Routine Is Key
When it comes to waking up, consistency is key. Even though it's tempting to sleep in on the weekends, you'll pay for this extra shut-eye come Monday morning, says neurologist Cathy Goldstein, MD, who specializes in circadian rhythms and sleep disorders at the Sleep Disorders Center at the University of Michigan Health System.
Sleeping in is more jarring to our systems than you might think: "By shifting our sleep/wake times later — e.g., sleeping from 10 pm to 6 am during the week and 1 am to 9 am during the weekends — we push our internal clock later. It's like we've just flown from California to New York," Dr. Goldstein says. To avoid what she calls "social jet lag," try to keep your bedtimes and wake-up times consistent. Your body will thank you.
Use a Smart Alarm
Rather than using your smartphone as an alarm clock, go for an alternative that won't jolt you out of sleep. Waking up at the optimum time in your sleep cycle helps ensure that you’ll be less tired when you open your eyes — and less likely to want to keep sleeping.
Sleep coach Julia Antonio suggests downloading an app that tracks sleep — like Sleep Cycle, Sleep Better, or Pillow, all of which include smart alarm functions. These alarms will wake you up at the lightest part of your natural sleep cycle within a certain window — usually up to 30 minutes — ensuring that you wake up refreshed and at the right time.
Resist the Urge to Check Email
The first thing many of us do when the alarm goes off is start scrolling through emails and messages, but relaxation coach and meditation instructor Shari Czar says this only leads to anxiety. A stressful email can set the tone for the rest of the day, making you want to crawl under the covers, she points out.
Instead, wait at least a half hour before checking emails and texts. (If you can't resist, she suggests placing your phone near the front door, or any place you're unlikely to visit first thing in the morning, versus near the bed.) That way, you’re more likely to be in a better state of mind — or, at the very least, more awake — when you do read any potentially stress-inducing messages.
Expose Yourself to Light ASAP
While you may rely on your blackout curtains to fall asleep, they won't do you any favors in the morning. "Light exposure cuts our production of melatonin,” signaling to our bodies that it’s time to wake up, Antonio says. Keep your blinds or curtains open at night — even just one.
If you wake up before the sun rises or you simply cannot part with your beloved opaque drapes, try an alternative alarm clock: This Philips light simulates sunrise and uses gentle beeping to nudge you out of sleep.
Banish the Snooze Button
Hitting snooze causes your brain to be taken by surprise, resulting in a groggy feeling called “sleep inertia,” Antonio explains. And snoozing doesn't allow you to get more rest. In fact, you'll probably feel more tired even though you spent extra time in bed.
Rather than snoozing, set your daily alarm a little later. And if you can’t resist the urge to tap that button, put your alarm out of reach so you’re forced to physically leave your bed in order to turn it off. Getting up will make you less likely to crawl right back under the covers.
Inhale, Inhale, Inhale
Before you get out of bed, Czar suggests taking three deep breaths to raise your energy levels. She advises that you imagine sending the breath all the way down to your fingers and toes with each inhalation, followed by an exhale. When you get out of bed, inhale deeply as your raise your arms above your head and stand on your toes. Lower your arms and heels on the exhalation. Do this three times “to awaken the body and raise your energy."
You can also invoke your sense of smell for an energy boost: Certain scents, like citrus and peppermint, help increase energy and improve mood, says Czar. Psychotherapist Christine Gutierrez suggests keeping an essential oil on your nightstand and using it while you take those deep morning breaths.
If all this breathing and using oils seems a bit much for you, just spritz yourself with a peppermint body mist, like this one from Bottega Organica, or lighting a citrus-scented candle, like this Bergamot one from Lite + Cycle, for an easy aromatherapy boost.
Doing some quick morning stretches is another energizing way to take on the day, Czar says. While you're still in bed, she suggests following this routine: Raise your arms up and really stretch, lengthening through your feet and toes. Then bring your knees into your chest and — while keeping both shoulders down on the bed — rotate both knees to the right side of your body, coming into a twist. Hold for a couple of breaths, then rotate to the other side and hold for a couple of breaths. Next, bring your knees back into your chest and roll your ankles in a circle five times, then change directions. This will get your blood flowing, waking you up from the inside out.
If you still need a boost, try acupressure. Energy therapist and mind-body healing expert Amy B. Scher says that simply massaging your ears is an extremely effective trick for helping your whole system wake up.
Eat and Drink Strategically
What you put into your body in the morning can make a huge difference in your energy levels. Antonio suggests placing a glass of water with lemon next to bed the night before and drinking it immediately when your alarm goes off. She also suggests eating 30 grams of protein within 30 minutes of waking up (an omelet should suffice). It not only keeps you energized, but the protein will help you stay full until lunch, she says.