’s how our internal clock knows that it’s time to start the day.

Ease into it
When it comes to adjusting your internal clock, slow and steady is the name of the game. “If you typically get up at 9 a.m., don’t expect to wake up at 6 after two days,” says Sabra Abbot, M.D., neurologist and sleep medicine physician at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago. Instead gradually inch toward your ideal start time by going to bed and waking up 15 minutes earlier.

Stick to your routine
Consistency is key. Research shows that negative health consequences like weight gain and a higher risk of heart disease arise from an unstable wake-up schedule shifting between early mornings during the week and sleeping in on the weekend. So find a sleep-wake schedule that works every day of the week.

Create a sleepy environment
Assuming you don’t have a sleep disorder, chilling out in a relaxing atmosphere will help sleep unfold. The number one rule: no screens.

Put your food on a schedule
Just like your sleep and wake times, you meal times should stay consistent throughout the week. Eat your biggest meal early, have a smaller lunch and an even smaller dinner, and try not to eat later than 8 p.m.