Wake Up!
October 2, 2007 11:02 AM   Subscribe

How can I start waking up earlier?

Lately I've been going to bed pretty early (11:00 PM-12:30 AM), but I can't manage to wake up early. I start work at 10:00 AM my commute is a short 10-minute one. This means I find any excuse to stay in bed until 8:30AM. I'm pretty active on my weeknights taking language classes, going to yoga, going out with friends, ect. So it's not like I'm a lazy ass.

My alarm is set for 7:45 AM but I can manage to wake up that early. Is there anyway of creating a good habit of waking up early? And not sleeping 8 hours every night?
posted by octomato to Health & Fitness (20 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Do enough during the day to tire you out. If it's not enough, do more. As soon as I started really exhausting myself during the day, I began to sleep better, and started waking up a lot earlier.
posted by dead_ at 11:04 AM on October 2, 2007

I would drink a glass of water every night right before bed. When the alarm goes off at 6:45, I HAVE to get up.

After a few months, I started waking up at 6:45 even without the alarm.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 11:05 AM on October 2, 2007

If your body wants you to sleep 8 hours, then you should sleep 8 hours, which means going to bed 8 hours before you want to get up. Otherwise it - your body, that is - is going to keep "finding excuses" to sleep in.

People vary from one to another in the amount of sleep they need, and your own needs may vary over time, but two things are pretty much axiomatic: (1) Your bod will get the amount of sleep it wants or punish you for it, and (2) Nobody has any foolproof way of convincing it that it wants a different amount.
posted by Wolfdog at 11:07 AM on October 2, 2007 [2 favorites]

Why on earth would you want to short-change your sleep? There are myriad problems caused (or worsened) by sleep debt and sleep deprivation. If there is one thing you can do to improve your life is it probably getting all the sleep you need, regardless of the number of hours.

If you want to get up earlier, go to bed earlier and stop using the alarm. Sleep as much as you need every night. You'll be amazed at how many areas of your life get better.
posted by trinity8-director at 11:08 AM on October 2, 2007 [1 favorite]

Sleeping less than 8 hours a night is not short-changing yourself.
posted by dead_ at 11:10 AM on October 2, 2007

Different people need different amounts of sleep; figuring out how much you need is important and has nothing to do with how much anyone else needs.
That said, I used to get too much sleep. My body would want to stay in bed as long as possible, and I'd feel drowsy and sick for the first half of the day.

I fixed this by changing my morning routine. I used to get out of bed, scream in horror at the time, run through the shower and try to cram some food in my mouth while getting dressed. Not surprising that I didn't wake up happy, knowing that was all I had to look forward to.
Now, I wake up an hour earlier than I need to, and make myself breakfast while listening to music. I sit down to eat with a book or at the computer, and have a nice relaxing time until I need to get showered and dressed.

Before I fall asleep at night, I make a point of imagining the morning and telling myself how much I look forward to it. This really has made a huge difference. YMMV, of course, but it's worth a shot.
posted by smoakes at 11:20 AM on October 2, 2007 [2 favorites]

(1) Your bod will get the amount of sleep it wants or punish you for it, and (2) Nobody has any foolproof way of convincing it that it wants a different amount.

This is true but it is also true that you can get accustomed to having more sleep than you need. The way to find out how much you need is not just to stick with whatever feels right currently, but, as Steve Pavlina suggests, to set an alarm to wake up at a strict time (put the alarm clock on the other side of the room if you need to, so that you have to get up) but to go to bed when you feel ready to fall asleep, not before or after. After a few tired days you will establish the amount you really need.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 11:21 AM on October 2, 2007 [2 favorites]

A little cliche, but I really do set my alarm clock fast by about 15 minutes. I've been doing it for years, and it continues to work. In the morning, I'm just too drowsy to care about how fast my alarm is. This also lets me hit snooze once if I want, without losing time.

Another trick is to associate the morning with good feelings. Like coffee? Set that timer for your morning coffee to a few minutes before your alarm. Nothing like waking up to the smell of a fresh brewed cup in the house
posted by ShootTheMoon at 11:22 AM on October 2, 2007

Someone said it in passing, but if your problems are simply getting out of bed (versus being drowsy all day if you get up too early), get a very loud alarm clock and put it on the other side of the room.

