How to wake yourself up in the morning? 9 research-proven ways
October 11, 2021
In order to find out the best way to wake up, it’s valid to know how to sleep well. Creating healthy habits before bedtime can help you get up feeling refreshed and recovered. So if you want an excellent start to your day, take advantage of these tips based on scientific research.
Everyone has surely experienced sleeplessness more than once. However, constant sleep deprivation and chronic lack of sleep are associated with all sorts of adverse upshots – from memory and cognitive problems to serious illnesses. Scientists have even found that side effects of sleep deprivation include an increased risk of gambling. They also proved that it is impossible to train yourself to survive with less sleep – the amount of sleep one needs is likely genetic.
Sleep is a state of diminished response to sensory stimuli, suppressed locomotor activity, and rapid reversibility of the waking state
How to wake yourself up? Firstly – sleep well
The optimal length of sleep
The need for sleep changes with age. Babies need over a dozen hours, children and teenagers about 9.5, and most adults 7–9 hours a day. After the age of 60, night sleep can be shorter, lighter and interrupted by sporadic waking up.
Nowadays, people sleep less than they need because of longer working hours or the availability of many services and entertainment options around the clock.
But the fact is, that we can properly regenerate only when the night sleep is consolidated and not fragmented. “That is when sleep passes through the appropriate physiological sequences of non-REM states,” explains Dr David F. Dinges from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.
Appropriate phases of sleep
According to the National Sleep Foundation, sleep consists of two basic types:
- NREM (non-REM) – non-rapid eye movement sleep (divided into three stages);
- REM – rapid eye movement sleep.
Each of them is associated with a specific frequency of brain waves and activity of neurons. We go through all NREM and REM sleep stages several times during a typical night, with the REM phase getting longer and the NREM phase getting shorter.
Stage one and stage two of NREM are light and non-regenerative. Stage three is deep sleep, also known as “slow wave sleep”. During this phase, several hormones are released that control functions ranging from growth and development to appetite. “This stage of sleep helps us feel refreshed in the morning.”
In contrast, “during REM there’s intercommunication between neurons and new synapses are being created. It also helps with memory and concentration. And it’s typically when we dream,” says Camilo Ruiz from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.
Why sleep is crucial
According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke , sleep “is an important part of your daily routine – you spend about 1/3 of your time on it. High-quality sleep (…) is just as important to survival as food and water […]”. Why?
- sleep is vital to many functions of the brain, including communication between nerve cells — it helps to create and maintain pathways in the brain that allow you to learn and create new memories;
- sleep affects almost every type of tissue and system in the body — from the brain, heart and lungs to metabolism, mood and the immune system;
- during sleep, the brain cleans or removes toxins that build up during the day, allowing it to rest and reset for the next day;
- deep sleep allows the body to release growth hormones and make proteins related to tissue repair;
- sleeping can be a way to conserve energy;
- excessive sleep deprivation can lead to mood swings, memory loss, fundamental movements problems, anxiety, paranoia, and hallucinations.
Sleep in research
1. Minimum amount of sleep
According to recommendations from the National Sleep Foundation guidelines healthy adults should sleep between 7 and 9 hours per night.
Studies also show that depriving yourself regularly from this appropriate sleep time can affect your well-being and lead to severe mental and physical consequences. ”When sleep time drops below seven hours, and especially as it starts approaching six and a half hours or less, the incidence of many different disorders begins to increase,” explains Dr David F. Dinges.
Research shows that losing 16 minutes of sleep can have an impact on our work performance
2. The need for sleep and our genetics
The study showed that as much as 80% of a person’s sleep needs are genetic. Thus, a single genetic mutation could explain why for some people six hours or less of sleep each night is enough. The brain regenerates entirely during sleep, and it is not only the number of hours that counts but also the quality of sleep. “You can stay in bed for 12 hours,” Ruiz said. “But if 12 hours is of bad quality, you haven’t really slept.”
3. Digital devices and sleep
One recent experiment, led by Anne-Marie Chang of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, found that people who use an iPad – or any device that emits blue light – are more alert and thus less sleepy, take longer to fall asleep, feel less alert in the morning and spend less time in REM sleep. This is probably due to the blue light inhibiting melatonin production, a hormone that makes people feel sleepy.
4. Social jetlag
One study found that people are not getting enough sleep because work and school days start too early. People are so tired on Mondays because they have different sleep patterns on weekdays and the weekend. Then they experience “social jetlag” – the effect of the body being forced to adjust to varying hours of sleep throughout the week.
