How can I wake up faster?
October 22, 2009 8:06 AM   Subscribe

How can I get going faster in the morning?

What tips and/or tricks do you use to get you up, bright and awake early in the morning?

I've tried coffee (which makes no difference), showering in showers of various temperatures (which is unpleasant if cold), leaving the curtains open (which just keeps me awake because of street lights) and various different alarm clocks. My current MO is to turn the computer on and sit in front of it for a while, which seems to help. I think it must be the light from the monitor hitting my eyes that wakes me.

I haven't tried exercise, because I don't have enough spatial awareness to do anything that involved. I also once updated my Facebook status without realising it.

I have no problem getting to sleep whatsoever. I know I need at least 8 hours a night, so I go to bed at a relevant time, and always have crazy vivid dreams. It's just the next morning that's the problem. I also have the problem in a milder form after napping. It seems that the longer I'm asleep, the groggier I am when I wake.

Any thoughts?
posted by Solomon to Health & Fitness (34 answers total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
You probably have some sleep apnea going on. I'm not sure what a good solution is, because I'm suspicious I have the same issue. My impression is that there's two options: surgery, or at the very least C-PAP. Both of which take money, or insurance, and considerable discomfort.

Vigorous exercise seems to help me shake off some of the funkiness at some point in the day, but usually I lack the motivation to do it when I feel that badly, so no suggestion there. Look into a career change that better fits your natural sleeping schedule, perhaps? (I know this isn't an easy suggestion -- sorry!)
posted by mdpatrick at 8:13 AM on October 22, 2009

A full sun salutation and a B-complex vitamin with breakfast are as good as a cup of coffee for me (my coffee is a bonus).
posted by oinopaponton at 8:14 AM on October 22, 2009 [5 favorites]

You might be consistently waking up at a bad time in your sleep cycle - if you're awakened during a period of deep sleep, you'll feel like you got hit by a truck. By contrast, if your alarm goes off during one of the almost-awake periods, you'll rise refreshed and ready. Maybe try one of these? I have no idea if it really works or not, but I've been meaning to try it - I consistently feel like I can't even get out of bed for half an hour after my alarm goes off.
posted by peachfuzz at 8:14 AM on October 22, 2009

Drink a full glass of water before you do anything else. It's not pleasant but it works for me.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 8:14 AM on October 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'm pretty much super slow in the morning. Takes me forever to get out of bed and brush my teeth. Right after I take about 10 minutes of jump roping before showering. Not only does it wake me up and get my metabolism going, but it starts my day by burning about 100 calories too.
posted by telsa at 8:16 AM on October 22, 2009

A bright light on a timer can replace that computer glow, and without the time-sucking distraction-ness to contend with.

But the only way I've ever been able to be functionally alert at 9am is to get up at about 4:30.
posted by rokusan at 8:18 AM on October 22, 2009

A gradual alarm clock might ease you into full wakefulness better than a regular ol' screeching clock or radio. IIRC, they used to be a Brookstone/Sharper Image sort of deal, but they seem to have become pretty reasonably priced if those search results are any indication.

(and seconding the sun salutation).
posted by jquinby at 8:19 AM on October 22, 2009

My husband and step-father both had a really hard time waking up in the morning and they both have sleep apnea. The oxygen deprivation causes extreme drowsiness and presumably the longer someone sleeps, the more deprivation occurs.

Contrary to what mdpatrick said above, they do not experience extreme discomfort and they wake up feeling well rested. I'm not saying this is an issue that you have, but you may want to do a sleep study and confirm (especially given that you're getting your 8 hours of sleep at night).
posted by Kimberly at 8:22 AM on October 22, 2009

It seems that the longer I'm asleep, the groggier I am when I wake.


Try sleeping less: 6-7 hours should be enough.

At what point during your sleep cycle you are woken up has a major impact on how groggy you end up being, there are a bunch of gadgets and alarms that monitor your sleep and only wake you up at the optimal time, might be worth looking into them. Or you could just find your own optimal time and try not to sleep beyond it.

I also find a quick bite is a good way to get started: an apple is my weapon of choice.
posted by xqwzts at 8:23 AM on October 22, 2009

Uh, while editing took out the part about how they don't feel extreme discomfort using their cpap/vpap machines.
posted by Kimberly at 8:24 AM on October 22, 2009

The only thing that seems to work for me is waking up earlier than I need to.

