Make my mornings less painful.
October 23, 2014 7:22 AM   Subscribe

I'm not a morning person at all, I never have been, and I doubt I ever will be. Unfortunately, society refuses to acknowledge this, and even forces me to do things before midday. Because of this, I'd love to hear what you do that makes getting up into a somewhat pleasurable experience, rather than keep experiencing the Promethean torture I go through every morning.

I have to be at work for 9 o'clock every morning. At the moment my routine begins with an alarm going off around 8, followed by pressing snooze for half an hour (and if I set it earlier, my body seems to decide that that's just more snooze time). Around 8.30, I drag myself out of bed, grab a shower if I need one, and get dressed and do my teeth. Then, I jump on my bike, and it's about a fifteen minute cycle to the office. The bike ride does a bit to wake me up, but even when I get to work, for the first couple of hours I feel groggy, and end up sitting around drinking coffee rather than being productive.

At the weekend, I try not to have a long lie in, because it makes weekday mornings worse, but I usually sleep for an extra hour or so, then read in bed for a bit before I get up. I'm also not great about getting to bed in the evening, partly because I find going to sleep boring, so I tend to wait until I'm exhausted, and also, I'm only not long out of university and most of my socialising happens at night. I guess I'm usually asleep by 1 though, unless there's a party or something special going on.

Anyway, enough of the really boring facts about myself, if you're also a morning hater, have you found any ways of hating it less?
posted by Ned G to Health & Fitness (60 answers total) 78 users marked this as a favorite
I always wake up two hours before I need to be anywhere. The thing that makes a morning terrible is having no transition time.

In the first 30 minutes, I eat my breakfast and read various websites, then I get ready and go within the next 30. Often, I arrive where I'm going with some time to spare, and I can just chill for a little bit. These mornings are so much better than mornings when I have to rush to get up and out in 30 minutes.
posted by ocherdraco at 7:27 AM on October 23, 2014 [25 favorites]

Best answer: I'm also not great about getting to bed in the evening, partly because I find going to sleep boring, so I tend to wait until I'm exhausted, and also, I'm only not long out of university and most of my socialising happens at night. I guess I'm usually asleep by 1 though, unless there's a party or something special going on.

Honestly, the biggest thing you can do to make this less painful is go to sleep earlier. You want at least 8 hours. So aim for in bed by 11pm on weeknights, see how that feels. Yes, it may cut down on your socializing... but you pick what's more important to you.

Second, I don't see any mention of breakfast. Are you eating in the morning? Do that too.

Last, trying to rush-rush in the morning may not actually work that great for you. See what happens if you give yourself time to wake up, take a decent shower, eat breakfast, and then cycle into work. Even half an hour or forty minutes might make a difference.
posted by canine epigram at 7:28 AM on October 23, 2014 [13 favorites]

You're not leaving nearly enough time to get ready. If you have to be at work at 9, your alarm should go off about 7 or 7:30. Eat something. Go for a run. Make coffee. Watch TV. Read a poem.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:28 AM on October 23, 2014 [8 favorites]

Best answer: Give yourself something to look forward to that you only do in the morning before work. Reading websites is a common one, maybe writing or drawing or making a delicious breakfast. Create a more immediately enticing reason to get out of bed.
posted by momus_window at 7:29 AM on October 23, 2014 [8 favorites]

Set the coffeemaker the night before so it's ready when your alarm goes off.
posted by something something at 7:30 AM on October 23, 2014 [3 favorites]

I'm like this. I get up earlier and have a cup of tea or coffee and my breakfast whilst I watch a short episode of something on netflix. For what it's worth, going to bed earlier doesn't help me get up that much, I still feel groggy, it only helps with the rest of the day
posted by stillnocturnal at 7:30 AM on October 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: The snooze button is an Evil Liar, and you should resist it at all costs!

Set your alarm for 8:30. Get out of bed at 8:30.

The End.

(I also suggest getting up earlier, but either way, STOP USING THE SNOOZE BUTTON. It just effs up your body clock, and leaves you groggy and miserable.)
posted by jbenben at 7:32 AM on October 23, 2014 [16 favorites]

Going to sleep early enough makes a lot of difference.

And working out your optimal time period between getting up and leaving house. For example, it definitely helps to have a bit of time to potter around in the morning and ease myself into being awake. At the same time I can have too much time at which point I start to do things that I really haven't got enough time for and that will make me late, very late. That then causes the whole easing yourself into the day thing to backfire.
posted by koahiatamadl at 7:32 AM on October 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

This will probably be painful to hear, and you may fight desperately (for years) to find "hacks" that will fix this instead, but here goes anyway:
A. You have to go to bed before 1am. Way before. Like, no later than 10pm, on just about every night that you're not actively socializing.

