The sad truth night owls have to accept—and I know this intimately because I am one of them—is that we will never, ever become morning people. Rejecting the early light is in our DNA. As biologist and sleep researcher Christoph Randler told the Harvard Business Review, “People can be trained to alter what we call their ‘chronotypes,’ but only somewhat… Significant change can be a challenge.” According to Randler, about half of one’s “chronotype” is “due to genetics.” (This especially stings, because Randler’s findings also indicate that larks get better grades, go to better schools, and land better jobs.)
But, Randler is sure to note, all hope is not lost; shifting your circadian rhythm may be an arduous uphill climb, but it’s not insurmountable. For starters, you could try going to bed an hour earlier. By falling asleep an hour earlier, the logic goes, you’ll wake up an hour earlier. You could also try spending more time outdoors in the morning light. “The daylight resets your circadian clock and helps shift you toward morningness,” explains Randler. “If you go outside only in the evening, you tend to shift toward eveningness.” Sounds simple, right?
You and I both know it’s not that easy. If you really want to train yourself to put two feet on the floor early in the morning, you’ll have to accept that you’re your own worst enemy.
Enter Alarmy, the world’s most annoying Android app, and Step Out!, the world’s most annoying iPhone app. Both apps are exclusive to their native platforms, though they function more or less identically, with minute differences. In essence, these apps make the “snooze” button that you love so much a thing of the past. (Don’t deny it: According to Sleep Review, 60 percent of Americans and a whopping 70 percent of Brits slam “snooze” every morning.)
Here’s how it works: First, you take a picture of anything in your house. Then, you set your alarm, just like you would any other other smartphone alarm. However, when the ringer goes off, the only way to shut off the alarm is by taking a picture that matches—or at least bears an uncanny resemblance to—the original shot. If you take a snapshot of your bathroom sink, your alarm will wail until you’re standing right in front of it. By then, you’ll be fully awake and standing exactly where you should be.
What’s more, each app has an alternate mode. For Alarmy, you can set the clock to “math mode.” Instead of taking a picture, to shut off the alarm, you have to answer an algebraic equation. Step Out!, on the other hand—or rather, foot—offers a less mentally complex option. Instead of taking a photo, you set a number of steps. Once you walk the of steps, the alarm will shut off. According to reviewers on the App Store, 30 is the sweet spot. (Alarmy is a free download. Step Out! costs two bucks.)
Or, if this all sounds too vexing—and for those who are truly irritable in the morning, it may very well be—consider trying out the nascent trend of at-first-light “coffee napping.” It worked wonders for me. Maybe it will for you, too.
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