5 Tips to Help You Wake Up Earlier (Or More Reliably)
When Daylight Savings’s “spring forward” rears its ugly head, we all feel like zombies for at least a few days. Sure, there’s more light in the sky, but who DOESN’T need an extra hour of sleep!
But if you’re feeling groggy in the morning and want to make a change, try these tips to help you adjust your waking habits.
Motivate Yourself with the Right Reasons
Much of the internet would have everyone believe that waking up at 5:00 am is the secret to financial success, healthy relationships, life, and the universe, but the reality is much more complicated. Night owls can be just as productive and happy as early risers and there’s no moral benefit to being one or the other. It’s just a matter of knowing what your body naturally gravitates towards.
So, before trying to adjust your clock to align with social expectations, check your reasons for doing so. If the reason is “I feel like I should because everyone says it’s better,” then you’re not going to stick with it and you’ll be even more miserable than before.
Here are some examples of better reasons: Do you want to spend more time with your family in the morning? Do you want to stop getting to work late? Do you want to work on your side business in those early hours before everyone else wakes up? Those are reasons that will help you stick with this habit long-term.
If, after all of that, you’re still intent on waking up a little earlier – or actually waking up instead of hitting “snooze” – then it’s time to get to work
Consistency, Consistency, Consistency
The human body loves consistency and patterns – with enough consistency and (sometimes) rewards, we can train ourselves to do anything from salivate at the sound of a bell to… you guessed it, changing our sleep schedule!
When you want to wake up earlier, you’ll want to take a look at two different patterns: your sleep schedule and your bedtime routine. Your sleep schedule is when you actually go to bed and when you actually wake up. Your bedtime routine is what you do to unwind and get yourself ready for bed. To create new patterns, you’ll want to make these changes every day and NOT just on weekdays. Reverting to old patterns during the weekends could destroy all your hard work during the week.
For your sleep schedule, look at your actual sleep schedule – when you realistically go to bed and when you currently wake up – and determine whether you’re leaving enough time to get good sleep. Then pick your ideal wakeup time and reverse-engineer your bedtime to accommodate for seven to nine hours of sleep. That’s your goal to work towards.
For your bedtime routine, examine the things that you do to unwind before going to sleep. Most of us, against the advice of many, many sleep experts and doctors, play with our phones for a while before setting our alarms and closing our eyes. By using our phones and other electronic devices with backlights, we’re doing ourselves a disservice by convincing our brains that there’s still light out – therefore, we should be awake, not sleeping. Cue the battle between our intentions and our bodies and the crazy 3am thoughts we don’t get at any other time of day.
Instead of phone use, consider another method of winding down. Some other methods could be listening to soothing music, doing cool-down exercises or yoga, reading, journaling, working on a personal project, or talking to your partner.
Identify some changes you want to make and do NOT make them all at once!! Work these changes into your routine gradually. Since the human body loves consistency, it hates sudden, large disruptions and resists them.
So if you want to go to bed earlier and wake up earlier, do it in increments of 15 minutes. Stay for a week at the new time, then move the time up another 15 minutes until you reach your goal. If you want to change your bedtime routine to eliminate phone usage, start by regulating your phone time and adding another wind-down activity so you don’t just try to quit using your phone at night cold-turkey.
Let There Be Light!
One of the most powerful indicators of wakefulness for your brain is light. Your body is naturally responsive to daylight, no matter your natural rhythm, so use that to your advantage. Finding a way to incorporate a hefty dose of light into your waking routine could help bring you out of your sleeping stupor.
There are many ways to get light into your routine. If your room has a window, try sleeping with curtains open or opening the curtains as you wake. If you’re close to an outside door, go outside immediately after waking.
If natural light isn’t an option, then you could look into a daylight or sunrise alarm clock. These clocks, when programmed to a certain waking time, mimic a sunrise by gradually increasing light in your room. However, the Sleep Foundation cites research that demonstrates “that natural light has a greater impact on your circadian rhythm than electric light.”
Diet and Exercise
Yes, yes, it’s been harped upon in every health article known to man. But diet and exercise truly affect everything, including your sleep schedule. While “comfort food” might weigh you down into an inopportune nap, you’ll certainly wake feeling sluggish and groggy. In addition, eating foods that are high in fat or acid before bed can create acid reflux, which affects your ability to get to sleep by causing burning sensations in your throat, persistent cough, or worse.
In addition to diet, exercise improves sleep conditions. It makes sense – wearing your body out physically, as well as mentally, prepares your body to rest. But don’t exercise too close to bedtime, says the staff at MasterClass. Late exercise “can actually wake you up and inhibit a good night’s sleep.”
Move Your Alarm Clock – Or Don’t
Many articles about sleep suggest having your clock within arm’s reach makes the temptation to hit “snooze” too good to ignore. So they suggest a simple solution: put your alarm clock somewhere you can’t reach it. This way, you have to get out of bed to shut it off. And, well, now you’re out of bed! Initial start achieved!
Some people, however, are masters of “going back to bed,” even after getting up to shut off the alarm clock. But an article by George Halachev for betterhumans proposes a slightly gentler method of waking up: a 2-alarm system.
You need 2 devices with alarms, both set at different times. Your first alarm, which is by your bed, is the alarm to wake you up. You don’t have to launch yourself out of bed, just begin waking up by doing something you love (they suggest reading a book, journaling, cuddling, or doing affirmations). Your second alarm, which is away from your bed, is the “get out of bed and get going” alarm.
In this method, you start every day by doing something you love. So, instead of jumping to attention like the “move your clock” method, you wake slowly and start with a little bit of motivation. For many people, that little motivation is enough to continue on with their day.