B. You cannot snooze. You're losing that 30 minutes entirely, without the benefits of being asleep OR awake. You'll have to train your body, but it can and will obey.
There are a bunch of tips in this previous Ask that may help make both of those things more doable. Best of luck -- I know (reeeeally well) how much it sucks at the beginning to try to make changes like this, but I promise you, you will be amazed at how much better ALL of your life is if you can improve your sleep and quash that morning stress and groggyness.
posted by argonauta at 7:34 AM on October 23, 2014 [20 favorites]

Best answer: Get everything ready that you can the night before. Pack your lunch, fix your breakfast so all you have to do is heat it up (or take it with you if you eat at work), lay out your clothes the night before, make sure your bag is packed if you carry a bag, prep the caffeine...

And I'll nth getting up earlier. I hate hate hate mornings too, but I hate even worse the "ohshitI'mlatedammit" rush to my first class (I'm a college prof, and there's nothing worse than walking down the sidewalk to my building with my students who are also running late to class).
posted by joycehealy at 7:34 AM on October 23, 2014 [9 favorites]

Getting 9 hours of sleep is essential for me to be a productive person in my life. I've learned it is so much easier to wake up and go to bed at the same time every day. Establishing a routine is critical regardless, so find something you do every morning. Whether it's get up and do yoga followed by some oatmeal and honey while listening to jazz. Do what works for you, but honestly, what you're doing isn't working so tweak your schedule a bit and see what happens. It's easier to wake up in the mornings if you want to get up and find something important about the day that has to be done on time. Less stressful transitions help. Alone time for yourself helps. Don't get up because you have to go to work, get up because you want to watch the morning news while getting dressed, or because you have to have freshly made pancakes every morning. Or because a nice hot shower is a relaxing way to start your day. Also, don't fight going to sleep if your body is tired and you just want to stay up. Trouble lies this way. And get up when you're ready to get up, it's easier to get up if your body is ready because you are rested.

I used to be a TERRIBLE morning person. Cranky, irritable, snappy, the works. Until I realized it's only because I was so tired and my loud fire alarm noises going off and snoozing and then lying in bed and the cycle continued until I finally figured out what works for me. Soothing rainfall forest sounds as an alarm with plenty of transition time between "my day" and "what needs to get done today".
posted by lunastellasol at 7:35 AM on October 23, 2014

Skip the snooze button. You get out of bed at 8:30, why make the last half hour of that miserable? If you want to make that last half hour a transition, try setting a radio or music alarm for 8 and a beeping on at 8:30. The radio/music is the no pressure, but you should think about getting up alarm. The beeping is the real deadline. I did this right after college and 15 years later, I don't even bother with the beeping alarm any more.
posted by advicepig at 7:37 AM on October 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

The thing that is hurting you the most is not getting enough sleep. It's not that you aren't a morning person, it's that you aren't giving yourself the opportunity to be a morning person. If you go to bed that late, it's too difficult to get up in the morning.

In order to change your go-to-bed time though, you need to start forcing yourself to get up early. There are various techniques for doing that. You'll get tired earlier, and then you'll go to bed earlier. I'm not sure that you can work it out on the other end of the day, or you'll just be lying it bed hoping to fall asleep.
posted by SpacemanStix at 7:40 AM on October 23, 2014 [3 favorites]

Go to bed earlier and drink more water.
posted by michaelh at 7:40 AM on October 23, 2014

I transitioned to more of a morning person with the Sleepacycle app. I'm sure there are similar ones for Droid if you don't have an iPhone. It works by monitoring your natural sleep rhythm and gradually waking you as you are coming out of deeper sleep into lighter sleep. This has the effect of encouraging your wakeup. This works great - for me, when I wake up in deep sleep due to blasting alarm it's pure torture. My body got used to waking in light sleep with the app, and now I tend to wake up on my own at the right time, feeling refreshed.
posted by DoubleLune at 7:42 AM on October 23, 2014 [4 favorites]

i get up at 8 and have to be out the door by 8:20. I refuse to wake up one second earlier! Sleeping is way more important to me. And going to sleep earlier is not an option. I have things to do at night! You just have to decide which time of the day is more important to you.

How I manage it is i do every possible thing the night before (make lunch, get my bag ready, shower, set up my entire outfit including makeup and jewelry...) It's great. No time wasted not sleeping.

The key for me is, as someone noted above, a nice reward waiting for me, like awesome breakfast. I can slog to work if I know I have a gorgeous breakfast burrito or something waiting for me.
posted by silverstatue at 7:43 AM on October 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

Get up at six. Piddle around awhile. Go to work. That night, go to bed earlier. Lather, rinse, repeat. After a couple of weeks you can move your getting up time up a bit but you should be feeling sleepier earlier.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:45 AM on October 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

Go to bed earlier. Translate the lusciousness of laying in bed in the morning to the evening time and enjoy the heck out of laying in your comfy bed before you fall asleep for the night with a hot water bottle at your feet, book in hand and cup of tea next to the bed or whatever your fantasy of bed-laying bliss is. Do this at like 10pm. Then in the morning, rip yourself out of bed like pulling off a bandaid. WHISH! Lastly, treat yourself to a delicious breakfast every single day. You like pineapple? Eat that. More of an eggs and sausage kind of person? Eat that. Discover what food you love to eat first thing in the morning and serve it up, with time to enjoy it.
posted by RingerChopChop at 7:46 AM on October 23, 2014 [5 favorites]

Start by going to bed earlier --- you don't need to attend every party/get-together/whatever your friends hold, but you do need to get enough sleep.

