Whether you are a just not a morning person, (and I certainly am NOT) work in an office or from home, or just stay up a little too late I believe almost everyone could benefit from working on techniques for how to get up in the morning.
As much as we would like to be awake and producing consistent work 24/7, it is not biologically possible. Sleep is a mandatory requirement for our health and well-being.
We spend about a third of our lives sleeping and to most, including myself, that is an existentially TERRIFYING statistic. People often dislike being reminded of how short their time here on earth really is. Adding to that the fact that a rather large chunk of it is spent for all intents and purposes “clocked-out” is enough to make nearly anyone take a deep breath and do a little self reflection.
This post will be broken down into a few sections. First I will highlight the importance of sleep on our cognitive function and some sleep deprivation facts I find interesting. Next we will go into some different techniques you can use the night before, and the morning of to make getting out of bed a cinch. Finally, I will include some extra tools and tips that I’ve found to be helpful in my own quest against the devious Mr. Sandman’s subtle tactics.
Get Your Fill
In this section we’ll go over some of what we risk losing when putting sleep on the back burner. A lot of this you’ll probably have heard before so if you would like, feel free to skip to the next section where we get into the good stuff.
Approximately one third of adults are sleep deprived, meaning they get less than the recommended minimum of 7 hours of sleep regularly. Given the emphasis modern society places on productivity, this makes sense.
In the world of business an individual is often judged by the amount of quality work they can produce in a day. With this in mind people are often pressured into sacrificing some of their precious sleep time in favor of getting more work done. What people don’t usually realize is that depriving themselves of sleep can, in the long term, greatly reduce their overall productivity.
Sleep deprivation results in a host of unwanted negative effects including:
- Reduced reaction time
- Impaired emotional intelligence and stability
- Impaired creativity and problem solving
- Impaired ability to learn new skills and recall facts or experiences
- Impaired judgment and self-monitoring
Although any one of these is obviously disadvantageous to the productive individual, the one that interests me most is that last point: Impaired judgment and self-monitoring.
Studies have shown that sleep deprived individuals actually have a difficult time telling how sleep deprived they really are, and how much it is effecting the outcome of their work. Stress is the main component of this reduced ability to monitor performance, whereas sleep itself lessens the effects of stress.
This results in a push-pull type reaction in us between sleep and stress. The less sleep we get the more stress affects us, and lowers our ability to tell how sleep deprived we are.
… See what I’m getting at here?
This can quickly become a vicious cycle of thinking we can function normally with a less than optimal amount of sleep, while our performance continues to degrade over time.
However, being aware of this is half the battle.
Now that we ARE aware of how our body and brain can trick us, we can take the necessary steps to improve the amount of sleep we get each night. Not to mention that getting up in the morning is at least TWICE as easy if you awake feeling refreshed and not like you just lost a boxing match against your pillows and blanket.
The Night Before
The night before you say? I thought this was supposed to be about getting up in the morning!
Precisely. I think that the best ways to ensure you can get up on time are those that are performed the night before.
As I mentioned above getting enough sleep in the first place is one way you can make getting up a whole lot easier. Improving our before bed habits and rituals can ensure we are getting to bed on time, which leads me to my first tactic:
1. Set a Bedtime and STICK TO IT.
If you’re recovering from an already irregular sleep schedule (As I often find myself doing) you need to set a bedtime in line with when you would like to sleep and just force yourself to lie down when that time arrives.
If you can do this and fall asleep around the desired time for a few days your body will acclimate to this schedule and you’ll start feeling naturally tired come the bedtime you specified.
If you’re having trouble doing this sudden shift try altering your wake up time and bedtime by 20 minutes each day towards your desired schedule. This way you can gradually adjust your circadian rhythm rather than just make a sudden big change.
I was taught in college that the body’s circadian rhythm (sleep schedule) is one of the hardest systems to alter. I find this less true in modern times due to constant exposure to artificial light in the form of the screens of our ever so loved devices. All this extra stimuli makes it easy for us to trick our brains into thinking that the sun has yet to set, which brings us to the next strategy:
2. No Screens 1 Hour Before Bedtime
This is a tough one.
I myself have yet to integrate this tactic into my nightly routine and it will definitely take a little discipline to apply yourself.
However I believe the benefits our sleep will gain if we can adhere to this rule vastly outweigh the little bit of initial resistance we may experience at the start.
There are many personal accounts online of this single tweak completely fixing issues with sleep schedules people have struggled with for years. The power of artificial light on our internal body clocks should
not be underestimated.
3. Practice your Morning Routine the Night Before
Lie down in whatever clothes you normally sleep in, set a false alarm, get under the covers, and pretend like you are asleep.
Now wait for the alarm and when it goes off get up immediately and go through your morning routine. Do this a few times each night and eventually your muscle memory will take over and you’ll be getting up in the morning to your alarm without a second thought.
4. Plan the Day Ahead in as many ways as You Can
I’m talking about making your to-do list, your workout routine, what your going to eat the following day (if you like to keep track of that sort of thing), scheduling the days tasks, and anything else you can think of that will make it easier for you the next day. Picking out your clothes, setting up for your morning ritual, the list can go on. Think of all the things that you REALLY don’t feel like doing or thinking about when you first wake up.
We all only have so much willpower each day, and making decisions regardless of how tiny or insignificant (like what to have for breakfast) slowly add up and drain that reserve. The more of these decisions we can have already made for us, the more willpower we will have to focus on the important tasks (like waking up on time) that bring us toward our goals.
Not having to worry about the minute details makes it that much easier to win the mental battle of getting up in the morning which we will go into more depth on in the next section.
The Morning After
This is it. The true test. You hear your alarm sound and immediately your brain starts making the most absurd excuses for you to hit snooze and return to dreamworld.
