With DST over, waking up early never looked so good

Daylight Saving Time has ended and nightfall begins during the evening commute. But don't despair over the lack of sunlight; instead, consider waking up earlier to take advantage of morning rays.

We talked to a few Atlantans whose a.m. routine makes the sun look lazy. People such as O'Neill Williams, television and radio host of O'Neill Outside, who has scooted out of bed by 5 a.m. for the past 15 years; Josh Guerrieri, who rises the same time to get a head-start at his FitWit fitness camps; and Dr. Heather Markway, a veterinarian who begins her days at Buckhead Animal Clinic by 7:15 a.m.

These early-risers share why they love the hours around dawn and how others can learn to love the early morning.

“It’s not so bad after you get in a routine,” says Guerrieri, a father of two with one on the way. "Getting up at 5 a.m. used to make me ill...but there's something cool about getting your work done before most people wake up."

Williams agrees, and says the key to waking up -- and staying up -- is morning exercise. Williams, 66, usually wakes up around 4:45 a.m., grabs a cup of coffee and heads to the gym. (On Saturdays, Williams and his wife, Gail, are awake by 3:30 a.m. at the latest to broadcast his radio show.)

"If you work out first, you don't feel so tired," he says. “If I don’t do that, my day is not nearly so productive.”

Williams finishes up his workout around 6:45 a.m. and gets to his professional work soon after. Long ago, he discovered the advantages of being busy in the early hours: less distractions. And because he negotiates advertising and sponsorship deals that support his shows, being organized and early is key.

“I begin those communications early," he says, referring to e-mails he sends to business associates. "I get the first shot.”

Markway, 28, has heeded a 6 a.m. wake-up call since her days in veterinary school, when she'd rise to treat animals before going to class.

"There are definitely some days when it's harder. I'm not like my dad who wakes up at 5 a.m. singing and dancing," she says. "It took a really long time to want to wake up that early...but now that I'm used to it, I really enjoy it because it feels like you have a full day."

Her secret weapon for early morning success? A pet boxer, Moxie, who jingles her collar around 6 a.m. to go outside.

Markway says the end of DST has its benefits, namely the extra sun in the morning to get her going. And because she works long days and often doesn't return home until nighttime, early morning sunshine gives her a dose of cheer.

"I definitely feel more human when I wake up and function earlier."

Their tips for sunrise success:

1) Go to bed early. Williams, Guerrieri and Markway hit the hay around 10 p.m. or 10:30 p.m. -- a bedtime that became easier once they settled into the early morning routine.

2) Start the day with exercise. Even if it's just a short walk to the mailbox or taking the dog out, getting the heart rate up helps you stay awake.

3) Plan your day the night before. Having an early morning to-do list can help you immediately focus your thoughts away from sleep.

4) Build in time. Markway sets her alarm extra early so that she can hit snooze once or twice, allowing her body to gradually wake up.

Short history of DST

Daylight Saving Time began during World War II as a way to save energy for the war, but became permanent in 1967, said a spokesman with the U.S. Department of Transportation, which oversees time and time zone issues. The measure, which shifts "daylight hours" further into evening, was expanded in 2007 by several weeks and is now observed from the second Sunday in March to the first Sunday in November. DST aims to save energy by helping people pursue evening outside activities, which in turn keeps them from staying home with lights, television and other energy-burning appliances running.