The majority of Americans feel we’re at our personal best in the morning, yet we also have a hard time getting out of bed when the alarm goes off. So when we hit the snooze button for “just a couple more minutes” of sleep, we’re missing out on the most powerful time of day for our health, well-being and productivity.
Research shows that the early bird really does get the worm: early risers tend to be more productive, proactive, and have greater success in accomplishing their goals throughout the day.
While some of our preference for staying up late or rising early is genetic, a large part of it can also be learned and trained.
Here are a few tips for waking up refreshed and starting the day well. Take what you need and develop a positive morning routine that works for you.
First thing’s first:
You gotta give yourself something to work with! Sleeping well is a matter of sleeping both enough, and the right way (see this post for more information on sleep cycles and how to make sure your sleep habits are restorative).
Most adults feel and function best with 7-9 hours per night. However, keep in mind that you’re likely to need more sleep if you’re strength training, fighting an illness, or recovering from an injury. This may seem like a great burden to your already jam-packed schedule, but it’s really worth it for your physical and mental health, well-being and longevity.
Wake up well
Part of sleeping well is waking up well. Waking up during the lightest phase of your sleep cycle will leave you feeling the most refreshed. You can use the free website sleepyti.me to quickly estimate the best bedtime based on the specific time you need to wake up in the morning. For a more precise approach, use a sleep-tracking app (like Sleep Cycle or Sleepbot) to monitor your sleep cycles and wake you in your lightest phase.
When the alarm goes off, remember that the snooze button is not your friend. It is very foe. Each time the alarm goes off it disrupts your sleep cycle, and fragmented sleep is actually worse for your mood and cognitive ability than forgoing the few extra minutes you get after the first alarm.
To stop yourself from snoozing the alarm, set it across the room so you have to get out of bed to turn it off. The act of getting out of bed will make it easier for you to stay awake. If you need something a little more heavy-duty, use an app like Mathe Alarm Clock that will make you solve math puzzles before letting you turn off the alarm. This activates your brain and prevents you from accidentally turning off your alarm while trying to press snooze!
Because circadian rhythms are affected by light, another strategy for waking up refreshed is using an alarm clock that simulates the sunrise to ease you awake: a warm-glow light will turn on about thirty minutes before your set alarm and gradually brighten like a sunrise. Exposure to this light should help bring you into a lighter sleep stage, which makes it easier to wake up when the alarm goes off. This model or this model are good options.
Now, once you’re awake:
Stretch in bed
Stretching first thing in the morning helps to get your blood and lymphatic system flowing, energizing your body and boosting mental alertness. Try these six stretches, or do whatever feels good to you.
Drink a glass or two of water
Drinking water first thing in the morning rehydrates your body, which in turn aids digestion and helps flush toxins from the liver (which was working hard all night!). Better hydration will also boost your energy and mental clarity.
Eat a high protein breakfast
Starting the day with a protein-rich meal will further boost your energy levels and mental clarity and keep you satisfied longer. Ditch the boxed cereal, which is mostly sugary refined carbs that will bounce your blood sugar, and try these grain-free breakfast ideas instead.
If you don’t have much time in the morning, prepare your breakfast ahead of time so it’s ready to dish up and eat. Or, if you’re able, take time to cook yourself a hearty breakfast from scratch. Whatever works for you.
Find a way to move your body at least a little in the morning. It can be as simple as doing some light stretching or a few yoga poses as you wait for breakfast to heat up. A particularly good morning yoga session is the Sun Salutation. Just a few rounds of this benefits your circulation and digestion, oxygenates your blood to help the body detox, and, of course, strengthens and tones your muscles.
If you want a little more movement, walk the dog or go on a morning jog if they’re options for you. You could also do a full workout at the gym if you have (or are willing to make) the time. Do what’s fitting for you and makes you feel good. Any type of exercise fights fatigue and boosts energy, so people who are active in the morning tend to have more energy throughout the day.
Jump-start your positive thinking
Many accomplished people believe that we set the tone for our day first thing in the morning. Research does show that just two minutes of positive thinking in the morning can improve your mood and mental clarity for the day ahead. There are a lot of options for setting yourself up for positive thinking, and you can combine whichever of them you like. A few ideas:
- Practice gratitude. Make a list of five things you’re grateful for in your life, or five reasons it’s going to be an awesome day.
- Meditate on 3 positive thoughts about yourself. Consider three positive or affirming things about yourself, and how they’re helping you get where you’re going.
- Set goals and intentions for the day. Before you jump into go-mode, take some time to reflect on what’s really important for you each day. Maybe it’s focusing on a fitness goal, or being particularly kind to everyone around you, or just finishing up a big project you’re working on. So often we start the day on auto-pilot, not really knowing what we’re aiming for to make it productive and meaningful.
- Absorb inspiration. Whether it’s reading a daily inspo book (like this one), listening to a motivational podcast, or browsing Instagram for some creative energy, spend a little time soaking up inspiration to move in the direction of your goals.
- Visualize your day. The practice of visualization can help you get in touch with what you want in life, and how to spend your time to get there. Take a few minutes to muse on your ideal day (or life, why not?), and then break down the steps you need to take to achieve it.
- Meditate. Practicing meditation for a few minutes in the morning lowers stress levels, connects you to your body and surroundings, and helps you live more mindfully–so you can get the most out of your day. Learn simple meditation techniques here.
Take time for health and beauty rituals
Above and beyond their health or beauty benefits, pampering rituals can be quite soothing and restorative. Some examples include dry brushing, applying lotion, a healthy skincare routine, or just exemplary oral hygiene (oil pulling, flossing, healthy mouthwash).
Do something that makes you feel accomplished
Whether it’s exercise, a creative project, or catching up on an inbox full of emails, starting your morning with a go-get-em attitude will increase your productivity and accomplishments throughout the day.
Foresee distractions and time-sucks
Part of making your morning go smoothly is doing your best to foresee areas that can be a challenge. Do you get distracted checking your Facebook in bed and before you know it it’s been 30 minutes? Make a rule that there’s no Facebook in the morning. Are you the type of person who tries on 15 outfits before you can settle on The One? Or do you find yourself rushing out the door without a lunch because you didn’t have time to pack one? Choose your clothes and pack your lunch the night before so they’re ready to go in the morning and you have more time and energy to focus on your positive morning routine.
Waking up earlier
Do you feel like these ideas are great in theory, but you’ll never have the time to actually try any of them in the morning? Well, you are in control of creating more time in your mornings before (or while) you get ready for work. Even just an extra half hour in the morning can allow you to fit in a positive thinking exercise, a better breakfast, and a brief yoga sesh (Yoga Studio app has quite a few 10- and 15-minute options).
Here are some tips for waking up earlier:
- Go to bed earlier. Trade a half hour for a half hour. And if you really want to wake up earlier, enforce it.
- Set your alarm 10 minutes earlier each day until you reach your new desired time. You’ll barely notice the change.
- Make it impossible (or at least less likely) to hit snooze. (See the tips above.)
- Give yourself something to look forward to when you get out of bed. Have a yummy breakfast lined up, a new playlist queued to groove to, or scheduled time for an activity you enjoy, like reading the news or your blogroll.
- If you have an electric coffeemaker, set the alarm to have coffee start brewing around the time your alarm goes off so a hot cuppa joe is waiting for you when you get out of bed.
Remember that if you can work through the painful moments of waking up earlier than you’d like, once you get moving and get started on your positive morning routine, you’ll feel great. And, the purpose of the morning routine is that it will help you feel better throughout the rest of the day too!