And I agree with the folks saying to get up earlier: I too am not and have never been a morning person, and I find that the "must jump out of bed and scurry, scurry scurry!" mindset makes things worse. Get up at least half an hour earlier to build in wake-up time: ease out of bed, spend a (set) amount of time just farting around checking the news or playing with your phone, then take your shower or whatever at your currently-scheduled time. I actually like to get to work early for this, too, so I can sort of ooze into the day quietly & peacefully before everybody else arrives, and not have the world dumped on me all at once like a bag of rocks. By the time they all arrive, I'm awake and ready to act human.

As for clocks: yeah, stop with the snooze alarm. It's nice, but it just messes with you. Move the alarm clock to somewhere not easily reachable from your nice warm cozy bed: don't muffle it or anything like that, just move it out of reach so you have to get up to shut the dang thing off. Heck, at one point in my twenties, I regularly used two alarm clocks, set to the exact same time: one went under the bed, and the other across the room. (On critical gotta-get-up-now days I'd even use three!)
posted by easily confused at 7:47 AM on October 23, 2014 [3 favorites]

Lots of great advice above. I also wanted to speak to the "not wanting to go to sleep because it's boring" thing. I have this too, with a big dose of "If I do just try to lay there and be bored, I end up worrying about everything under the sun until I'm too freaked out to go to sleep." I realize it is against EVERY sleep advice out there, but I've found I have to listen to something that can hold my attention just a little while I'm trying to fall asleep. I usually use old TV shows that I know pretty well (so I'm not going to want to stay up to find out what happens next). I have them playing on my phone, but then put the phone bright-side-down so that the light doesn't bother me and I can just listen. You could also try music. Anyway, may not work for you, but if the "lying in bed in total silence and not falling asleep" thing is part of what's keeping you up so late (cause yeah, not many people can survive on 6 hours of sleep in the long term, especially after they hit age 22 or so), you might try it.
posted by rainbowbrite at 7:47 AM on October 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I've never enjoyed the mornings at all, even with 9 hours of sleep at my back I still feel 7 am is basically a war crime.

However. If you want to train yourself out of the snooze-button rut...get a cat. Preferably a crabby one.
posted by like_a_friend at 7:48 AM on October 23, 2014 [4 favorites]

As rainbowbrite suggested, sometimes when I can't sleep but want to, I just get all cozy in bed and play old movies I've seen a million times. I put it just low enough that I can't really understand what's going on in the scene but can hear the movie playing until I fall asleep. My favorites for this is Harry Potter.
posted by lunastellasol at 7:54 AM on October 23, 2014

Best answer: Train yourself to get up immediately. Sounds utterly insane, but has worked well for me when I needed to get back in the habit.

If the time between wakeup and going to work is all about the process of getting ready (and rushing, and procrastination, and guilt...), then it's no wonder that getting up sounds unappealing. Do something in the morning that's pleasant and doesn't require too much thought; it doesn't matter what, as long as you can lie in bed and think "yes, that sounds nice". My current ritual is to spend a few minutes making a nice cup of coffee, and appreciate it in silence or while watching some comedy. It sounds like a waste of time, but improving the short-term prospect of getting up means that I get to spend 15-20 minutes doing something nice, instead of 20-30 minutes trying to bully myself into getting out of bed. In my specific case, it also means that the caffeine has kicked in by the time I get to work, so I don't lose an hour or so waiting to wake up.

Set an alarm or two in the evening, e.g. at 23:30 (time to start winding down) and 00:00 (you should be in bed). You need to pick times that ensure you actually get 8ish hours of sleep, or however much you tend to need.

To alleviate the boredom, try reading something printed (not a screen!) in dim light, or play a podcast/audiobook/radio programme at a barely audible level, so you actually have to pay attention to make out what they're saying.
posted by metaBugs at 7:59 AM on October 23, 2014 [4 favorites]

Now that you're out of college and in the working world, have you ever considered having a pet? A dog needs morning walks. A cat will meow and walk on your face. That'll wake you up. But seriously, the responsibility of having to care for another living creature can motivate you to get up and start getting things done.
posted by Leontine at 8:07 AM on October 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

Count me in with the Snooze Taliban here.
I did the same things you did for years, and finally got tired of being rushed all the time in the morning.
I don't set an alarm on the weekends b/c I enjoy lazing around in bed, but during the week my legs pretty much swivel themselves out of bed these days.
You have to stick with it until it becomes automatic...I can do it just as well after three hours sleep as eight. Getting out of bed is more a function of habit than quality of sleep.
posted by Kreiger at 8:08 AM on October 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: This is me. I wound up just rejiggering my life because even when I did all the things, my internal cycle is more like 2-10 and not 11-7. Oh well. However, I am a sleep hygiene nut and I can see a lot of room for improvement in the things you are doing. Let's go chronologically

