Question: I am an older teenager. Can you please explain to me why some people have such a hard time waking up in the morning? This is something I constantly struggle with and I never am able to beat it. Oversleeping is something that is constantly getting in the way of my aliyah. It also really annoys my parents and rabbiem. I wouldn't say it just has to do with going to sleep late because I have friends who go to sleep really late and still somehow always make shachris. People tell me I am just lazy and should just get up, but if so, I don't know how to stop being lazy. Can you please give me some advice as to how to deal with this endless problem.
Your question makes sense. There are biological differences with regard to people’s wake-sleep cycle and not everyone is a morning person. Some people can jump out of bed in the morning, ready to take on the day. Others need to hit the snooze button five times before forcing themselves out of bed. Some can stay up late at night without a problem, while others need to get to bed early.
These genetic differences are explained based on chronotype, which refers to the time of day when one functions best. We all have our unique light-regulated internal clocks, which determine our chronotype. Aside from genetic differences in chronotype, there are also developmental differences as our internal clock fluctuates throughout life. Small children and the elderly tend to wake early, while teenagers and young adults generally find it hard to get up in the morning. Research demonstrates that natural wake times get later through childhood and puberty and reach a peak of lateness at ages 19.5 for women and 21 for men.
While it may be challenging to fight your biology, it is definitely advisable to work on it. One can train themselves to become more of a morning person. Aside from the obvious benefits of a proper Shachris and getting an early start to the day, research shows that morning “larks” tend to be happier and more agreeable than night “owls.” They are also more proactive and less likely to procrastinate. Recommended approaches to work on this include methods of going to sleep in a timely manner as well as strategies to wake up earlier. Please forgive me for repeating what you have likely heard before, but the central principle is that if you train yourself to go to bed early and wake up early and stick with it, you can get used to it. It may feel weird in the beginning, but that is ok. Please also note that some of the strategies enumerated below may require halachic guidance.
Specific strategies to fall asleep at night include staying away from things that make it harder to fall asleep. This includes keeping caffeine out of the system (staying away from coffee or energy drinks from the afternoon) and staying away from daytime naps (more than 20 minutes). In addition, exposing yourself to more sunlight throughout the day helps the body produce more sleep-promoting melatonin at night. Specific morning recommendations include training yourself to not press the snooze button, which will help you feel less groggy. In addition, building something rewarding into your early morning routine will give you an incentive to want to get out of bed in the morning. Finally, doing exercise in the morning will produce endorphins that will make you feel more calm and alert.
Originally appeared in Yated Ne'eman.