My system for Monday-Thursday is: I have 4 alarms set in the morning: 730 with music, which is the WAKE UP alarm. 735 on my cell which is 'srsly, get the fuck out of bed' alarm. I'll get out of bed between those two and then go start making breakfast. I'll be really slow at this point still, so I usually do simple things like put away dishes and try not to burn my eggs. No thinking yet. I'll take breakfast into my room and veg out in front of the computer, eat breakfast, and start to think about what I need to do today. I have a second cell alarm at 8, which is the 'start waking up the brain and finishing morning internetting and breakfast' alarm. I'll turn off the computer at 815 and will then get dressed and otherwise get ready for work. 830 is the last cell alarm, which is the 'leave the house' cue.

This gets shifted 2 hours later on Sunday and I don't use any alarms on Friday/Saturday unless I have somewhere that I need to be and then I'll use the same sort of timing system.

Taking my time in the morning is really the only way that I've found that I can be halfway functional by the time I roll into work. I've tried compressing the schedule down to 30 minutes between waking and out the door, but that is horrible and usually leads to me forgetting things like socks, coats, and/or lunch.

Maybe try seeing how long it takes for your brain to shake off the groggies and then plan your wakeup/leaving times around that. Of course, you may wind up having to go to bed at 8pm or something like that--but hey, less brain fog is less brain fog.
posted by sperose at 8:25 AM on October 22, 2009 [2 favorites]

I was a beta-tester for Zeo (similar to Sleep Tracker mentioned above) and it worked wonders for me. Can't recommend similar products enough. You wouldn't believe how much waking up in the "light" sleep cycle can affect the rest of your day.

As mentioned by someone else, I also drink a cup of very cold water before I leave the house. It is very unpleasant (mainly due to temperature), but wakes me up and hydrates me. With my glass of water, I take only half of a caffeine pill (grocery store generic brand - 24 pills/$3 or something like that) which is just enough of a "kick" to get me going through the first hour or two of the day. After that, my body's natural energy starts to kick in and I don't need any assistance. Coffee never really worked for me either - and it gave me heartburn - but the cheap-o caffeine pills have really boosted my productivity right off the bat.

I had a gradual awake alarm clock and I grew to hate even the quietest noises as much as the "screeching" alarm clocks - so if you're going to spend the money, I'd say just get the sleep tracker or something similar instead.

My $0.02 - good luck!
posted by siclik at 8:34 AM on October 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

I listen to the news on the radio in the morning, flipping it on right as I get out of bed. Focusing on the people talking seems to help for me, and some mornings, the news is just so weird that it snaps me to in just a few seconds ("WHAT?! Barack Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize? Good Lord.")
posted by ocherdraco at 8:35 AM on October 22, 2009 [2 favorites]

To feel instantly "awake" long enough to at least get up, I have cotton wool and either a bottle of witch hazel or cold chamomile infusion in reach and bathe my eyes for 2 min WITH RADIO ON. That or keep a spray of water by the bet and literally squirt yourself in the face when the alarm goes off. Not long term solutions but they stop you just rolling over.

If you have a bit more time keep fruit or something by the bed and have a mini breakfast in bed reading or whathaveyou for say a quarter hour, that way when you do get up you feel you've already had a treat and a lie in and you're less grouchy.
posted by runincircles at 8:36 AM on October 22, 2009 [3 favorites]

I get this - to combat, I put on my music as soon as i can drag myself out of bed. Stuff that makes me want to dance is best. I am not a morning person, but by the time i leave the house, people sometimes think i am.
posted by stillnocturnal at 8:48 AM on October 22, 2009

A wake up light works well for me

review of the Philips model here
posted by jannw at 8:49 AM on October 22, 2009

Exercise always helps me when I can do it, but spatial awareness is definitely at a minimum in the morning. Try just a simple series of stretches (or the yoga recommended above) and light exercises. When I've gotten myself to do it, it makes a big difference.
posted by Pantengliopoli at 8:53 AM on October 22, 2009

Try sleeping less: 6-7 hours should be enough.

This is wrong, at least in a general context; everybody's sleep needs are different, but the National Sleep Foundation says 7-9 hours is optimal and a study has shown that people who get six or less hours of sleep a night suffer deficits in cognitive performance. There are a few people who only need to sleep four to six hours a night, but they are a minority.