- exercise and eat well during the day - make sure you actually move around some this will help you with being tireder
- eat your last meal of the day a few hours before you go to sleep (not right before you go to sleep)
- dial it back with weekday socializing like you care about your job. This is, at its core, a priorities issue.
- Make your room conducive to sleeping, low lights, right temperature, good sounds and smells
- Consider melatonin or benadryl for that "I'm feeling sleepy" feeling
- Wake up earlier and skip the snooze step. Flip on the bright lights as soon as you wake up
- Shower to get your skin feeling awake
- EAT BREAKFAST - if you only do one thing, do this. There are a lot of threads on how to have grab-and-go meals, especially if you have exercise in the morning,make sure you are treating your body right, lower carb higher protein foods will help with the sleepy feeling
- delay your cup of coffee at work until you get some stuff done to train yourself to get into a workmindset
- on the weekends try to get up at a reasonable time, even if you just get up and make breakfast/coffee and decide to read all morning

Ultimately though, it's a set of choices (unless you are battling depression or ADD or something that has removed some of the choice options from you) and figuring out what will either tantalize you to sleep or tantalize you to wake up will be the most useful way of getting your ass out of bed. Otherwise you have the option, if this is truly impossible, of finding another job.
posted by jessamyn at 8:18 AM on October 23, 2014 [4 favorites]

I'm also not great about getting to bed in the evening

You have to fix this. Mornings aren't your problem, lack of sleep is. You are young enough that you probably need _more_ sleep than most adults.

Try naps.
posted by amtho at 8:18 AM on October 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

I was you, until I aged out of socializing and staying up late all night, every night, and started going to bed on time. I just simply never got enough sleep throughout my 20s, was completely addicted to the snooze button, and never, ever thought it would be any different. I hated mornings.

As my party life chilled out, I happened to marry someone with great sleep hygiene, and I didn't want to be that asshole that hits snooze 8 billion times when their spouse is soundly asleep. It didn't hurt that my friends were also coupling off and starting their families, so there were just fewer crazy weeknights in general. Now I turn off the lights and am in bed by midnight most nights, and waking up at 8 has become... not just not painful, but actually really easy. I'm still no bucket of sunshine until I get some food and coffee, but it really was that simple. (And in case that all sounds horribly boring, don't worry, we still party. Just less.)

One other thing changed around that time: I was diagnosed with a Vitamin D deficiency and started taking my vitamins regularly. I have absolutely zero proof that this impacted my sleep habits, but I noticed my energy levels became much more regulated and predictable (i.e., I woke up not tired in the morning, and felt tired at bedtime at night), so it seems like part of the story.
posted by juliplease at 8:19 AM on October 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

I became a morning person by going to sleep early and by scheduling a LOT of free time in the morning, ocherdraco style. That's really all there is to it. Feeling like shit when you get up in the morning is due to not sleeping enough, and you can't game that in any significant way.

It helps me to fall asleep earlier if I schedule transition to bed time. Here is my overall schedule:

9 PM - put away laptop, get in bed with a cup of tea and a book
10 PM - lights out, go to sleep
6 AM - wake up, shower
6:30 AM - make breakfast and pack lunch
7 AM - 8 AM - enjoy a leisurely breakfast, read the news, watch TV if I'm in the middle of a really engrossing show, etc
8 AM - 8:30 AM - get dressed
8:30 AM - leave for work

It's quite nice.
posted by telegraph at 8:19 AM on October 23, 2014

I allow myself ONE snooze. It feels easier than getting up at the first alarm, but more than one and I'm just setting myself up for snooze creep. It helps to have your alarm clock out of reach so you have to physically get up to hit the snooze.

Other than that, I agree with ocherdraco's advice: get up earlier and give yourself more time in the mornings. I've discovered that I actually love mornings, once the sleep inertia wears off.
posted by Metroid Baby at 8:28 AM on October 23, 2014

Best answer: Everyone seems to be giving the same "go to bed earlier, get more sleep" advice, which is solid so I won't repeat it.

Beyond that, having something that I *really* look forward to motivates me to get out of bed. What that thing is will depend on you. For me, I must have a breakfast I'm really excited about (usually fancy coffee and something I can't wait to eat). For you, it might be checking social media feeds, going for a walk around your neighborhood, reading, or any number of other things. If it's something you're really excited about, it will have the bonus effect of motivating you to go to bed earlier so you can do that thing sooner - yay! I also procrastinate going to bed, so I like to have an exciting thing to look forward to just before bed too - usually a good book.

