It's no wonder we can't get out of bed in the morning: about 60% of Americans wake up feeling groggy at least a few times a week, according to the National Sleep Foundation survey. To wake up feeling refreshed, there are plenty of things you can do before bed, like drinking chamomile tea and avoiding checking your e-mail from under the covers. But what can you do in the morning when you need a little push off of the mattress to get going? Try these eight tricks to make waking up a little easier.
Do you think that by setting your alarm for, say, 45 minutes before you have to climb out of bedand hitting the snooze button every 10 minutesyou'll gently and gradually rouse yourself awake? Nope. This is common: "I hear of people who set like 12 alarms [to wake up]," says Andrew Westwood, MD, a neurologist and sleep specialist at ColumbiaDoctors Midtown in New York City. The bad habit cheats you out of extra minutes in deeper, more restorative sleep stages and instead keeps you in the lighter ones, he says. A better idea: set your alarm for when you actually have to wake up. Then, put it on the other side of your bedroom so you'll get out of bed to turn it off. Another strategy: When the buzzer sounds, swing your feet over the edge of your bed and sit up. If you can make it that farand resist the urge to fall backwardsyou'll have an easier time pushing yourself off of the mattress.
Sunlight alerts your body that it's time to wake up, so if you don't want to rise when the sun does, then be sure to shut your blinds before you go to bed. "Light is definitely an alerting signal," says Amy Amara, MD, PhD, a professor of neurology at University of Alabama Birmingham and a physician in the University of Alabama Birmingham's Sleep-Wake Disorders Center. "However, the timing of light exposure is very dependent upon the individual. If the light is given at the wrong time, it can actually end up making it harder to wake up or shift the circadian rhythm in the wrong direction."
People tend to sleep about an hour longer on weekends than weekdays, according to one survey by the National Sleep Foundation. But our body's circadian rhythm resets every day, and logging a few extra hours of shuteye can throw it off and cause sluggishness when you try to wake up, says Brant Hasler, PhD, a sleep researcher and assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh. Instead of sleeping in, try a strategically-timed mid-afternoon nap, when people have a natural dip in their circadian rhythms, he says. Just keep it to about 20 minutes.
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Wake up with an activity tracker
Some activity trackers (like Jawbone Up and most Fitbits) and apps (like Sleep Cycle) can track as your body cycles through its sleep stagesfrom a light slumber to a deeper shut-eye to the REM "rapid eye movement" zoneevery 90 minutes or so. (These devices tend to track these phases by detecting your movements in bed; as people fall into a deeper sleep, their muscles become more relaxed.) The trackers can then wake you up during the lightest phase of slumber within a 30-minute window, which can make it easier to get out of bed in the morning.
It's an old trick, but it works. One 2003 study found that people who washed their face after a nap felt less tired afterward. "It [can trigger] an automatic reflex that'll give you a surge of adrenaline," explains Dr. Westwood. Still, he cautions, if someone has to dump a bucket of water on you every day just to wake you up, you probably have a more serious sleep problem that needs to be addressed by a specialist.
No matter what type of exercise you like to dowhether that's yoga or runningbeing active can help wake you up in the morning, says Dr. Westwood. (He also points out that it's also a better time of day to do vigorous exercise, which can cause adrenaline surges and delay sleep if you do it too close to bedtime.) Plus, research shows that people who log 150 minutes of physical activity a week are less likely to feel overly sleepy throughout the day compared to those who don't get the recommended level of exercise.
After all, your body just went about 8 hours without any liquids. "I find that people wake up better if they're hydrated," says Dr. Westwood, who explains that going for too long without drinking anything can make you feel unmotivated and sluggish. One 2011 study in the American Journal of Nutrition found that young women who were mildly dehydrated were more fatigued, had more headaches, and experienced more difficulty concentrating than those who had been drinking enough water. Dr. Westwood recommends drinking an 8-ounce glass of water within the first hour of waking up.
You know how it's easier to wake up on Christmas morning if you know there will be presents under the tree? Excitementor even just plain old obligationcan be a powerful motivator for waking you up in the morning. So start making a.m. plans that you know you won't skip, says Hasler. Whether that's an interview with a client one day, a breakfast meeting the next, or a coffee date on the weekend, soon, you'll be climbing out of bed easierand you might be more be more productive, too.