Like a few people mentioned above, I would try finding the optimal point in your sleep cycle to wake. Start with the baseline assumption that a full cycle lasts 1.5 hours, and then fine tune from there, maybe in increments of 10 or 15 minutes.
posted by invitapriore at 8:56 AM on October 22, 2009

One trick I've used occasionally, when I know I need to be alert (not just awake) in the morning, is to set my alarm to go off about an hour early, take some caffeine when it goes off, then reset my alarm and go back to sleep. It kicks in about the time I need to be up. I use caffeine pills instead of coffee, but I usually cut them into fourths (50mgs) or halfs (100mgs).

Here's another, slightly more exotic pharmacological solution: Primatene Mist is an over-the-counter bronchodilating inhaler containing, simply, 0.22mg/spray epinephrine. In other words, it's adrenaline in aerosolized form. If caffeine doesn't help, try a hit or two of Primatene Mist first thing in the morning. It may or may not help with the grogginess, but it will give your body a bit of a jumpstart.
posted by dephlogisticated at 9:01 AM on October 22, 2009

Sleep in a cold room.

I have to get up at 4:30 A.M. more often than I like, go to bed to get 8 hours.

When the alarm goes off toss the blankets and feel the chill, it'll make you move.
posted by Max Power at 9:12 AM on October 22, 2009

I second all of the non-elective-surgery methods mentioned above. Sleep apnea is largely a crock of crap caused by poor diet, smoking, and/or obesity. It's WAY over-diagnosed these days. Give yourself the benefit of the doubt and DON'T self-diagnose yourself with sleep apnea.

I suffer from very similar problems. No matter when I go to bed, I feel like crap in the morning and don't want to get out of bed.

Here's my solution:
  • I take a melatonin pill every night at 9:30. This makes me more tired than I would be normally and I get to bed around 10:30-11:00 every night. This is the big one - consistent bed time.
  • I set 3 alarms of varying annoyance levels. The first one is quiet, goes off about 15 minutes before I want to be up. Next comes the buzzer about 5 before I need to be up. And at the time I need to be up, blaring music jolts me out of bed. I also set my cell phone to a rooster sound for 10 minutes AFTER I need to be up, just in case.
  • Wake up at least 30 minutes before you actually need to shower and all that, so there's no rush. Taking it easy in the morning, sitting down with a cup of coffee, eating breakfast - all these things give you the motivation to get out of bed.
  • Do some brief exercise. I tend to be achey in they morning, so jogging and rough stuff isn't my style. I tend to do some stretching (sun salutations, mentioned elsewhere, are excellent), a few pushups, and maybe some bodyweight squats.
  • Stay motivated. This is the most important part. You have to go to bed consistently and early enough, and that takes work. If you start slipping back into some routine of staying up to watch The Tonight Show, or checking your email one last time, fix it. Write down a schedule and post it on your wall. No one can give you discipline, you had to do that for yourself

posted by phrakture at 9:45 AM on October 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

Do what our monkey-man ancestors probably did right away after they woke up: drink some water -- you've been asleep for 8 hours without replenishing your fluids -- it feels good and it helps kick-start your system.

Then go off and scavenge for some food.

Source: BBC, Walking with Cavemen.
posted by Theloupgarou at 9:46 AM on October 22, 2009

Not sure if anyone mentioned but try not eating too late or heavy foods/alcohol before bed. These will interfere with your quality of sleep.
posted by Busmick at 9:52 AM on October 22, 2009

A handful of other things I forgot to mention:

Regular diet and exercise DO affect your sleep. If you're unhealthy, you sleep like it too.

Drink a big glass of water before bed. A full bladder will help you actually take the first step to get out of bed.

Drink a big glass of water when you wake up. You haven't drank anything for 6-9 hours. You're dehydrated.
posted by phrakture at 10:13 AM on October 22, 2009

Lots of good advice. On preview:

A full sun salutation and a B-complex vitamin with breakfast are as good as a cup of coffee for me (my coffee is a bonus).

This has worked great for me. In my wilder days, a good wake-n-bake was also pretty effective, but you know, then you're smoking pot first thing in the morning.
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:28 AM on October 22, 2009

Do you have a full dinner? If you dine lightly you will wake up with an empty an eager stomach. I recently changed my eating habits (breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, sub like a pauper) and now my stomach wakes me up usually before the alarm clocks goes off.

