Help me shake away the morning foggies and become a morning person.
December 1, 2005 12:59 PM   Subscribe

Help me shake away the morning foggies and become a morning person.

Hi there, AskMeFi, long-time reader, first-time asker.

For several ironclad reasons, it would be much better for me to get up earlier, work out and generally be a "morning person." Child, family and work schedules all sync up to me having the hours of 6:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. all to myself. Unfortunately, I'm not a morning person, and usually spend these hours by crawling back into bed.

And when I say, "not a morning person," I mean "I can't function within human norms." Cognitive functions are limited. Walking is a challenge -- I feel as if I'm moving through invisible goo. It just takes me quite a long time to wake up, period.

FYI, I am fully aware of sleep disorders, and I do not believe that is the issue. It's more about the "get up and go" part of the equation.

Are you one of those people that can spring out of bed and immediately go running/swimming/biking? I would like to be that person. So how the heck do you do it? Has anyone had experience in switching from "night person" to "morning person?"
posted by frogan to Health & Fitness (42 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Go to bed earlier. Make sure your bedtime is the same every night, whether it's a workday or weekend. At that time, get into bed and turn off the lights. Toss and turn if you have to, but don't get out of bed. You'll force yourself into changing your habits eventually.
posted by Faint of Butt at 1:04 PM on December 1, 2005

Coffee, coffee, coffee, coffee, espresso. Get a coffee maker with a start-up timer so you can just wake up to a fresh, hot cup. Then drink at least three of them and the world is a beautiful place. Works for me.

/Gets up at 11.
posted by baphomet at 1:04 PM on December 1, 2005

Coffee is not the way to go on this one. That much coffee will rot your stomach, stain your teeth, weaken your bones and make waking up on time progressively harder.

I've never tried it, since I drink a few cups a day, but I hear that quitting is the best energizer in the world. I drink a few cups a day at work, but I don't need to get up and do stuff at 6.30.
posted by jon_kill at 1:07 PM on December 1, 2005

Sunlamp. Half an hour every morning immediately upon waking. Or get outside in bright sunlight for one half hour every morning immediately upon waking. It will shift your circadian rhythm.
posted by spicynuts at 1:07 PM on December 1, 2005

Do what Faint of Butt said, but also get up at the same time every day. This includes weekends--and no more staying in bed because it's Sunday/rainy/snowing.
After a while (4-6 weeks) your brain will automatically go *bink* and wake you up at 6:30 am. Going running/swimming/biking shortly after waking will help clear the fog, too.
posted by Lycaste at 1:14 PM on December 1, 2005

I have no idea if it works or not but the Sleeptracker is an alarm wristwatch with a motion sensor that supposedly can wake you up within a window of time when you are sleeping the most lightly (determined by your body movement). They claim that it reduces the sense of grogginess that comes from being woken up in the middle of deep sleep. It seems to have gotten generally positive reviews on Amazon and I've been pondering getting one myself.

Alternately, this article may be helpful: How to Become an Early Riser
posted by shinji_ikari at 1:14 PM on December 1, 2005

I was like you. Then I started to go to bed at 11:00. Now I'm fresh as a daisy at 6:00 in the morning. The difference in my life has been profound! Force yourself to bed a 11. No TV, no computer, no nothing. Set an alarm at 10:30 at night, and get into bed and read until you fall asleep.
posted by loquax at 1:14 PM on December 1, 2005

My watch alarm goes off at 21h30 to remind me to start getting ready for bed. I'm usually in bed between 22h00 and 22h30. The sooner I get to bed, the easier it is to get up in the morning.

I find it easier to wakeup if sunlight can enter the room. I find I can be more permorming and get rid of my groggyness in the morning with a cup of coffee (my only cup of the day) and a bagel & cream cheese. It also helps that I walk to work, so I get a bit of sun and fresh air to get things going. Nothing is more depressing the bing stuck on a crowded bus with 50 other zombies.
posted by furtive at 1:19 PM on December 1, 2005

Get a timer. Put your bedside lamp (or per spicynuts, a sunlamp) on the timer, and set it to turn on 15 minutes before your alarm goes off. The light will help get you "charged" and make you less groggy when you wake.
posted by junkbox at 1:19 PM on December 1, 2005

I hate mornings, too. But lately (over the last few years), I've been getting up earlier and earlier. And the first thing I do in the morning (after breakfast, anyway) is to go to the gym. It sounds totally counterintuitive, but exercising first thing in the morning really gives you a lot of energy for the rest of the day. Also, you will find you don't need quite as much sleep as you did before. You might be sleeping for fewer hours, but it's a high-quality sleep.

