Some people are naturally early risers. Others prefer to stay up late and sleep in later in the morning. However, standard work and school schedules are not always accommodating for late risers.
If you are aiming to change your sleep habits so you can wake up earlier in the morning, first evaluate what you find most difficult about waking up early. Then, it may help to take a look at your current sleep habits and build new habits that help you get a better night’s sleep.
Why You Struggle With Waking Up in the Morning
You may have difficulty waking up in the morning for a number of reasons. Maybe you simply do not identify as a morning person. Perhaps your sleep schedule is based around your work or social events. However, if waking up early is a constant struggle, there could also be underlying health concerns or lifestyle choices contributing to the problem.
Many sleep disorders affect your ability to feel well rested. Even if you want to wake up early, your body may feel like it needs more sleep to function.
- Sleep Apnea: Throughout the night, people with sleep apnea experience temporary breathing cessation. As a result, they wake in the morning feeling unrested, possibly with a headache. Sleep apnea can also cause difficulty concentrating and excessive daytime sleepiness, in which you feel overwhelmingly sleepy or fall asleep during the daytime.
- Narcolepsy: Narcolepsy causes excessive daytime sleepiness, often accompanied by muscle weakness or cataplexy. This disorder can cause arousals at night, leading to fragmented or poor sleep. Narcolepsy can also cause sleep attacks that last a few minutes.
- Hypersomnia: People with hypersomnia sleep excessively at night for as long as 14 to 18 hours. They also experience excessive daytime sleepiness during the day. They struggle greatly to wake up from sleep, and they are often compelled to nap during the day at inappropriate times.
Circadian Rhythm Disorders
The circadian rhythm governs our sleep-wake cycle. Circadian rhythm disorders disrupt your sleep schedule and can make waking in the morning difficult.
- Delayed Sleep-Wake Disorder: Common among adolescents, those with delayed sleep-wake disorder struggle to fall asleep and wake up early. They may also experience excessive daytime sleepiness. People with delayed sleep-wake disorder often cannot fall asleep earlier, even when they try.
- Jet Lag Disorder: After traveling across two or more time zones, you may find it difficult to adjust to the local time. If you travel eastward, advancing your circadian rhythm, waking up with the local population may be difficult. Experts recommend preparing for travel by adjusting your sleep schedule ahead of time to match the destination time.
- Shift Work Disorder: Shift work or irregularly timed shifts can contribute to daytime sleepiness. These shifts might make it difficult for you to establish a consistent sleep schedule. If your job requires shift work, you might also cut your sleep short to attend social events, leading to sleep debt.
Poor Sleep Hygiene
Sleep hygiene refers to the healthy habits that help you get appropriate sleep. The lack of a bedtime routine, a poor sleep environment, and excessive use of electronics can negatively impact your overall sleep.
Other lifestyle habits also contribute to poor sleep hygiene. For example, late use of caffeine or alcohol can make falling asleep or staying asleep more difficult. Additionally, revenge bedtime procrastination involves staying up late only to enjoy personal time, despite knowing it will negatively impact you the following day.
Depression, Anxiety, or Stress
Depression, anxiety, and stress can all impact your sleep habits. Depression can cause both early waking and oversleeping. Untreated stress and anxiety can put you at risk for sleep deprivation or deficiency, causing you to sleep later or experience excessive daytime sleepiness.
These mental health disorders can contribute to other sleep disorders. Additionally, a lack of sleep can affect your mood and lead to depression and anxiety.
When you regularly lose sleep, that loss adds up to a total of sleep debt. If you lose an hour of sleep each night, you have a sleep debt of seven hours at the end of the week. You might try to make up the sleep debt with naps or sleeping in on the weekend, but these habits can disrupt your sleep schedule. As a result, you may end up sleeping in later than you intend to during the week.
Tips for Waking Up Early
While waking up early may come naturally to some, most people need to take additional measures to make it easier.
Maintain Good Sleep Hygiene
Healthy sleep hygiene practices help you get proper sleep:
- Keep a Consistent Bedtime Routine: Ideally, a bedtime routine helps you wind down so that your body is ready to fall asleep. Your routine might include relaxing activities such as taking a warm bath, reading, or meditating.
- Stick to a Consistent Sleep Schedule: Try to go to sleep and wake up at the same time each, even on the weekends.
- Avoid Screens Before Bedtime: Screen use can keep you awake longer than you intend. In the hours before bedtime, avoid TVs, phones, video game consoles, and other electronics. These devices emit blue light that suppresses melatonin, a hormone necessary for initiating sleep.
- Limit Certain Foods Before Bedtime: Large meals can keep you awake with indigestion or heartburn. If you have acid reflux, experts recommend you avoid eating a minimum of three hours before bedtime. Drinking beverages too close to bedtime can also force you to wake up in the middle of the night.
- Exercise Regularly: Exercising several times a week can help you sleep better at night. Experts generally recommend avoiding exercise too close to bedtime, as it may make it difficult to fall asleep.
Keep Your Alarm Away From the Nightstand
One strategy for waking yourself up in the morning is to force yourself out of bed. If you keep your alarm clock out of reach from bed, you will have to get up to turn it off. Once you are up, you might be less inclined to hit snooze.
Although a few more minutes of sleep may be tempting, hitting the snooze button leads to broken periods of sleep that can result in sleep deficiency or a lack of the right kind of sleep. Sleep deficiency can make you feel more tired and negatively impact your emotions.
Sleep With Your Curtains Open
Exposure to sunlight at key times helps your body maintain its natural circadian rhythm. While darkness encourages melatonin onset, light exposure suppresses the production of melatonin. If you sleep with your curtains open, sunlight will act as a natural alarm clock. Research shows that natural light has a greater impact on your circadian rhythm than electric light.
Eat the Right Foods
If you fall asleep earlier in the evening, you may feel rested enough in the morning to wake up earlier. Preliminary research suggests that certain foods can help promote sleep:
- Tart cherries
- Fatty fish
If you function best with a boost in the morning, coffee or another caffeinated beverage may help you jump-start your day. However, a clinical trial found that drinking smaller amounts of a caffeinated beverage more frequently throughout the day may be more beneficial. This habit helps prevent sleepiness better than infrequently drinking larger amounts of caffeine.
To keep the sleepiness at bay, you might also consider a coffee nap, or drinking coffee before taking a brief nap in the afternoon. The combination can help you overcome the typical afternoon slump of sleepiness. Research shows that even relaxing during your designated nap time can help.
When to Talk to Your Doctor
If you have improved your sleep hygiene and still struggle to wake up early, talk to your doctor. They can verify there are no underlying health concerns causing you to sleep in longer than you desire.
If possible, keep a sleep diary and record your sleep and wake habits leading up to your doctor’s visit. It may be helpful to include how refreshed and alert you felt after waking. Your diary can help your healthcare provider see a bigger picture of your sleep. Together, you and your doctor can determine the reason you wake up late and develop a plan for helping you wake up earlier.
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