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Home / Frequently Asked Questions About Sleep / How to Wake Up Easier

How to Wake Up Easier

Jay Summer

Written by

Jay Summer, Staff Writer

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Some morning people open their eyes after a restful night’s sleep ready to start their day. However, many individuals struggle to feel alert in the morning and, as a result, find it challenging to prepare for work, school, or other responsibilities.

The initial grogginess experienced after waking up, also called sleep inertia, is one reason why mornings can be extra difficult. Sleep inertia may cause irritability and confusion and can reduce your ability to concentrate or think clearly. Sleep inertia is worsened by insufficient sleep and waking from stages of deep sleep.

The initial effects of sleep inertia typically last between 15 and 30 minutes, but they can persist as long as two hours. However, small lifestyle changes can improve morning alertness and minimize the undesirable effects of sleep inertia. We discuss a number of strategies to help you wake up easier in the morning and stay alert.

Keep a Consistent Wake Up Time

Sleep experts recommend going to sleep and waking up at the same time every day, even on weekends. A consistent sleep schedule helps regulate the body’s internal clock, which influences the sleep-wake cycle, a set of physical processes that cause one to feel sleepy at night and ready to rise in the morning.

The sleep-wake cycle affects a number of important functions, from restoring energy to healing the body. If a person’s sleep schedule is irregular or not aligned with sunrise and sunset, waking up in the morning may feel like more of a challenge.

Don’t Hit the Snooze Button

Getting out of bed after the first alarm can make waking up easier. Although it may be tempting to hit the snooze button to get an extra few minutes of sleep, the additional sleep will be fragmented. Disrupted sleep does not provide the same benefits as continuous sleep. In fact, it is associated with increased stress and other harmful effects.

Rather than leaving yourself time to snooze in the morning, it may be more helpful to set your alarm a little later and avoid snoozing in order to maximize sleep quantity and quality. If it is challenging for you to rise after hearing the first alarm, encourage getting up quickly by moving the alarm device farther away from your bed.

Get Enough Sleep

One reason people rely on the snooze button is because they do not wake up feeling refreshed and crave more sleep. However, sleeping a few extra minutes in the morning may not help someone who is dealing with chronic sleep deprivation. Each person has their own individual sleep needs, but most adults require between seven and nine total hours of sleep, yet more than 35% sleep less than seven hours. Consider your bedtime, wake time, and overall time spent sleeping during the night. If you struggle to wake up in the morning, you may benefit from setting aside more time for sleep.

 

Let in Natural Light

Exposure to daylight stops the production of melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate the sleep-wake cycle by promoting sleep. Sleeping with the curtains open or partially open may allow the sun to wake you naturally. In locations with less daylight or if following a schedule that requires waking up in darkness, consider using a wake-up light. These lights are designed to turn on gradually and behave like natural sunlight.

Additionally, exposure to light during the daytime can support a healthy sleep-wake cycle. A study of university students found that blue light in the classroom promotes alertness and improved moods during morning classes. Another study of office employees who were exposed to light during the workday showed participants experienced better moods and higher quality sleep at night.

Listen to Energizing Music

Research shows that the sound of your alarm could potentially reduce the grogginess or sleep inertia you experience after waking. Research is not yet conclusive about the most effective sounds for waking up. However, there is some evidence associating melodic-sounding alarms with less perceived sleep inertia and neutral-sounding alarms, like beeping, with greater perceived sleep inertia.

Melodic music follows predictable patterns, such as those heard in an energetic pop song, which makes them easy to hum or sing along to and might be more stimulating to wake up with. Experiment with different alarm sounds or songs to identify the best way to transition yourself from sleep to wakefulness.

Take a Shower

For many people, taking a shower is an integral part of their morning routine. Water temperature in particular may influence alertness.

A randomized controlled study examined the impact of taking hot-to-cold showers in the morning. Participants started with a shower at their preferred temperature and then spent the last 30 to 90 seconds of the shower under the cold water. A frequently cited benefit of the cold water exposure was higher levels of energy. Some participants described the energy boost as being similar to the effect of consuming caffeine.

Eat a Nutritious Breakfast

Food is essential for getting necessary nutrients and energy each day. Eating breakfast is a great way to increase your energy in the morning.

Some research shows that people who regularly eat breakfast report greater alertness and improved mood when waking up as well as better overall sleep than people who do not eat breakfast. Additionally, the practice of skipping breakfast may disrupt one’s sleep-wake cycle.

Current dietary guidelines indicate that a healthy diet includes protein, fruits or vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat milk products, so you may want to consider incorporating these food types into your breakfast.

Exercise Regularly

Frequent exercise has many health benefits, including better quality sleep. Studies have found that regular exercise can support falling asleep more quickly and sleeping more overall, which may help you wake up feeling more refreshed.

Sleep experts recommend exercising most days for at least 30 minutes. However, they also advise against heavy exercise two to three hours before going to sleep. Intense exercise before bedtime can increase the time it takes to fall asleep. Gentle exercise, such as stretching or yoga, may be appropriate as part of a relaxing routine before bedtime.

Practice Good Sleep Hygiene

Waking up easily depends on getting a good night’s sleep. Sleep hygiene refers to the healthy habits that can help with sleeping well. There are many methods that promote good sleep hygiene.

  • Stick to a consistent schedule: Sleeping in on the weekends can disrupt your circadian rhythm. Instead, try to wake up at the same time each day and go to bed the same time at night.
  • Follow a nightly routine: A relaxing routine in the evening can help you wind down. Reading a book, taking a bath, listening to music, practicing yoga, and meditating are all strategies for getting into a calm mindset before bedtime.
  • Cultivate healthy habits: Daytime activities can also impact sleep at night. Regular exercise and daily sunlight exposure are important to both your overall health and sleep quality. Reducing or stopping smoking can also improve sleep.
  • Optimize your bedroom: A sleep environment should be dark and quiet with a cool temperature. To improve your bedroom for sleep, you might use a fan to cool the room and create white noise and hang up blackout curtains to block unwanted light.
  • Limit screen time: Screens such as cell phones, computers, and computers emit blue light that can disrupt your sleep-wake cycle and affect sleep quality. Experts recommend you remove these devices from the bedroom for better sleep.
  • Avoid certain beverages and foods: Drinking caffeine too late in the day may keep you awake at night, and alcohol worsens sleep depth and duration. Avoid eating spicy and fatty foods before bedtime as they may trigger heartburn and make it difficult to fall asleep.
  • Get out of bed if you can’t sleep: Limit your bed use to sleep and sex. If you cannot fall asleep within 20 minutes after getting into bed, try a quiet, relaxing activity in another room. Return to bed when you feel sleepy.

When to Talk to Your Doctor

Sometimes improving alertness in the morning is not as simple as making lifestyle adjustments.  Regularly waking up feeling groggy and unrefreshed may be a sign of an underlying sleep disorder. Other symptoms of sleep disorders include:

  • Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
  • Excessive snoring or stopped breath during sleep
  • Daytime sleepiness and needing frequent naps
  • Tingling or crawling sensations in the limbs
  • Frequent jerking or twitching during sleep

Take note of your experiences sleeping, waking up, and your energy levels throughout the day, and share them with your healthcare provider. A doctor can determine if you may have a sleep disorder and offer treatment recommendations or suggestions for further evaluation.

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About Our Editorial Team

author
Jay Summer

Staff Writer

Jay Summer is a health content writer and editor. She holds a B.S. in psychology and master's degrees in writing and public policy.

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