Do you often find yourself wondering how to wake up early? If you’re someone who hits the snooze button every morning, feeling more tired than when you went to bed, you’re not the only one.
Having the best pillow and most comfortable duvet can make it incredibly hard to leave your bed, but there are a number of other reasons you could be struggling to get up early every day, one of those being your genes.
“We’re all programmed to some degree to either be a morning lark who wakes up early but struggles to stay up late, or a night owl who stays up late but can’t get up,” says Sammy Margo, chartered physiotherapist and sleep expert.
Another possible cause of your slow mornings could be your circadian rhythm. This is the ‘clock’ that controls your sleep-wake cycle and can be affected by a range of health and lifestyle factors, according to Sammy.
While there isn't much you can do to change your genes so you're suddenly leaping out of bed at 6am every morning, there are lifestyle changes you can put in place to make sure you are successfully completing your sleep cycle every night, which will make it much easier to wake up early.
Ready to become more of a morning person? Here the experts share seven easy ways you can train yourself to get out of bed as soon as your alarm goes off.
1. Work out your ideal bedtime
If you feel tired and groggy when your alarm wakes you up, it’s probably because it has disturbed your sleep cycles.
“Sleep inertia occurs when you wake suddenly during slow-wave sleep (deep sleep),” explains Lisa Artis from the Sleep Council. “The brainstem arousal system is the part of the brain responsible for basic physical functioning. Though it’s activated immediately upon waking, our prefrontal cortex (PFC), which oversees decision-making and self-control, takes a while to get going. It can be up to 30 minutes for our PFC to catch up with the rest of our body.”
To ensure you allow your body enough time to rest while still waking up at your desired time and avoiding oversleeping, you need to make sure you are completing the five-step sleep cycle.
“Work backwards from the time you want to get up to get your ideal bedtime,” says Lisa. “For example, if you sleep for 7.5 hours a night, multiply 90 minutes (the length of each sleep cycle) by five (the number of sleep cycles per night) to get 450 minutes or 7.5 hours of sleep. Allow yourself 15 minutes to drop off to sleep. Therefore, if you need to wake up by 7am count back 7.5 hours plus 15 mins to nod off, and you'll find that your ideal bedtime is 11:15 pm. Make sure you’re in bed before then, and have a bedtime routine that ensures you’re feeling relaxed and ready to sleep.“
2. Get outside first thing
As soon as you wake up in the morning, get up and get outside to avoid any temptation to crawl back into bed for a few more minutes.
Whether that's going for a walk, having your morning coffee by the window or doing some light yoga for beginners outside, getting daylight as soon as you wake up helps to reset your body clock
“This is critical to learning how to wake up early,” says Sammy. “It tells your body you need to be asleep again in 16-18 hours’ time as it resets your circadian rhythm. Getting out in the fresh air for some exercise is ideal, but even sitting by a window or having a coffee in the garden is better than nothing.”
3. Invest in your bedroom
It's often overlooked, but making sure the air and temperature in your bedroom are spot on is essential for better sleep.
The optimum bedroom temperature during the night is between 16-18C. “If your room is too hot or cold, your body won’t release the melatonin needed for sleep,” explains Sammy. “It also needs to be clean and not damp. A dehumidifier is a good option, otherwise, open your bedroom windows during the day to air out your room.”
Having a good mattress is key to a comfortable night's sleep and ensuring you know how to clean a mattress is essential for your health. After eight years of wear and tear, the quality of your mattress deteriorates by around 75% and, therefore, needs to be replaced to provide the support your body needs at night. You should also make sure you clean it regularly to avoid a build-up of dust mites, dirt or mold.
Keep your bedroom as quiet as possible by investing in soft furnishings or carpet to muffle sounds, Sammy suggests. If you live in a particularly noisy area, try earplugs.
4. Step away from the snooze button
Pressing the snooze button won’t give you any extra quality sleep, but will have you waking up feeling more groggy and less alert.
“When you press the snooze button, your brain knows it’ll go off again, so you won’t get any of the deep, resting slumber in between snoozes,” explains Lisa.
Your sleep cycle has been disturbed and once you wake up, you won’t fall back into the cycle or get quality shut-eye, only feeling worse once your alarm goes off again.
Lisa advises setting your alarm for the exact time you need to get up or putting it across the room so you have to get out of bed to turn it off. You’ll wake yourself up along the way and not feel the need to get back into bed.
You could also invest in a sunrise alarm clock that gradually gets brighter over a period of time before your alarm goes off, so you wake up to light in your bedroom, helping to reset your body clock.
5. Eat more foods that help you snooze
We all know to avoid heavy meals and alcohol before bed, but do you know about the foods that could improve your quality of sleep, have you snoozing peacefully and waking up ready to take on the day?
“Bananas are great before bed,” says Sammy. “They’re high in magnesium, as well as sleep-promoting hormones serotonin and melatonin.
“Turkey contains tryptophan which encourages sleep, the glucose in honey tells your brain to shut off orexin, the hormone that triggers alertness. Almonds also contain tryptophan and magnesium, which both help reduce muscle and nerve function and steady your heart rhythm.”
6. Have a caffeine cut-off
Caffeine late at night is a big no-no and can cause havoc with your sleep, promoting an endless cycle of turning to caffeinated drinks to keep you going throughout the day until bedtime.
“It doesn’t affect everyone, but for most people, it’s a good idea to cut out caffeine from lunchtime onwards to improve the quality of your sleep that night,” says Sammy.
Swap an evening cup of coffee for one of the best sleep teas, such as chamomile or lavender, or a warm glass of milk instead.
7. Dump electronics before bed
The blue light emitted from our devices affects our ability to sleep by blocking the production of melatonin, the hormone that makes us sleepy. But, how many of us have considered how the constant news cycle and information available at the click of a button can also impact our sleep quality? The endless stimulation affects the brain’s ability to relax, so it’s a good idea to ditch the electronics at least an hour before bed.
“I know it’s hard, but the blue light from devices suppresses the body’s ability to produce the sleep hormone melatonin, which means you’re unlikely to sleep well," explains Sammy. "We’re all spending so much more time online than usual that the effect has been exacerbated."
By putting down your phone and picking up a book instead, you’ll give your body and mind time to relax and get ready for sleep. You could also try some bedtime yoga, meditation or have a warm bath to get you in the sleep zone.
Going to bed at the ideal time, allowing your body to go through all the sleep cycles for good quality rest and following our other tips will all make it easier for you to wake up early feeling refreshed.
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