Having a dog who will pee on the floor promptly at sunrise unless you're there to take her out first is good motivation too. YMMV.
posted by geeky at 8:32 AM on October 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

This little tip always comes up in these discussions, but it works - move your alarm clock/cell phone as far away from your bed as you can while still hearing it. Having to physically stand up to turn it off is a major, major help in overcoming the inertia of the first 5 seconds of being woken up early.
posted by Adam_S at 8:48 AM on October 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Something that really helped for me was setting a defined wake-up time (7:30, in my case) and only going to bed at times that give me a multiple of 90 minutes of sleep so as to awaken when I'm not in the middle of a sleep cycle. If I'm really tired, I might go to bed at 9. After that, it's 10:30, and if I've missed that, midnight. Even on days when I'm not getting anywhere near enough sleep, it's easier to wake up if I went to bed at 3 instead of 2:30.

90 minutes is just an estimate-- my sleep cycles actually run a little shorter than that.

If I ever screw this up, the effect is obvious-- I get jolted out of an unfinished dream and I'm a zombie for the first half hour. If I get it right, it's fantastic-- my feet hit the floor and I go do stuff.
posted by 4th number at 9:01 AM on October 23, 2014 [7 favorites]

Sunrise / daylight alarm clock helps for me.
posted by deludingmyself at 9:12 AM on October 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

Oh, and an app! I've started using the app on my phone to actually set an alarm time based on when I'm going to bed, because my going-to-bed times inevitably vary. This does a pretty decent job of giving me an alarm time on any given night that isn't going to wake me up in the middle of a dream cycle. I've been using it for about 6 months, and I'm pretty sure it's not just placebo effect. I occasionally even wake up a few minutes before the alarm.
posted by deludingmyself at 9:17 AM on October 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

If I'm really hungry in the morning, that helps me get up with a bit more expeditiousness.
posted by amtho at 9:31 AM on October 23, 2014

Best answer: You may just have delayed sleep schedule disorder, in which case, everyone insisting that you just need to go to bed earlier and get up earlier are wasting their time and yours. If I go to bed earlier, I wake up at 3am and can't get back to sleep until 630, or foolishly attempt to stay awake from 3am onwards, and either way I am exhausted and miserable all day. Waking up at 5am and having a full day does nothing to make me more tired in the evening. It can also be linked to ADHD and is a culprit in a fair number of cases of chronic lifelong insomnia.

Some people can handle it with super strict sleep hygiene and 100% inflexible scheduling, and some can only get by with medication(s). I handle it by not allowing any light into my bedroom pretty much ever, and by taking my ADHD meds slightly later in the morning so that I don't have the mind racing symptoms kick in at bedtime.

If you get a chance where you have 10 days or so of vacation time you can waste on an experiment, you might have some luck resetting your sleep clock by using chronotherapy followed by as strict a schedule of sleep and sleep hygiene as you can bear.
posted by poffin boffin at 9:33 AM on October 23, 2014 [8 favorites]

I am not a morning person. Bedtime advice is good up to a point - but only to a point because waking up at 3 a.m. is not useful and the problem may well be not how much sleep you get but how you do transitions.

Not thinking in the morning is my trick. Clothes laid out, bag packed, put my keys with anything that has to stay in the fridge overnight, teacup ready, etc. Showering is critical.

You may notice, as you go through life, that patents and adults are always worried and solicitous about little Chester having his nap... but when he wakes up groggy and isn't ready to be a good fully-awake toddler there is, as a US cultural norm, zero patience for that kind of sleepiness.

You can't win. Adapt.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 10:08 AM on October 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

I still really struggle with this but I can share some things that have helped me over the years:

1) The core problem is usually not enough sleep which is almost always procrastinating sleep (sleep is SO BORING, I totally get you). The usual procrastination tips can be applied, with various degrees of success. The biggest thing that helps me is routine - if I can manage to get off the computer and do my workout and turn off the computer by a reasonable time, I can easily slip into the rest of my bedtime routine (shower, read a bit, bed). The workout and the shower are especially helpful for me trying to get my body in sleep mode, though this really depends on the person - I know some people have the opposite experience. Computer can be managed with leechblock etc, and timers can be set to remind you to start your routine at a reasonable time, although I still find it a struggle to actually start it.

2) Make mornings more pleasant - I do this mostly by simplifying to the point where I don't have to think at all until I get to work. Lunches are prepped or at least ingredients ready to be assembled; breakfast is always something mindless like cereal; my makeup/hair is identical every normal morning; clothes are usually set out in advance and also simplified so grabbing a shirt and pants is easy. I'm out the door 30-35 min after my alarm goes off. I will contradict others here and say that stretching out my mornings to be "relaxing" never helped at all - it never changed how eager I was to go to sleep at night, plus I'd get distracted by the internet and end up late to work, plus it put me in a lazy mood for the day. And it wasn't particularly pleasant or relaxing anyway, since you know...mornings. But hey, it's worth trying it to see if your experience is different.
posted by randomnity at 10:11 AM on October 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

If you're best in the evening, work in the evening. Find a job that suits your body clock, or you'll keep making yourself miserable.