In our current state, the ridiculous reasons to stay tucked in make all the sense we need them to right then, and so we hit snooze. Usually more than just once.
If you practice technique #3 from the section above enough though, you hopefully will be jumping out of bed and beginning your morning routine without even giving your semi-conscious mind a chance to devise its’ sleep coaxing arguments.
However, not every morning will be perfect and we are bound to encounter some resistance to waking up sooner or later. So let’s discuss a few strategies you can try out to help make that extra push you sometimes need to free you from that land of half-asleep nonsense, and arrive once again in reality.
Okay so technically these are some things that you might need to set up the night before you go to sleep but they bear most of their benefit in helping wake you out of that mental daze, so I included them in this section. Technicalities.
We can design our wake up environment in a way that will greatly help us get up in the morning.
First and foremost, if you are lucky enough to live above ground (I am a basement dweller) and have a window in your room (ideally facing the east) then position your bed in a way that allows sunlight to shine on your face in the morning, and make sure your blinds are open!
As mentioned earlier, light affects our internal clocks and we evolved to awake with the sun. Direct sunlight tells our brains that its time to start the day!
If you don’t happen to have a convenient window or none at all, you can create a variation of this by installing a bright light over your bed set on a timer. Just sync up the timer to your alarm, and voila, artificial sunlight.
While your at it make sure to cover any tiny ambient lights that may be in your room like blinking routers, computers etc. Make your room as dark as you can for improved quality of sleep.
For some people, just getting out of bed is enough to keep them awake. If your one of those people, simply set an alarm across the room that you have to get up to turn off and than begin your morning routine.
However if you are like me and will get up, hit snooze, and do an Olympic dive back under the covers, there are a couple of other things you can try:
2. Make your Bed Right Away
I’ve personally had success with this one. As soon as you get out of bed to hit snooze that first time make your bed. The physical activity of making your bed will help to wake you up and once you give the effort to make your bed it is highly unlikely you’ll undo it all and crawl back under the sheets.
Even if you lay back down on top of your made bed you’ll likely be cold and uncomfortable making falling asleep again unlikely. If just making your bed isn’t enough activity to shake you from your restful state, or you’re feeling extra groggy, then try some:
3. Light Exercise
After you get out of bed, if you’re still feeling really out of it (hopefully not if you got enough sleep in the first place!) a little light exercise can get your blood pumping and help get the body’s various systems up and running.
Think of it like warming up your car on an icy winter morning. Do some jumping jacks or push ups. Stick to movements that make use of the whole body at once. Even if you aren’t using this to immediately jar yourself awake a morning exercise routine can help you feel energized and ready to start the day. Consider a yoga routine or weightlifting.
These are just a few extra things I’ve found and used to some success in my sleep correcting endeavors. I plan to add to this section in the future as I discover more techniques, and hopefully learn some new ones from readers as well.
f.lux is a program for computers that lowers the amount of blue light they produce. Much of sunlight is blue light so the more of it our screens produce, the more it registers in our body as “daylight”.
f.lux syncs to your location and automatically reduces the blue light output of your computer at sunset. You can set the level of reduction to your preference but generally the lower the better. This helps your body and sleep cycle be naturally more in sync with daylight hours, and will help you get to bed on time.
2. Sleep as Android
This is an app for android devices (sorry iPhone users) that is probably the best alarm clock/sleep monitoring app out there. It offers a large amount of alarm options, including “games” that make you tap sleepy sheep and do math problems to turn off your alarm, among others.
My favorite alarm option on it by far is the scanner option. This option allows you to assign any number of QR codes and/or bar codes that you must scan to turn off the alarm. So if you get creative you can make yourself have to go all the way into the bathroom to turn off your alarm (why not hop in the shower? you’re already here…) or even something more extreme like requiring yourself to go outside on a porch or to your car to be exposed to the cool morning air.
The options here are nearly endless and this has helped me greatly in getting up, and staying up in the morning. It costs a few dollars, but it is well worth it in my opinion, including an insane amount of customization and also sleep tracking software that monitors you as you sleep and can help you awake from the optimum phase of sleep to feel refreshed and ready to go.
3. Give Yourself a Morning Incentive
This is a tactic I’ve been using recently to overcome the mental battle of waking up (my mind comes up with some crazy reasons to go back to sleep). It’s simple, plan to have a pleasurable experience first thing in the morning that you ONLY get to do if you wake up on time. Maybe that’s a cup of coffee, or your favorite tea, or even doing an activity you find enjoyable.
Whatever it is, remind yourself of it right before you go to sleep in the context: “Oh yeah if I get up on time tomorrow I GET to ‘so-and-so'”.
This will give you something to look forward to upon waking up and if you were thinking about it as you fell asleep, there is a good chance it will be the first thing that pops into your mind upon waking.
If the first thing you think of is something rewarding, you do two things at once: Block the chance for your brain to create excuses (you’re already thinking about something else) AND get yourself excited/train yourself to be rewarded by successfully getting up on time.
I couldn’t possibly include every tactic and tool in one post though as I mentioned I do plan on adding to this as time allows. Another big reason that I will never be able to include EVERYTHING is because, like most things, it’s a highly personal situation. What works for some won’t work for others and the best possible tip I can give you is to experiment.
A wise soul once said “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”. Try new strategies. Be creative. Think outside the box. Eventually you WILL find something that works, as long as you are looking.
I hope this post has given you some ideas on how to improve your ability to get up in the morning (that is why I wrote it). I’ve found many of these useful myself, and also still have some of them to try. Leave it in the comments below if any of these have worked for you or anything else you have found to help in your sleep training or that I may have simply overlooked! Now that you’re up and at ’em, go have a mindful day!