I used to be able to sail on the snooze button for literally hours. But when the alarm is on the other side of the room and I physically have to get up, it breaks that sleepy seal and I'm fine after that.
posted by Nelsormensch at 11:34 AM on October 2, 2007

Right now, you have a gap of free time between 7:45 and 8:30. The key is to fill that time with a structured routine that will cause you to be more "awake" and alert. Here's some suggestions:

1. Do 30 jumping jacks. This will get your blood flowing and kick in some endorphins.
2. Eat an apple. There's something about the vitamins and sugar in an apple along with the mechanical action of biting and chewing that picks me up a bit. Peeling and eating an orange also works, especially if some stray juice stings your eye.
3. Read the funnies. Reading the front page is fine but if you're not awake, all that black text on gray newsprint can be mind-numbing. I go for the pictures in the funnies. Picking up on dry humor (like in Bizarro) also takes more brain power than the 1st grade reading level of the news articles.
4. Take a shower. Pretty obvious.

Again, the key is to make it routine so that you're not just waking up and wondering whether to go back to sleep, you're waking up and doing activities that will cause you to be fully awake and prepared for the day.
posted by junesix at 11:36 AM on October 2, 2007

The best solution for me is to get rid of the alarm clock. Who wants to start their morning with an aggravating buzzer or disc jockey anyway? Without an alarm clock (which I do use from time to time to catch an early flight, etc) you start to establish a natural rhythm of sleeping only as long as your body needs. I know it sounds like a Kramer-idea, but after a while, you just wake up naturally around the same time each day.
posted by eirelander at 11:40 AM on October 2, 2007

We have cats who demand to be fed at 5:30-6:00 every morning. This will not work for everyone, though.
posted by rtha at 11:46 AM on October 2, 2007

The whole alarm clock at the other side of the room thing doesn't always work - I have been known to sleep through my alarm clock which keeps going for about an hour - as in I wake up but will quite happily have it on in the background and snooze until it turns itself off after an hour...much to the disgust of my housemates at the time who were not so fortunate...they minded the sound much more than I did, they were woken up and couldn't go back to sleep and they were in different rooms!

Why do you want to get up earlier anyway? Just enjoy the fact that your lifestyle allows you to do what you do at the moment :)
posted by koahiatamadl at 12:05 PM on October 2, 2007

Relax for a couple weeks. Remember that life can be enjoyed without packing every day with activities. Let your friends know you're trying some sleep experimentation.

I've been in your situation and tried this a while ago, and it's worked wonders for me.

I started going to bed between 8:30 and 9:00pm, with no TV, no radio, just a book and a bedside lamp. I'd read until I got tired, then went to sleep. At first, I would read into the wee hours of the night, but after a week, I started falling asleep earlier and earlier. Until the point at which I began waking up naturally *before* my alarm went off.

Now I just don't do "stuff" a few nights a week and make sure that I have quiet time and nothing stopping me from getting into bed early with a good book. My fiance even does this with me, though I haven't ever mentioned anything other than "Want to get into bed and read for a while?". Of course, it does help to enjoy reading...
posted by terpia at 12:17 PM on October 2, 2007

Also, if you have a room with a window, open the blinds/shutters all the way so you get max sunlight in the morning. In my freshman year at college, I discovered that the heavy drawn blinds were the reason I couldn't wake up in the mornings.
posted by junesix at 12:23 PM on October 2, 2007

I highly recommend Gregg Jacobs' Say Good Night to Insomnia. He's a sleep researcher at Harvard Medical School, and all his advice is evidence-based.

Most of the "common sense" about sleep is wrong. Some people need only 3 hours per night. For most people 5.5 hours minimum is enough; getting less than that generally affects mood but not performance. One key is to rise at the same time every single day; experiment with different bedtimes. The goal is not to maximize sleep time but to maximize efficiency, i.e., sleep hours divided by time in bed. Good = 85%.

The book lays out a whole six-week plan, which I can't summarize here, but it's definitely worth doing, especially if you're having trouble.
posted by futility closet at 1:19 PM on October 2, 2007

I think for some sleep is an escape. Maybe one way to wake up when you want to is to have the kind of life you're happy to wake up to.
posted by charris5005 at 1:26 PM on October 2, 2007

Go to sleep earlier and you'll wake up earlier. Once you're awake, though, you have to find a way to want to get out of bed all on your own.
posted by Mr. Gunn at 2:03 PM on October 2, 2007

I find that it's simple to awake and get out of bed, if you're actually awake. I bought a sleeptracker watch, and it totally works. Odd to sleep with a watch on..but once you're over that, you're amazed at how 'alert' you are when the alarm goes off.

I've begun to set an alarm as a signal to 'wind down' at the end of the night. This makes it easier for me to actually get to bed.

BTW, you're exhausted if you're needing tons of 'catch up sleep' on the weekend.
posted by filmgeek at 7:18 PM on October 2, 2007

24 Tips To Becoming an Early Riser [LifeRemix]

Good luck!
posted by hannahq at 9:30 PM on October 2, 2007

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