Egggghhhh Egggghhhh Egggghhhh!
“Faaaaaaaaaaack! AAAGGggghhGGH! Whyyyyyyyy?!”
You fumble around with your phone, feebly trying to make the infernal noise stop, haphazardly tapping your fingers on the screen. Your eyes are still half glued shut. You’re still half asleep i.e., this might as well be climbing Mt. Everest.
“Huh? I only fell asleep like an hour ago”
Narrator: “You didn’t.”
Your limbs feel like they’re made of lead. You swear you’re physically tied down to your mattress. (What were you doing last night eh? WINK WINK!)
Alas, our economic system requires you get out of bed, otherwise you won’t have one to sleep in. So with Herculean effort you start to pry yourself from the iron shackles of slumber. One leg at a time.
You’ve done it! You’re out of bed! Hooray! Aaaaaand you feel terrible. You stumble towards the coffee maker and start your morning.
If you’re reading this, I’m guessing you don’t want to feel so terrible every single weekday morning. I’m giving you the tools you need to set yourself up for a better, more energetic morning. One where you’re actually excited to get out of bed.
Granted, sleep is a tad tricky because you only have so much control over your sleep duration and quality. You could have the most relaxing sleep routine in the world, yet still find yourself staring at the ceiling until 3am replaying an argument in your head that happened 5 years ago.
What I’ll be talking about here are tips and strategies to improve the likelihood of waking up and feeling like you could win a fight with a full grown Grizzly... who also happens to be grumpy.
Wake up without an alarm
Alarms brutally rip us out of our sleep cycle when we’re not ready. Consequently, we wake up feeling like shit.
I’ve heard of people who trained themselves to wake up at the exact same time every morning without an alarm, however I’ve never done it myself so I can’t speak too much to that point. Plus, if you have to wake up at different times because you’re a nurse or some other profession with a crazy, inconsistent schedule, this probably isn’t your best option.
There are two simple ways of waking up without an alarm without training your body to wake up at a specific time everyday.
The first is simply going to bed looong before your alarm goes off. The idea is to wake up naturally an hour or so before the alarm goes off. Still set an alarm as a safety net in case you really clock out.
Hopefully, you won’t need it though. This means don’t go to bed 6 hours before your alarm goes off if you know you can sleep for 9 hours uninterrupted. Instead, go to bed 10 hours before your alarm goes off.
Another way is to draw your blinds so you wake up when the sun rises. The issue here being those times of the year the sun comes up super early and you’d rather not wake up at the ungodly hour of 5am.
Or when the sun rises too late for your schedule.
However, waking up to the sunlight is a pleasant, gentle way to wake up. Again, go to bed accordingly, leaving yourself 7-10 hours before the sun will wake you up.
There are also lamps that imitate the sun. You set them to a certain time like an alarm clock and they gradually get brighter and brighter as it gets closer to the set time.
Full disclosure: I haven’t tried using these either, but intuitively they seem like a viable option if you’re willing to spend some extra dollars to try them out.
Have a solid bedtime
Nothing new here. Just straightforward and simple advice we all ignore.
Go to bed early. Early enough so you allow yourself 7-10 hours of sleep, accounting for the time it will take you to drift off. Ideally at the same time every night
Base your bedtime on when you need to wake up. Get into bed 9ish hours before your alarm goes off. This should allow enough time to relax and drift off. If you want 8 hours, don’t crawl into bed 8 hours before you wake up.
Yes, it’s that important so I’m repeating it for the bajillionth time.
No seriously, go to bed
It’s easy on my end to say, “Hey go the fuck to bed already!” But that’s not helpful without giving you some tools to change your bedtime behavior.
Because “do this, not that” is poor coaching . Building habits is more complicated than that.
Let’s talk about how to build the habit of going to bed on time i.e., how to not spend hours and hours on reddit all the while saying to yourself, “I really should get to bed”.
It’s the same as with any habit.
Make a commitment to act using a trigger to make the habit stick.
