Sleep Specialists Share Their 12 Top Tips For Waking Up In The Morning

For some, waking up can be hard to do. Unless you’re a morning person, or just so happen to wake up during the right stage of sleep, the sound of your alarm can sound a whole lot like torture. Still, they say the early bird catches the worm, so if you’re trying to figure out how to wake yourself up in the morning to start conquering the day, you’ve come to the right place.

Why is it hard to wake up in the morning?

The reason is as physiological as it is mental. See, humans have a circadian rhythm and a biological clock. The two are not mutually exclusive, but they do work in tandem. Sleep expert Michael J. Breus, Ph.D. (affectionately known as the Sleep Doctor), defines the circadian rhythm as an organism’s 24-hour cycle that keeps the body working properly. The biological clock, Breus tells mbg, is a “natural timing device” that not only regulates the cycle of the circadian rhythm but adjusts it based on the time of year, a person’s living environment, and age. 

Together, your circadian rhythm and biological clock determine when you feel tired, when you feel most awake, and how much rest your body needs to function most optimally. They’re also telling of your chronotype—whether you’re an early bird or a night owl. “A chronotype is your body’s natural disposition to be awake or asleep at certain times,” Breus explains. It’s an inherent quality and affects all parts of your daily life, including your appetite, core body temperature, productivity window, and even your ideal time for sex

Someone who is struggling to figure out how to wake up when tired in the morning is likely working against their circadian rhythm. Or, at least, trying to. For example, a night owl who sets their alarm for 6 a.m. may find their biology is working against them because their melatonin (sleep hormone) hasn’t worn off and won’t until 7 or 8 a.m., Breus explains.

Ideally, you want to schedule your bedtime and wake time based on your chronotype. That way, your circadian rhythm will stay regulated, resulting in consistent and sound sleep. Fight it, and you’re likely to experience suboptimal sleep, warns Sanam Hafeez, PsyD, an NYC-based neuropsychologist and the director of Comprehend the Mind.ADVERTISEMENT

12 tricks to wake yourself up:

1. Stop pressing snooze.

That extra five minutes of sleep isn’t doing you any favors—physically or mentally. In fact, according to Hafeez, not only does 10 to 15 minutes of extra snooze time not provide a substantial sleep cycle, it just makes you groggier and can make you cranky.

“Combat this by setting your alarm for the same time every day. As soon as the alarm goes off, get out of the bed, stretch your body, and begin your ready regimen,” says Hafeez. If you’re still tempted to hit snooze, stash your alarm on your dresser across the room, or even outside your bedroom, leaving you no choice but to get up and shut it off.

2. But first, water.

Tempting as it may be to make a beeline for your coffee maker first thing in the morning, Breus recommends reaching for a glass of water instead. Hours of sleep (and therefore hours without consuming any fluid) leave your body dehydrated; drinking a glass (or two) of water helps kick-start your hydration for the day. Leave a bottle by your bed, or set a glass in front of your coffee machine as a gentle reminder to toss one back before your morning cup of joe.

3. Take a cold shower.

Splashing your face with cold water can do the trick, but Breus says dousing your entire body in cold water will be more effective. “The effects are directly related to the amount of time in cold exposure,” Breus tells mbg. “If you throw some water on your face it’s very different than taking a cold shower for two to three minutes.”

4. Get up and out.

According to Breus, getting outside within 20 minutes of waking up and soaking in at least 15 minutes of sunlight is a great way to wake up and stay awake. It’s as simple as going outside in your yard or taking a morning walk around the neighborhood. “[Exposure to sunlight] turns off the melatonin faucet in your head,” Breus tells mbg.

5. Abide by your chronotype.

Some people are early birds; some people are night owls. “Knowing your chronotype is extremely helpful for scheduling your day’s work around your productivity windows so you can accomplish all that you want while you still have the energy to do it well,” explains Breus. Identify which category you fall under, and schedule your sleep and wake times accordingly.

6. Play with your pets.

One of the first things I do when I wake up is pet my cat, and according to Breus, this is an excellent strategy for waking yourself up in the morning. Not only is it a more interesting way to wake up, but starting the day with an element of fun makes getting out of bed more enticing. “I play with my dogs,” Breus tells mbg, adding, “They love it and I like the unconditional love.”

7. Make your bed.

There are a few benefits to making your bed every morning. The first is a sense of accomplishment; you’ve only been awake for a few minutes but have already checked something off your to-do list. The second is fluffing your pillows and fixing your sheets will also weaken your argument for why you should crawl back under the covers. The more primped and primed your bedding, the more likely you are to stay awake and move on from your bedroom.