Ruiz says new technologies are to blame as well. “I think a lot of [the decline in sleep] has to do with the advent of the internet, cellphones, smartphones, and people being on their Facebook and Twitter at all hours of the night.”
How to fall asleep well?
How we wake up is influenced by many factors before we go to bed. Therefore, you should set up a sleep schedule and:
- exercise 20–30 minutes a day, but no later than a few hours before going to bed;
- avoid caffeine, nicotine, and alcoholic drinks before sleeping;
- relax before going to bed – a warm bath, reading or any other relaxing activity;
- create a sleeping room – without bright light and loud sounds, maintaining a comfortable temperature, and do not watch the TV or use a computer in that space;
- do not go to bed when you have trouble falling asleep (try reading or listening to soothing music until you feel sleepy).
How to wake up well? 9 research-proven ways
1. Maintain a regular wake-up time
If you wake up at 6 a.m. on some days, 8 a.m. on others and 11 a.m. on different days, your body’s biological clock is disturbed. Make it your goal to keep a steady circadian rhythm.
Set yourself to wake up each day in the same 15-minute window. Try not to turn on the snooze button. If you fall asleep again, the following alarm may wake you up in a new sleep cycle and make it even more challenging to get up.
TIP: If you feel no control of your wake up hours and, thus, your day plan – analyze it. Every day, starting your work, turn on a time-tracking tool that will monitor the time you spend at work. At the end of a week or month – analyze what time you start and end your job every day and what is your productivity (e.g. how long was your deep work). Notice how your wake up time influences your productivity throughout that day.
2. Expose yourself to sunlight
Your body uses light to determine when to sleep and when to wake up. The first sun’s rays will help you raise your energy level. In addition, exposure to bright light in the morning can increase alertness.
One study revealed physiological responses to morning LED lighting with different color temperatures. It found that enriched blue LED light appeared to be an effective potential remedy for morning sleepiness.
3. Breathe deeply
That is a simple, tested method that will make you feel less stressed and ready to take on any upcoming challenges.
Dr Tiago Reis Marques says, “Deep breathing is one of the most effective stress-reducing techniques in the body. It can slow your heartbeat and stabilize your blood pressure”. He adds that “it sends a message to both the brain and the body to slow down, relieving any tension and stress experienced in the morning.”
4. Take a shower (end with a cold one)
Getting out of bed in the morning, you probably feel that your body is stiff and still. Taking a warm shower after waking up will warm you up and relax your muscles.
But you don’t want to relax too much – your body needs to be alert and ready for the daily challenges. So, take a cold shower at the end – it will increase your heart rate and stimulate metabolism. Thus, you will feel more energized and ready to function.
5. Drink a glass of water
The body needs water to fight fatigue and reluctance to get out of bed. Feeling tired is a classic symptom of dehydration.
A study researching mild dehydration among women found that they suffered from depressed mood, headaches, poor concentration, and difficulty performing tasks. Drinking plenty of water in the morning will help prevent dehydration and other daytime problems.
6. Eat breakfast
Your body has fasted all night, so it needs food no matter how difficult the morning is. A simple breakfast with a bit of fiber and complex carbohydrates will give your body the energy it needs. A glass of fruit juice will provide you with some sugar and flavonoids to help you become more alert.
One Australian study conducted on a group of teenagers, reported an improvement in their mental health when they stopped skipping their morning meal.
7. Exercise or take a walk
Including morning exercise or walking as part of your waking up routine will increase the blood flow throughout your body and send more oxygen to your brain.
One study from the University of Rochester found that spending time outdoors “makes people feel more animated.” Dopamine, endorphins, and other brain chemicals turn on when you walk in the sun – signaling your body to wake up. And the effect can last up to five hours.
8. Listen to music
Listening to music in the morning can help you feel connected and positively influence your mood” says Dr Kat Lederle, sleep health manager.
Your favorite songs can get you excited and help you get stronger. Music can also stimulate activity in specific brain areas related to movement and emotions and increase dopamine’s effects.
Starting your day with meditation builds foundations for a successful day. By cultivating peace of mind in the morning, you can put yourself in a position to treat yourself and others with kindness when stress, pressure, or responsibilities arise.
Even a 3–5 minute morning meditation can help improve your mental health. Meditation has been shown to reduce anxiety, improve attention span, and increase positive feelings. Read more about morning meditation here.
Taking the time to invest in your needs and having a proper routine will help you wake up refreshed and allow you to start your day with a positive attitude. Your morning activities will also affect how you experience and absorb external stimuli that happen on that given day. None of these include checking your work e-mails immediately, scrolling social media while in bed, or even waking up with caffeine.