I didn't really have a trick to doing this. I just did it. But perhaps you can make it easier on yourself by setting out your gym clothes on the night before. Also, buying new gym gear can sometimes produce a sense of economic guilt ("I bought the damn thing, I might as well use it.") that can provide some pretty powerful motivation.
posted by Dr. Wu at 1:22 PM on December 1, 2005

As a member of the Society for Research on Biological Rhythms I can confirm spicynuts on this one. Physical activity + strong light in the morning = phase shift. It will be hell at first but you'll adjust.

Of course there's a genetic component to this as well; if you have a naturally long endogenous rhythm (that is, a slow internal clock) you aren't going to be happy on a 24 hour day, because your insides won't be ready for the sun when it pops up. Bright light and morning exercise will help with this though.

Quitting coffee will help; morning grogginess is actually a withdrawal symptom. Personally I prefer the grogginess to quitting caffeine. I like my coffee.

If nothing else helps go see a sleep clinic doc. You might have some issue keeping you from getting enough rest (either physical or mental or behavioral, all can affect sleep or sleep quality).
posted by caution live frogs at 1:22 PM on December 1, 2005

I have gone back and forth at different periods in my life. There are two factors, one is getting enough sleep, and the other is motivation.

Currently, I am not stressed and I have plenty of time to sleep as much as I want, I just wake up in the morning and since I have slept well enough, and there isn't anything I am trying to avoid out in the real world, there just doesn't seem to be any point staying in bed.

Other periods when I was able to get up effectively were when I had jobs where I perceived that being on-time was important. It was all about getting out the door - alarm goes off, adrenaline hits, into the shower, out the door.

There really isn't any chance of getting the stress/adrenaline thing going if you are getting up for quiet time, so that really limits the possible suggestions I can think of...

If you can, try getting enough sleep, and at the same time of night, for a few months. Go to bed at 10pm, no disturbances, no lights... After a few months you will probably have the habit set in your body well enough that pushing your bedtime back a bit won't hurt. But, if you ever get sleep deprived again the problems will just come back.

The only other thing I can think of is making exercise when you get up the most important thing in your life. You have to build it up as a life or death issue in your mind so that you really have the motivation required to fight through the sleepiness (or to get the adrenaline rush, or however you want to think of it). Personally, I don't think that is a very healthy way to live - even if you are getting daily exercise... I guess people with full time jobs and kids have a hard time justifying 8 hours of sleep/night, so maybe it is a compromise worth considering.
posted by Chuckles at 1:23 PM on December 1, 2005

Quitting caffeine does indeed make it phenomenally easier to get up and function right after you do.

The actual quitting will be hell, though, if you're a heavy drinker.
posted by fidelity at 1:37 PM on December 1, 2005

I own the sleeptracker. It works as advertised, but for people with shitty sleep habits (i.e. me), it will not solve the problem if habitual snooze button hitting.

For people who just would like to feel less groggy in the mornings, I would argue that the sleeptracker is probably a godsend, but it doesn't do that for me because for me, I feel like walking death in the morning.. probably even moreso than the poster.

Once I've showered, though, I do feel a bit energized... so, since it hasn't been mentioned yet - that'll be my tip: hot shower. immediately.
posted by twiggy at 1:56 PM on December 1, 2005

I also find the shower first thing, and then breakfast, helps. If I'm going to work out, I do less strenuous stuff - yoga, for example, rather than running.

Also, previous threads on becoming a morning person: 1 and 2.
posted by bibbit at 2:08 PM on December 1, 2005

I shook the caffeine in July of this year and since I've totally noticed a change in my attitude, mental state, and energy level in the morning. Also in October or so I started taking my dog for a bike ride everyday before the morning shower. Those things combined are key to a great start to my day which in turn makes the entire day much better overall.
posted by sublivious at 2:11 PM on December 1, 2005

I try to be sure to get sleep based in 3 hour increments so I don't wake up in the middle of a cycle. 6 hours of sleep leaves me feeling better than 7. I also drink a glass of water first thing in the morning to hydrate my brain so I can think again.
posted by idiotfactory at 2:13 PM on December 1, 2005

This solution gave me a chuckle.

/ Not a morning person either
posted by LordSludge at 2:32 PM on December 1, 2005

Take vitamin(s) at bedtime. I always sleep better and feel better in the morning if I do this.

Also, if your mattress is old, think about getting a new one.
posted by kindall at 2:39 PM on December 1, 2005

Similar to what idiotfactory said, it's easier to wake up if you are in the LIGHT phase of your sleep cycle. I think it's actually 1.5 hours long from start to finish, not 3 hours, but the general idea is good. This isn't a total solution, because you'll still need to get an adequate amount of sleep (contrary to some of the ideas expressed in a previous thread) as other people have been saying, but this might help a bit.