8. Get a workout in.

Endorphins don’t just make you happy, they make you alert. So rather than save your sweat sesh for after work, incorporate some sort of movement into your daily morning routine to help wake you up. However, it’s important to find exercises you genuinely enjoy and will look forward to doing every day, so find what works for you—be it walking, Pilates, yoga, dance cardio, strength training, etc.—and get moving.

Looking for a new routine? Yoga teacher and fitness professional Suki Clements created a 15-minute morning workout for mbg readers in hopes that it will help awaken your body, mind, and spirit.

9. Try earthing.

The practice of earthing involves taking off your shoes and putting your bare feet on, well, the earth. Also called “grounding,” the gist is that standing or walking on the earth, feeling the grass and dirt under your feet and against your skin, opens you up to receiving earth’s healing energies and health benefits.

“By walking, we exercise our muscles and cardiovascular system, improve our mental health, reduce stress, and support our overall wellness,” functional medicine doctor Isaac Eliaz, M.D., M.S., L.A.a proponent of earthing, wrote on mbg back in 2013. “Simply taking our shoes off seems to multiply those benefits.”

10. Experiment with aromatherapy.

Some people perk up to the smell of caffeine. Others need an alternative scent to awaken their sense. That’s where aromatherapy comes in. Certain essential oils can also help promote mental clarity. So rather than fire up the coffee maker as soon as you open your eyes, try diffusing oils like lemon, peppermint, and frankincense to wake up the mind.

11. Pump up the jams.

Another easy way to sneak movement into your morning routine is to dance the sleepiness out of your system. Rather than scrolling through social media, hit play on your favorite playlist and bust a move right in your bedroom. You can take your dance party into the kitchen as you make your breakfast or into the bedroom for a teeth-brushing soundtrack.

You might not work up as many endorphins as you would running around the block, but research says music can trigger energizing emotions, so a track like “Walking on Sunshine” by Katrina and the Waves is sure to have you bright-eyed in no time.

12. Eat a high-protein breakfast.

Smoothies, omelets, quinoa porridge, and nut butter toast are all examples of protein-packed breakfasts that not only taste delicious but will also fuel you for the day ahead. Breus recommends leaning toward breakfasts with high protein and healthy fats so you stay full, satiated, and energized until lunch. 

How to ensure you’re getting good-quality sleep.

 A good night’s sleep is a reflection of good sleep hygiene, which encompasses a person’s sleep environment and bedtime routine. In order to ensure you’re getting high-quality sleep and therefore wake up feeling refreshed and ready to take on the day, it’s important to be mindful of the following:

  • The temperature in your bedroom. According to the National Sleep Foundation, the ideal temperature for quality sleep is between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Blue light exposure. If you can’t power down your devices completely (i.e., if your phone is your alarm), it’s important to, at the very least, limit your usage before bed, as blue light can throw off the body’s circadian rhythm, preventing you from falling or staying asleep.
  • Late-night cravings. Ditch sugary ice creams and processed treats in favor of sleep-promoting snacks like yogurt bark and golden milk. Food is fuel and is meant to give you energy, and sweets before bed are bound to keep you up at night (not to mention give you some funky dreams).
  • Environmental sounds. Is your neighbor’s dog particularly rowdy after dark? Maybe city traffic is causing you to stir, or silence gives you the creeps. Investing in one of the best sound machines on the market can majorly improve your sleep quality by drowning out any unwanted (or a lack of) sound so you can snooze through the night.
  • What’s going through your mind. Falling asleep can be a challenge if your mind is racing with a million different thoughts. Writing in a journal can help clear your mind. Once you’ve settled into bed, take pen to paper and dump it all out before your head hits the pillow.
  • If you’re truly relaxed. One of the best tips for getting great sleep is to acknowledge and address your stress levels. If you’re feeling tense, it’s likely you’ll end up tossing and turning when it’s time to get some shut-eye, so identify relaxation techniques that actually work for you and implement them into your nightly routine. This can include a gentle bedtime yoga sequence or a warm bath, diffusing essential oils, or cuddling under a weighted blanket for some physical support.

The bottom line.

The secret to waking up and staying awake when all you really want is to go back to bed is to first identify your chronotype (are you an early bird or a night owl?) and create a sleep schedule that works for your body. This will ensure you get enough REM sleep, and falling into a regular routine (relaxation techniques and all) can even lead to your body being so accustomed to its schedule that you end up waking up and falling asleep naturally.


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