I work best between 4pm and midnight, and I always have done. I can barely walk, let alone think, in the mornings.

Morning people are the majority, and many seem to assume that it's a choice. It isn't. Go to bed as early as you like, get up at dawn and go for a five-mile run – you still won't be a morning person. Face it, and find and evening job.
posted by MinPin at 11:46 AM on October 23, 2014 [5 favorites]

The two biggest things that helped me (because I am also bad at going to bed earlier and getting enough sleep to make mornings not suck): getting up EVEN EARLIER, which sounds crazy, but makes things much less rushed and hateful; and using a coffee pot with a brew timer. Waking up to the smell of just-percolating coffee wafting in from the kitchen is highly motivating, even when it's dark and I'm cold.
posted by bowtiesarecool at 12:03 PM on October 23, 2014

Saw somewhere recently on AskMe someone suggesting you also set an alarm that goes off at NIGHT that tells you you should stop what you're doing when it goes off, go brush your teeth and wash your face or whatever sleep hygiene priming/ready for bed prep you do (this also helps), and get in bed. It should be set such that it gives you time to do the prep and lie in bed a good 10-15 minutes before actually hoping to fall asleep. Also as part of that sleep hygiene thing, condition yourself to see getting in bed or maybe even being in your bedroom for the most part as strictly for sleep (well, ok, making out too probably). So like, don't watch TV or snack or hang out wide awake in bed, do that stuff on a couch somewhere else.

Recently, my partner switched work shifts (and I switched accordingly as I work from home and can mostly make my own hours if I plan ahead far enough) so now he comes home very late, like midnightish, and it's meant that he pretty much gets in bed within 30 minutes to an hour after coming home. This has done wonders for my sleep schedule, and I know it's because my bedtime is more ironclad that it used to be. I've been waking up refreshed and ready to go and it's like I have a new lease on life (I used to get groggy midday a lot), despite not even getting up any later than before. Training oneself to go to bed at a certain time, early enough with very little exception, works better than anything else has for me, and I'm absolutely not a morning person either, never have been.

Also agree that the snooze button/any sort of twilight half-awake-half-asleep lounging wreaks havoc. If I get right out of bed when I first wake up--our alarm is in the hallway so someone has to get up and properly walk a bit to turn it off--and stay up and start moving about doing things, I feel much more awake sooner than if I wake up and sort of just lie in bed hazy a while (not that that can't be fun occasionally, but it's like drinking a cocktail midday Sunday at brunch for me--I might as well write off the rest of the day because I'll be in a groggy fog the rest of it). It helps to have something you either set up so you NEED to attend to it as soon as you wake up (for me, sometimes that's prepping food to sit in the fridge for hours ahead in time for lunch) or really want to (if you're a breakfast person, having a breakfast you anticipate and get excited to eat can help, like say slow cooker oatmeal maybe).
posted by ifjuly at 12:19 PM on October 23, 2014

Above and beyond the coffee pot with a brew timer: for quite some time I had an espresso machine on my nightstand, set up on a timer. Never bothered with an alarm clock during those years, because you can't snooze the sound of espresso. Nor can I snooze through it, really. And the mere smell of coffee in another room is nothing to me when measured against the motivating power of four shots of espresso consumed before even getting out of bed.
posted by BrunoLatourFanclub at 12:20 PM on October 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: There are a few people suggesting that it's possible that you have a disorder or that you can't change or whatever, which may indeed be true, but please, oh god please, give some of these ideas a try before you decide it's "impossible." The super key things here are getting enough sleep and NOT pressing the snooze button. Snooze is not your friend. That's the direct, absolute source of your grogginess all morning, probably even moreso than not getting enough sleep in general. That woozy can't-quite-wake-up-feeling is something that snooze buttoning straight up causes.
posted by hought20 at 12:29 PM on October 23, 2014 [3 favorites]

At the risk of being shot down for not being responsive, I'd like to add the perspective of an extreme night owl, who has long fought the same battle. I'm 54, and if left to set my own circadian rhythm, I would naturally wake at about 2 in the afternoon, and go to sleep at about 6 a.m. If I could go back 30+ years, I would have made completely different life choices in order to accommodate this natural tendency, rather than spending years fighting it and being miserable - because none of the things suggested really work if what your body wants to do is be asleep at the time you need to be waking up. Sure, all of the suggestions will help you fight the tendency, but it's a bit like handedness - you could teach yourself to use the other hand adequately, but it will never feel natural.

If you are still young enough to make those kinds of choices about your life path - especially your career, try to find something that will not just accommodate what society sees as a weakness, but play to it as a strength.
posted by ereshkigal45 at 12:34 PM on October 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

Minpin isn't wrong, either. Most semesters, I'm lucky that I can say "hey, boss, you know those late afternoon classes you have trouble filling because everyone else has kids/they're all morning people/whatever? Put me on them." I'm lucky to have found a profession that works on my schedule much of the time, and there is something to be said for that. The semesters it doesn't work out, though, I still have to cope. :) Also, if your friends are evening socializers, than late work schedules are hell on your social life unless everyone else is on a similar work schedule, so bear that in mind too.
posted by joycehealy at 12:36 PM on October 23, 2014

Best answer: I think it is possible there is one of two problems here, either you are trying to combine a youthful party schedule with a grown up office schedule and that will work itself out as you begin to party more like the rest of your coworkers, or you just aren't programmed to get up so early.

