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May 31, 2022·7 min read

The first few minutes after the alarm goes off can be a major struggle. You finally have a comfortable position, feel comfortable under the quilt, and then… reality hits. Time to get up. Sometimes the only thing that can coax you out of bed is the thought of a hot (or iced) coffee. But when that doesn’t work and you end up running late day in and day out, it might be time to check out some new ways to wake yourself up in the morning.

Why do some people have so much difficulty waking up in the morning in the first place? There are several reasons, says Dr. Navya Mysore, a primary care physician at One Medical Group who specializes in sleep problems. Eating too much, drinking too much at night, or staring at a screen before bed can affect the quality of your sleep, making you feel especially groggy in the morning.

And you might want to rethink your bedroom decor. Blackout curtains are great for sleep hygiene, especially if you’re having a hard time falling asleep, but it can make getting up in the morning more challenging when there’s really no light inside, says Dr. Mysore. (More on the importance of early morning sunlight later).

Whether you prefer to jump out of bed or stay up late is determined by your body’s circadian rhythm, explains Shelby Harris, a sleep psychologist in private practice in New York City and author of “A Woman’s Guide to Overcoming Insomnia.” But night owls can totally become early birds — just not overnight. Making small changes to your morning and evening routine and being consistent will help you get there.

Here are 12 expert-approved tips to start each day the right way.

1. First, keep your nighttime routine under control.

Harris and Dr. Mysore agree that the amount of high-quality sleep you get each night affects how easily you wake up in the morning. So, the first step is to make sure you can get off work every afternoon. Follow these tips for better sleep.

  • Put down all screens at least two hours before bedtime. Also, don’t use them when you wake up in the middle of the night.
  • Address any snoring problems or sleep apnea, if you have them.
  • Limit caffeine and alcohol in the evening.
  • Keep your bedroom cool and quiet.
2. Invest in a good alarm clock.

Harris recommends the Hatch Restorer, which connects to your phone so you can customize its features, such as the type of lights, colors, music and sounds, and more. You can even set it to turn on gradually 20 to 30 minutes before you want to wake up for a gentle alarm.

Not sure if sunlight and birdsong will meet your requirements? Try an alarm clock on wheels that rolls off your nightstand and lets you grab it to turn it off. A clock that vibrates on your pillow or attached to your wrist is a gentle (but firm) way to wake up, Harris says.

3. If you use your phone as an alarm clock, try a different app.

Like having your phone wake you up? Try a Jigsaw Alarm Clock app instead of the standard version that comes with your device. It gets you to do cognitive things and get your brain going. Your alarm will only stop going off when you can successfully complete a task in the app. That’s the smart thing to do.

4. Put your phone or alarm clock on the other side of your bedroom.

No matter what alarm clock you choose, try placing it far away from your bed. That way, “you have to get out of bed” to turn it off, Dr. Mysore said. Then, once you get up, you’re more likely to think, “Okay, the hardest part is done. So now I can go straight to my morning,” she adds.

5. When you wake up, open your curtains right away.

“Our bodies are supposed to sleep when the sun goes down and wake up when the sun comes up,” Harris explained. When the sun goes down, your brain starts making melatonin naturally, which makes you feel sleepy. (This is why you should avoid screens right before bed — their light can disrupt this natural cycle).

By letting some sunlight in in the morning, you’re basically helping stop melatonin production. Therefore, the sooner you open the curtains after the alarm goes off, the better.

6. Set your alarm a few minutes earlier each day.

If you’re used to sleeping in, start small. Dr. Mysore recommends setting your alarm to be 10 minutes earlier than when you normally wake up each day. After a few weeks, you’ll start to feel more comfortable waking up early.

7. Wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends.

It’s easy to understand the appeal of wanting to get more sleep on our days off. But if you wake up late, it’s going to get you into trouble in terms of trying to get yourself into the habit, Dr. Misor says. So for best results, be consistent.

8. Try different ways to get out of bed.

Rethinking the way you roll out of bed can help you start your morning. Dr. Mysore suggested two options. When your alarm goes off, you can throw the quilt right away. Or, if that’s too harsh for you, try a more gradual approach. First, uncover your feet, then your legs, and finally your core. After a few minutes, your body temperature will adjust and it may be easier to get out of bed.

If you’re accustomed to one way, try the other — which Dr. Mysore says may help eliminate that oh-so-comfortable feeling when you’re afraid to get out of bed.

9. Drink a glass of water first thing in the morning.

“We often get dehydrated in the morning, which can make us feel very lethargic,” Dr. Mysore noted. So get out of bed, put your feet on the ground to feel more grounded, and drink a glass of water. This will help you wake up and increase your total daily hydration — a real win-win.

10. Act quickly.

“Not everyone is a morning exerciser,” says Dr. Mysore. “But I really think exercising or moving your body, at least even if it’s just stretching, can be very helpful to start your day.”

Raise your heart rate the way you like — it can even be as simple as taking your dog for a quick walk. “Anything that gets you some form of exercise can be very helpful in waking yourself up,” she said.

11. Get everything you need in the morning ready the night before.

Try picking out your workout clothes the night before, or laying out other items you use every morning by your bed. But it shouldn’t be stressful, meaning that your work notebook is full of emails that need to be answered, which is a no-no. “But it should be something that helps you feel engaged to start your day,” says Dr. Mysore.

12.If you still have problems when you wake up in the morning, talk to your doctor.

If you’ve been getting enough sleep but you’re still feeling so tired in the morning that it’s hard to get out of bed, be sure to talk to your doctor. “There may be something that’s affecting your sleep quality that you need to address,” Harris said.

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