Become a Morning Person in Medical School, Even When You’re Not

During my first two years of medical school, I generally woke up around 7am to study. However, as I began third year, my mornings started much earlier. On my OB/GYN and surgery rotations, woke up around 4 am to be at the hospital by 5 am! Even for a morning person like me, this was tough!

For those who are trying to become a morning person (by personal desire or by force) here are my tips for resetting your internal clock for an early wake-up time!

1. Pack your bag, outfit, and meals the night before.

Choosing your outfit the night, gathering everything you need, and knowing what you’ll prepare for breakfast will make your morning go more much more smoothly.

2. Set an alarm to go to sleep earlier!

Giving yourself a bedtime is tough, especially as a busy third-year medical student. After working 10-12+ shifts, it can be hard to fit in studying, working out, and cooking before an early bedtime. There are many days that I end up staying up late to study, which I always regretted the next morning.

One thing you can do to remind yourself to head to bed earlier is to set an alarm on your phone. I usually set an alarm at 9pm to remind myself to wrap up my studying and start getting ready for bed. Challenge yourself to get 6-7+ hours!

3. Make gradual changes and stay consistent!

If you know you’re going to have to get up at 4 am on Monday for your rotation, start going to bed a little earlier the week before.

For instance, the 7 days before, go to sleep 15 minute earlier. When you’re about 5 days out, go to bed 30 minutes early, 3 days out, go to be 45 minutes early, etc… Make small incremental changes to your sleeping habit is much easier than trying to sleep 1-2 hours earlier right away.

4. Set the mood.

Limit your bright electronics before bed. You may still work on your phone, but see if you can use the dark mode setting or use a filter that blocks the blue light. Or simply turn the brightness of your screen down. You can also set the mood by using lavender essential oils and sprays around your area. This can be helpful if you need to start getting to bed earlier, but you’re a natural night owl.

4. Don’t hit snooze. Wake up immediately after your alarm goes off.

This can make you feel more tired, and before you know it, you’ve lost precious minutes of your morning.

What can you do to prevent this? I know a medical student who has his bedroom lights programmed to his alarm. Forcing all the lights on would help him get up and out of bed. Another tip is to leave your phone on the opposite side of the room. This will force you to get up to turn it off. You can also download apps like Smart Alarm or Math Alarm. These require you to solve a math problem to turn it off or set it to snooze (this sounds like torture to me haha).

5. Give yourself something to look forward to.

Do you look forward to your morning cup of coffee like I do? Are you going to see a cool surgery today? If you’re getting up extra early to get work done to have more free time, get excited about that. If there isn’t anything in particular you’re looking forward to, give yourself a pep talk. It seems lame, but it can go a long way. Tell yourself it will be a great day or have someone else do it by listening to a motivational podcast/music.

I hope these tips help for those who are starting your early morning rotations! Hang in there, it will get easier once you make it a routine!

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