Don’t try and wing it because you’ll revert to old habits when obstacles appear. Instead, anticipate obstacles, physical and mental, that could thwart your efforts and come up with solutions to navigate those obstacles. Then come up with back-up plans for if plan A doesn’t work out.
When working on a habit (this goes for diet/exercise habits as well), pick something that’s completely within your control -- there shouldn’t be a single element of chance to it.
How you define this habit/mini goal is crucial for tracking progress and staying motivated.
I will eat vegetables at every meal this month (within your control)
I will lose 10 lbs this month (out of your control).
Because saying, "I want to lose 10 lbs" doesn’t give you a battle plan for losing those 10 lbs. It’s not specific enough. Action burns fat and builds strength. Make action the goal. You’ll reach the result far more quickly that way.
“Lose 10 lbs in a month” isn’t a good habit/mini-goal because you can’t control how fast fat loss happens, even if you’re diet and exercise are both on point. This goal is luck based, not action based.
You know you need to eat lots of veggies to lose 10 lbs so that should be your goal. Obviously you’re not abandoning your goal of losing 10 lbs. You’re being smarter because you’re focused on taking action rather than wasting mental energy worrying about the number on the scale. You could be using that mental energy to do some lunges or meal plan.
Focus on putting in the effort to build the habits that gets the result, but not the result itself.
To reiterate (again): make your actions the goal.
You can’t control how much sleep you get. Coming from someone who was wide awake from 2am-4am last night, this isn’t a choice.
To some extent, it’s problematic to judge your progress of your new sleep habit based on how much sleep you’re getting on any given night. Just as with fat loss, it’s problematic to judge a diet based on one day’s scale weight.
What you CAN control is when you hop into bed, and your sleepytime environment. This way you at least have a chance.
Setting and following a bedtime that allows for adequate sleep is a habit that’s completely within the locus your control.
Have a bedtime routine that puts you in the mood for good sleep
Maybe, just maybe, watching crime dramas or the latest news close to bedtime isn’t the best idea if you want to sleep better.
Devise a routine to do before bed that clears your mind or at the very least doesn’t give your brain fodder for going a million miles an hour when you want to sleep.
This could be journaling, meditating, watching Futurama reruns, stretching, foam rolling, or whatever else you think will help clear your head of the days stressors.
Transform your room into your sleep shrine
If you’re doing something that’s stressful, like calling your bank, anything work related, or anything else that works against good sleep, don’t do it in your bedroom. This means don’t check your emails in the bedroom etc.
Set boundaries with yourself about what you do and don’t do in bed.
In other words, anything that’s not sleep, cuddles, or sexytime, shouldn’t be brought into the bedroom. That way your brain only associates your bedroom with those things.
Come bedtime, drifting off, and sleeping through the night will become easier.
Have a morning routine you actively look forward to
Coffee, study Chinese for 10 minutes, message my online clients, write. I do these things in that order every morning. These are things that no matter how exhausted I am I’m stoked to do.
Even if I wake up feeling like a gigantic bag of dicks, it’s easy to get out of bed because I look forward to doing these things in my routine.
I know everyone and their dog has written articles on morning routines so you have no shortage of ideas out there to build your own.
That said, I won’t spend this article going into specifics. I’ll just say I recommend coming up with your own routine based on what you think will set you up for a good day. Again, the key is to come up with a routine you look forward to.
Feeling better when you wake up mostly comes down to what happens the night before.
However, it’s worth repeating because to have your mornings not be something you dread, the quality and quantity of your sleep needs to become a priority. Sleep needs be more important than behaviors that prevent sleep, like late night drinking or scrolling on facebook.
Like I said, these aren’t magic solutions. Sometimes you just get to bed late or can’t sleep for whatever reason and wake up feeling shitty.
However, if you make a commitment to make sleep a priority, you’ll notice you don’t just feel better in the morning but throughout the rest of the day as well. And with that, good night!
Other relevant stuff you should totes read:
- How to be More Energetic, Focused, and Fit with Solid Sleep Habits
- What to Do When Stress is Ruining Your Life
- The Scatterbrain's Guide to Getting Your Sh*t Together