I think the general logic to this is that the morning "grogginess" you're trying to avoid is largely a problem of waking up during the DEEP phase of sleep...waking up during this phase kind of catches your brain by surprise and makes it more difficult for it to adjust to a waking state. Kind of like sex without foreplay...
posted by johnsmith415 at 2:40 PM on December 1, 2005

Momentum is everything. If I can just make that first action of flinging off the covers, rising from the bed, and standing up, odds are I'll successfully make it out the door to the gym.

I do have to budget extra time for the zombie-shuffling-through-molasses period. I move very slooooowly, and everything takes probably twice as long as it ought to, but as long as I keep going I'm usually fine.

I've also noticed that thinking is my enemy. This might sound flip, but try to not think about what you are doing (eg, holy god, what time is it?! I'm about to go do what?! But sleeping feels so good...). Just do. If I think about how I tired I am and how much I want to go back to bed, I am all the more likely to go back to bed.

Turning on all the lights helps (hopefully your sleeping partner is getting up at the same time!).

Another help is that I don't drink coffee (or eat breakfast -- some might suggest this isn't healthy but I don't really have an opinion other than I haven't keeled over yet) before going to the gym, so the thought of that first cup waiting for me on the other side of the workout is a great comfort.

If you don't go to a gym and thus don't have built-in waking-up transportation time, maybe try starting your workout with walking (to get the blood flowing), gradually increasing the pace until you're a bit more clear-headed. Then continue on with the exercise of your choice.
posted by tentacle at 2:40 PM on December 1, 2005

I always had a lot of sleep problems, too. Helped in part by the above-mentioned AskMe questions, I strove this year to become a better sleeper. In my case, part of the problem was sleep apnea, but much general advice still applied. In the end, I wrote up brief guide to better sleep. The #1 thing that helped me get to sleep earlier was a small dose of melatonin a half hour before bed. This helped me fall asleep on my shedule, and then kept me asleep throughout the night. Now, between the melatonin, the C-PAP machine, and other changes, I go to bed on time, and I rise early without and alarm clock, ready to go.
posted by jdroth at 2:51 PM on December 1, 2005

Supposedly, eating an apple first thing in the morning wakes you up better than coffee. I'm not a big fan of apples, but the following has worked for me:

- Go to bed early, as many above have suggested. If you need to be up by 6:00am, I suggest 11:00 at the latest.

- Do not use the snooze button. At all. When your alarm goes off, get up immediately. Sometimes, If I'm sure I won't fall back asleep, I allow myself up to five minutes of just lying in bed and waking up before actually rising.

- Shower. I'm addicted to a morning shower, and without it I feel like a totally different person.

- Eat. It doesn't have to be big, just something to get your stomach working and give you a bit of energy for the morning, until lunch.

- Get outside. It doesn't matter if you walk, run, or dance on your head, but something about the chilly morning air and light tells your body it's time to be awake and functioning.
posted by lohmannn at 3:01 PM on December 1, 2005

How to Become an Early Riser. (Part 2.)

In a nutshell: Get up at the exact same time every day. Go to bed when you're tired; no sooner, no later.
posted by mbrubeck at 4:17 PM on December 1, 2005

I multi:

- getting to sleep earlier and consitently waking up at the same hour regardless of what day it is
- turn the lights on when your alarm goes off rings (or set a timer to a lamp and have the lamp turn on shortly before your alarm goes rings)

I've noticed that when I'm very stressed that I can't stay in bed. A burst of "adrenalin" in the morning when I realize "omg omg I need to do x, y, z, h, m, and u. oh shit, q also" gets me up and functioning. Downside. Stress sucks and I start to fade by around 3pm.

Alternatively, you can start a meth habit.
posted by PurplePorpoise at 4:45 PM on December 1, 2005 [1 favorite]

A morning shower is a life/time saver. I feel really groggy (stumbling about, eyes mostly shut, can't find anything) until I get a good hot shower. It may be weird to take a shower BEFORE you work out instead of after, but it doesn't have to be long - just hop in and shave, then work out, then take a full shower where you actually wash up.
posted by muddgirl at 4:49 PM on December 1, 2005

Last year I voluntarily switched from getting up at 9:30am to getting up at 6:30-7, and I wouldn't ever go back.. having those free hours in the morning is a huge advantage. Plus, you know, seeing the sun rise is pretty cool.