If I have to get up before 8 am, no matter if I went to bed at 8 pm, I will feel sick all day. Somewhere between small headache and nausea to near-flulike symptoms. It is awful.

My office jobs required me to be in my seat before my body was willing to be awake, and I paid for it for years physically in constant exhaustion, anxiety, and weight gain.

I quit working in offices. I very rarely have to be anywhere before 10 am now, and I am so much happier and healthier. I no longer have anxiety meds, I lost a lot of weight, and I now know what normal, non-exhausted people feel like, and it is a very good feeling. When I do have an early doctor's appointment or some other unavoidable early appointment, my husband gets so worried because he knows I will be a mess all day, and sometimes the next day.

I would rather nurse an infant three times a night than wake up before 8 am. It's just too hard on my sleep patterns.

The few things that I have done that make waking up less terrible are pretty dissimilar to the other advice here. I sleep with the curtains open so I can take advantage of as much natural light as possible in the morning. The night time light is not an issue for me. I do like to wake up to NPR or classical music. I set it to go off an hour or more earlier than I plan to actually get out of bed, and have no intentions to get out of bed for at least an hour or so after it goes off, but for me, I would never set it any earlier than 7:30 to be out of bed at 8:30. There is no way I can be out of bed before 8 without paying a physical price. I slowly engage my mind and doze while I transition from asleep to awake. A hard jolt is very hard on my body. I also would suggest cutting all caffeine out of your life. It really can mess with your body's own plans and it's definitely better to let your body take the lead. Caffeine will really mess with this fragile system I have and it's not worth ruining future days by drinking coffee on one day.

In the end, you will either learn to integrate your party schedule with your office schedule or you will have to give up working early as I did, or will live with the physical symptoms. If this is the case, you will feel so much better when you figure out an appropriate schedule and can have your health back.
posted by littlewater at 12:50 PM on October 23, 2014 [3 favorites]

I used to be you. Then I went to college and had a full time job and lived in San Francisco. I had to get from the top of Alameda county to Daly City every morning for class by 8. I got up at 5:30 AM every day. It was BRUTAL.

I developed hacks.

1. Shower at night
2. Eat once I get where I'm going
3. Carpool (that one was very specific to San Francisco)

I also made a pact with myself. Get out of bed the INSTANT the alarm goes off. Used to be I'd lay around listening to NPR and snoozing. No time for that nonsense. Up and moving. It SUUUCKKED. But I did it.

Try it. Rather than snooze, jump up and move around. Even padding into the john is movement enough.

It takes some getting used to, but it's been 25 years, and I'm still at it.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:57 PM on October 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

Nthing so many others in this thread. Your body wants more sleep. You can't fit more sleep in later in the morning to you need to do it earlier at night. It will take a while for your body to adjust.

Alternatively, if your body's natural rhythm is not OK with 11pm to 8am sleep cycles, find employment that lets you do what you feel is your body's natural sleep preference.
posted by Brian Puccio at 1:13 PM on October 23, 2014

First, get an alarm clock that doesn't have a snooze button so you get out of the habit of using it. Like this!

Second, start getting more sleep, a lot more sleep. Get into an enjoyable bedtime routine (reading? bath/shower?) to make it less awful to go to bed early. Maybe even try melatonin or something to make actually going to sleep easier. Continue, going to bed earlier and earlier if necessary, until waking up isn't awful, and then keep doing it. Eventually you'll actually wake up right around when your alarm goes off, give or take. That's what you want.
posted by mchorn at 3:47 PM on October 23, 2014

I once read about an experiment where a group of people (including many who considered themselves night owls) were taken on a camping trip for a week or so by researchers. They spent the day outside in the sun, and when the sun went down, they didn't have artificial light. All of them shifted to a natural sleep pattern of sleeping when it was dark and waking easily early in the morning.

Based on that, a couple of suggestions: you could try taking your next vacation (or even just a weekend) on a camping trip, if you're in a climate where that could work. Or, in the meantime, you could try to spend more time outside in natural light (I think getting outside early in the morning is particularly helpful to reset your circadian rhythm...maybe try to ease yourself into morning walks or runs). Also, try to avoid glowing screens at night, after 8 or 9 or so, to help you get ready for an earlier bedtime.
posted by three_red_balloons at 5:55 PM on October 23, 2014

Best answer: I feel so goofy saying this...but on Sunday night I make something delicious for breakfast that week, and when I wake up and thing "ughgh...time for things to happen," it helps that the next thought is "eh, but there's banana bread."
posted by MrBobinski at 6:57 PM on October 23, 2014 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I bought a one-cup bedside coffee maker (filter drip machine) and an electronic timer that you plug it into. I set it for fifteen minutes before I need to get up, and I get wakened by the smell and sound of coffee, which is much nicer than an alarm, and then I tell myself that I don't have to get up, but I DO have to reach out and take my coffee cup and start sipping. That isn't too hard a thing to ask of myself, and by the time I've finished my coffee, I don't feel like going back to sleep anymore.