Drinking water helps too.
posted by edmz at 10:35 AM on October 22, 2009

This has worked well for me.
posted by twinight at 11:17 AM on October 22, 2009

I agree with Kimberly that you might have sleep apnea or something else going on. A sleep study can help you find out.

There are lots of good suggestions in the comments. Personally I would focus on the ones to do with sleep, not the waking up part because if you don't rest deeply you will always have a hard time waking up. I find that my ideal amount of sleep is 7 1/2 to 8 hours. See what yours is.

There are some "food supplements" that can help sleeping like melatonin and 5HTP. When my sleep goes off and I wake in the middle of the night, I take 200 mg of 5htp to help get me back on schedule. It's the precusor of seritonin which regulates sleep among a lot of other things. Good luck getting a good night's rest and waking up feeling refreshed.
posted by bfoster at 11:20 AM on October 22, 2009

5-10 minutes of faux kung-fu.
posted by rainy at 11:32 AM on October 22, 2009

Like many of the others who have posted, I have multiple alarms, but the first of them plays a playlist from my iPod for about 45 minutes (depending on the day) before the other alarms go off. I don't even try to get up during the music phase. By the time the other alarms start, I am better primed to pay attention to them.

I also have very thin curtains that let the natural light through (which sounds like a method that doesn't work for you).

I don't know if there is any scientific basis to my methodology, but it works well for me. Of course, it doesn't work so well if anyone for whom the method doesn't work or who doesn't need to get up at the same time is sleeping within earshot.
posted by sueinnyc at 12:18 PM on October 22, 2009

I used to work at a job where I had to wake at a ridiculous hour and I found that the best thing for me was to eat first thing after my alarm clock went off.

Here's what I'd do: The night before I'd set out an easy prep breakfast. As soon as I got up I'd head straight for the kitchen and heat up some instant oatmeal or something similar. While it was heating I would make my bed but that was it. I didn't get to get dressed or brush my hair/teeth/shower until after I had finished my breakfast. Sometimes I'd be eating with my eyes closed but by the time that I'd finished eating I would always be wide awake.
posted by handabear at 1:49 PM on October 22, 2009

I don't know why so many people are assuming it's sleep apnea. I'm not a doctor, so take this with a grain of salt, but I was diagnosed with sleep apnea and prescribed a CPAP, and I think it's the biggest crock that ever was. I know people with SEVERE sleep apnea who really need their CPAPs, and cannot breathe or sleep without it, and who have had high blood pressure as a result of their apnea. You'd probably KNOW if you were in this group. In my case, with my mild apnea, ditching the CPAP and losing 40 lbs fixed the snoring/apnea problem.

It did not solve the morning sleepiness.

And you know why?

Because I am not a morning person. I never have been. I never wanted to wake up, I never was chipper and energetic in the morning, even as a child I would have gladly snoozed for hours past when my alarm went off.

I plan to get one of those sleep tracker watches at some point, but for right now the only thing that really works for me is to get up, drink a cold glass of water, wash my face with cold water, and give myself 20 minutes with a cup of tea or coffee to sip while staring into space (in a lit room) to get my brain going. Sitting in front of the computer just seems to exacerbate my zombieness.
posted by dumbledore69 at 2:13 PM on October 22, 2009

Thinking of something I'm looking forward to about the day helps me a lot. Some days this is harder than others.
posted by craven_morhead at 11:01 AM on October 23, 2009

This is much simpler than most of the suggestions here. But have you tried sleeping on a (single) thinner pillow? If you're sleeping with a thick, unyielding pillow, or more than one, your neck is at a bit of a weird angle the whole time you're asleep. This, pretty obviously, affects your breathing, and perhaps bloodflow too. After eight hours, not surprising if your whole body feels like it's gummed up, brain included.

I usually sleep with a thin pillow, and usually wake up and am... awake, straight away. One time in a rented flat I was really sluggish in the mornings. I thought it might be because of the tiny window, or the poor air quality (central Damascus in winter, my flat surrounded by a million kerosene stoves and fifty thousand ill-serviced microbuses). Then my flatmate mentioned something about pillows and waking up. I ditched the fat bolster that was on the bed and replaced it with a folded towel. Problem solved, immediately.

Getting out of the house in less than two hours is a very different question. But at least I'm nice and wide awake as I linger over my coffee and toast.
posted by lapsangsouchong at 11:25 AM on October 23, 2009

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