1. Get up at the same time every day, including weekends. Sorry. You'll be behind all week if you screw up your schedule on Monday.
2. Don't wake up to an alarm clock. Set the alarm clock for the absolute last time you could possibly get up, get dressed, and get to work, but wake up long before that time, and turn off the alarm. You should never have to her an alarm again. The good thing about getting up earlier than you have to is that, even if you're tired, you can afford to roll over and get a few winks.
3. Drink coffee. Or tea. Not because of the caffeine, but because making and consuming it will become a ritual that you will look forward to. Also, the caffeine. And not Folger's, either.. the good stuff.
4. How's your bed? It should be awesome. You spend 8 hours a night on it.. why would you skimp?
posted by Hildago at 5:26 PM on December 1, 2005

The trick to getting awake enough to roll out of bed when the alarm goes off is to STRETCH. I used to think stretching when you wake up was just something people did on TV. Then I tried it and was like OMG WOW I CAN ACTUALLY GET OUT OF BED NOW! Stretch your arms, your legs, your face, everything. Then get up, pull up the covers and don't lie back down.

Getting out of bed has been a special challenge since getting the best most cuddly wife ever.
posted by crabintheocean at 6:25 PM on December 1, 2005 [1 favorite]

People who hate to get up in the morning usually also hate to have the sun blaring in their faces at that time. Well, that's over with for you. Make sure your shades are wide open before you go to sleep.
posted by Aknaton at 6:28 PM on December 1, 2005

My biobrite sunrise clock completely changed my life... every morning I feel like I wake up of my own accord, rather than being woken up by an alarm clock making noise.
posted by dmd at 6:59 PM on December 1, 2005

Oooo, I want, I want, dmd.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:15 PM on December 1, 2005 [1 favorite]

I have a similar problem, perhaps not to the same degree. I think johnsmith415 is on the right track. I've been experimenting with a technique for waking myself up during the lightest phase of sleep, and it seems to be working.

I can't remember where I read this so I can't give proper credit, but the technique is simple enough. Set your alarm for 90 minutes before the time you wish to rise (90 minutes is the approximate time for the average person to cycle from shallow to deep and back to shallow sleep, I think).

Don't use a loud buzzer alarm: Use music, and turn the volume down as far as it will go and still be (just) audible. The idea is that when the alarm goes off, the music won't be loud enough to wake you until you're nearly awake anyway. Waking up from light sleep, as opposed to being wrenched out of deep sleep, makes a big difference to your brain.

You can use a second, louder, buzzer alarm if you feel the need for a "safety net".

As I said, I've been trying this system for the past month or so, and it seems to work in as far as I wake up gently and can't naturally fall back to sleep unless I'm determined to do so. My only remaining problem is lacking sufficient motivation to get out of bed :(

The architect Christopher Alexander advocates something similar in one of his patterns "Sleeping to the East". The principle is very similar; the gradual increase in dawn light doesn't wake you unless you are already in a light sleep phase. Therefore, all bedrooms should be placed on the eastern side of the house.
posted by Ritchie at 8:38 PM on December 1, 2005

I love to sleep, but now I get up early a few days a week. The only reasons this is possible are (a) I am getting up to do something I adore and (b) I nap. So the best advice I can give is to find some sort of workout you love. I find it also helps to listen to loud, noisy music (on my non–music emitting headphones out of respect for others). Seems counterintuitive, but quiet makes you think sleep. Loundness gets you over the hump of sleepiness, as does working out.

Good luck.
posted by dame at 9:54 PM on December 1, 2005

Sometime back I posted a similar question. I'd had difficulty in waking up early for years.

Recently I joined a gym to work out in the evenings, and run on alternate days in the morning. The added physical activities seem to have had a very positive effect on my schedules.

At night, I don't sleep as late as I used to because I'd get very tired from the exhaustion, and when I sleep it's deep. Waking up is still difficult - but at least I don't wake up as late as I used to.

It's easier to wake up early when you have a good reason to. For me running in the morning, and loving it, made all the difference. Another friend of mine made it a point to fetch his mom to work in the mornings, thereby forcing himself to wake up early.

You may need to find your own reasons.