My mornings have become much nicer since I did this.
posted by lollusc at 7:24 PM on October 23, 2014 [7 favorites]

You're dehydrated when you first wake up and that contributes a lot to the morning blahs. So keep a full glass of water next to your bed and drink it all first thing as soon as you're partially conscious. Even if you still hit the snooze button a few times after that, once your body absorbs the water you'll find it a lot easier to get up and get going.

I also have a lot of morning pain and stiffness so I take my 12-hour arthritis medication just before I go to bed so it's still in my system when I wake up. So you might try a long-lasting painkiller just before bed. Aleve (naproxen) is available over-the-counter.

Another thing that makes my mornings bad are poor sleep due to congestion and waking up choking on post-nasal drip. 25-to-50mg Benadryl (diphenhydramine) taken right before bed helps a lot with that. I also got anti-allergen pillow covers to protect me from dust mites.
posted by Jacqueline at 8:14 PM on October 23, 2014

Oh, and if you like coffee and bread, get a coffeemaker and breadmaker with timers that can be set up the night before to brew coffee and bake bread just before it's time for you to get up so that you can be lured out of bed by the enticing smells of coffee and fresh-baked bread for breakfast.

(Caveat: Buying a breadmaker may result in you gaining 50 lbs in 3 months.)
posted by Jacqueline at 8:18 PM on October 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

I use a clock radio and listen to the news as I grope towards consciousness. I usually set the coffeemaker on the timer, so I have coffee to look forward to.

Sleep may seem boring, but sleep is a genuine health benefit. You don't have to go to sleep; you get to go to sleep. Set the alarm for 7:45, get up at 8 and have coffee, or use the time to go to your preferred coffee shop.
posted by theora55 at 11:25 PM on October 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

Have you considered moving west? I found that moving two timezones west rather helped me wake up on time, at least temporarily ^_^
posted by pwnguin at 12:18 AM on October 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

You can't do most of your socializing at night and expect to get up in the morning. Arrange things so you get 8 hours of sleep. That's the only cure.

Push friends to meet you earlier. This shit where people don't even leave the house until 10:00 PM is silly. You should be thinking about going home by 10:00 PM, sleeping by 11:00 PM, and getting up by 7:00 AM. Then you have ages to shit, shower, and shave before work starts.

If you get enough of your friends to go out earlier a few weeks in a row, it should become somewhat self-sustaining -- they will know they can find each other at the place at 8:00. Whether it works depends a lot on how much social clout you have -- on how much your friends actually like you and are willing to adjust their activities around you.
posted by pracowity at 6:17 AM on October 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

As others have said, avoiding snooze is very important. Like you, I just snooze if I set my alarm any earlier than absolutely necessary. When I had to get up early, I set my alarm late enough that I knew I just couldn't snooze. Even though jolting awake like that is unpleasant for a minute, overall it made the day go much better. By the time I showered and biked to work I was feeling decent, even if I didn't peak till the afternoon.

One other thing to consider is when/how much coffee you drink. If you drink several cups a day, you could be completely tolerant, making it do more harm than good. If I were you I'd experiment with quitting coffee for a while. The first couple days would suck, but after a bit you might find yourself feeling just as awake in the morning as you currently only are after a few cups of coffee at work.
Disclaimer: I've never been a regular coffee drinker, but I've read some studies about caffeine tolerance.
posted by Fishkins at 6:24 PM on October 24, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks for all the advice everyone, I've marked a bunch of questions as best answers, but they were all useful.

Since asking this, I've instigated a sort of sleep schedule, the deal I've made with myself is:
  • No computers or screens after 11, I can read or listen to something if I want, but I should start moving to bed
  • My alarm goes of an hour before I need to leave the house, and it's on the other side of the room, so I can't snooze
  • That gives me time to spend half an hour getting washed and ready in a relaxed way, rather than in a panic
  • Then I've got half an hour spare, which I spend eating breakfast (which is a really novel experience, though reading the answers back, I wish I had banana bread) whilst drinking tea and watching David Attenborough programs on netflix.

    I'm also planning on getting a gadget to help out, I'm still mulling over the pros and cons of clock radio vs coffee maker vs natural light lamp.

    I'm not sure that this is having a huge effect on my day altogether, though I probably do have a little more energy in the morning. I do however, enjoy tolerate mornings more this way, as it's made me realise that trying to shove a wake up routine from bed to door into ten minutes is a fairly shitty way to start the day.

    Thanks MeFi!

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