Additionally, I set my alarm clock to about half and hour earlier so that I can squeeze in some bits of time for a light snooze. Nobody can escape snoozing - so do it earlier! :-)
posted by arrowhead at 10:03 PM on December 1, 2005

I am also not a morning person, and I can vouch for a good dose of morning sunlight making a huge difference. I recently moved from a rather dark townhouse to a bright sun-filled house with an east-facing bedroom. Every morning I wake up, and sunlight is creeping through the shutters. I get up and shamble slowly into the living room, where I am faced with a view of the bright sunlit garden. I usually stop and blink a lot, and look at the nice flowers and birds etc. This blast of morning sun wakes me up much faster (and more nicely) than any alarm ever did during my previous dark-dwelling lifestyle. Assuming you have an east-facing room or garden in your house, make it part of your morning routine to spend a few minutes sitting there with a cup of coffee/tea or breakfast.
posted by Joh at 11:54 PM on December 1, 2005

I need to wake at 5:30am three days a week to commute to work.
Those days I make 100% sure to be in bed at 10pm the night before. When the alarm bleeps in the morning I get straight up and into the shower. By the time I emerge I am awake enough not to *need* to go back to bed.
The 'same time every night' crew are pretty wise, and I would do it if it didn't mean missing hours of adult time most days ( I have young kids).
For background, I need around 8 to 9 hours sleep, but feel drowsy all day if I sleep in late.
I reckon you will get a routine if you can just get up through personal will for a few mornings.
posted by bystander at 5:07 AM on December 2, 2005

i've tried all techniques mentioned here in the last 2 years and still can't bring myself to enjoy the morning air/sounds/vibes..
i stopped seeing irregular sleeping rhythms and being up at night time as a problem..
when i get up on sunday afternoon i act like it's monday and when it's monday morning ~6am and people get up, lights go on, car noise starts, and the air buzzes then i actually feel like a busy bee and like i got a head start and the other people are hopelessly behind : )
posted by suni at 6:18 AM on December 2, 2005

I'd just like to let you all know that this thread is very helpful to me- I just started a new job and am trying to get to the office earlier so I can leave earlier (yaaay flexible hours). Last night, on the advice of this thread, I left my blinds open, so the morning sun would blind me when I took off my sleep mask and I'd be wide awake, ready to face the day. Who knew it was still dark at 6:30? Not me. Oh well. Thanks anyway.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:17 AM on December 2, 2005 [1 favorite]

Once you get into the routine, this will all be much easier. The trick is to fake it for a while. Habits, whether good or bad, take a while to establish. Would it help to tell yourself that, just for this month, rather than the rest of your life, you're going to try the experiment of getting up early? Commit to the whole month, and reassess your situation at the end. I know that doing this helps me to stick it out during the early days of a new routine.

I find that I need a concrete commitment to wake up early and exercise. Good intentions aren't enough for me. Lots of yoga instructors teach early morning classes. Even if you don't want to do yoga for the rest of your life, a few months of these early morning classes might help you to start out on the road to being an early riser. Yoga has the added benefit of being incredibly energizing. Same for running groups; most serious running shoe stores can hook you up with people at your training level, even if your level is "can't run a mile yet". Alternatively, finding a workout partner might help. It's much easier to get out of bed when you know that there's someone out there waiting for you to get out of bed and meet them at a certain time.
posted by freshwater_pr0n at 7:35 AM on December 2, 2005

this has been touched on lightly with suggestions of tea or a walk for ritual, but what helps me is getting out of bed to do something I really really enjoy.

Currently my schedule is consumed by a full time job and school so I'm only home for 7 to 8 hours a night, not even enough for a full night of sleep (for me) and certainly not enough to have a ritual in the morning. And I am paying for it dearly. I don't get out of bed until the last possible minute, and sometimes even later, and I like my job. There just isn't anything awesome between bed and work.

This makes me very glad that my final exams are fast approaching.
posted by bilabial at 9:10 AM on December 2, 2005

Avoid alcohol. It's extremely obvious, but I don't think anyone has mentioned. And I don't mean avoid hangovers, avoid alcohol. I'm quite partial to a glass or 5 of wine of an evening, and although I don't feel too drunk in the evening or hungover in the morning, it's hell cubed to get out of bed after drinking the night before (a normal morning merely being hell squared).

I have a "naturally long endogenous rhythm" (thanks for the terminology, caution live frogs) and find getting out of bed a real challenge. A lot of people don't understand what a monumental task it can be some mornings. I too am thinking of getting a Sleeptracker, and finding a sleep clinic.
posted by ajp at 12:18 PM on December 5, 2005

I too have always found getting out of bed to be the hardest thing I do every day. That has recently changed for me, and the thing that I think is doing it is that I am now sleeping in a bedroom that is absolutely bathed in sunlight every morning. I've combined this with some serious self disipline of actually physically getting out of bed as soon as the alarm goes off. As other's have said above, I can only manage this self disipline be mentally thinking of it as an "experiment" to see how far I can leverage this whole sunlight thing. I don't do anything with the extra time, and I'm not buying myself much, just enought to have time to make coffee at home and not rush around in a panic every morning for fear of being late.
posted by dipolemoment at 8:02 PM on December 5, 2005

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