There’s nothing worse than waking up tired, groggy, and dreading the next 20 minutes of trying to get up and awake. Unless you’re a natural born early bird, then more often than not, you’ve experienced many unpleasant mornings that start with that echoing alarm coming from your phone. I am, without a doubt, one of those people who cannot stand getting up early in the morning, especially at 5:00AM! At least, not until I changed some of my habits and bought a few things that make getting the day started 10x easier.
Even with a great alarm clock and all the will power in the world, your day will still turn out mediocre at best if you’re not preparing for it the night before. So, the first thing I did was change my nightly routine to accommodate for an earlier bed time and to help me hit the ground running each morning.
To be successful in anything, you must be prepared. This is especially true if you plan on starting your day earlier, as it can be all too easy to say, “Well there’s not much to do, so I might as well go back to bed or take a nap.” Not only does this make it harder to fall asleep later in the evening, but what was the point of getting up in the first place?
Start by going to bed earlier. You should generally know how much sleep you need to feel well-rested and energized the next day, so plan accordingly. For me, I need at least 6 hours, if not more. Before I would stay up until around 11:00PM or 12:00AM before even getting close to bed, now I am in bed by 10:15PM to 10:30PM at the latest.
To further prepare for the day ahead, start by setting your clothes out, preparing the family’s lunch, or anything else you would normally have to do in the morning the night before. The first thing I like to do as soon as I get up is drink a full glass of water, throw on my workout clothes, and go on a run or lift. So, the night before, I set out everything I need to get going quickly. Shoes, socks, a shirt, compression shorts, shorts, a jacket, etc. are all set out and ready to be put on, so I can quickly get out of the house. The easier you make it to get up, the more likely you will be to do it.
Lastly, I keep a pocket size notebook on my desk that provides a very rough outline of what I plan to do when I get up the following day. I always write this out the night before, so I have a guide of knowing what I will do once up. If I have some special task for the day, a meeting, appointment, or anything I need to do, that goes in the notebook. Additionally, if there are any projects outside of work, and there usually are, I always put these in there to make sure I get them done even with a busy schedule.
It isn’t just the number of hours you sleep, but also the quality of your sleep. I would take 5 hours of quality sleep, over 7 hours of poor sleep any day. With that being said, you need to learn how to fall asleep faster and stay asleep. I also assume that your mattress is okay and doesn’t need to be replaced. If you have a crappy mattress that’s over 8 years old, odds are likely it’s time for a new one soon. Also, don’t forget to wash and change your sheets regularly.
For me, I have developed a sort of ritual that helps me fall asleep within about 15 minutes of closing my eyes and stay asleep throughout the night. Within about 1-2 hours of going to bed, I always put my phone on the charger, face down, which also happens to be on the opposite side of the room from my bed. I try to limit anything that produces a bright or blue light, such as the TV, or a computer screen. Blue light tends to keep you awake, which is why some people find it difficult to fall asleep when their phone is in or around the bed.
Secondly, I don’t eat any big meals or acidic foods within a couple hours of going to sleep. I won’t lie, sometimes I do eat a very big dinner and that usually requires an antacid to calm my stomach. However, if I end up hungry close to bed I eat something simple like a Pop-tart or bowl of cereal. It helps keep my sweet tooth happy and is just enough to get rid of my growling stomach. The reason you want to avoid big meals or acidic foods is because it can cause indigestion, which can lead to a poor night’s sleep.
Third, I only use my bed for one thing (ok maybe 2 things, but that’s a different topic), and that is sleep. Like I already said, I put my phone on the other side of the room, so I’m not tempted to look at it. I don’t use my laptop in bed, nor do I watch TV or play video games in bed. I do usually read in bed at night, but I think this is okay. Reading tends to help me fall asleep personally, which probably explains why I found staying awake in class difficult at times.
Fourth, get your room as dark as possible. I find it very difficult to sleep with even just a hint of light coming in from the hallway, window, or wherever. Since I have a couple different chargers, TV, printer, computer, Xbox, etc. in my room, I have put a small piece of electrical tape over anything that may light up during the night. If for some reason someone turns the hall light on at night, I keep a towel nearby to keep light from coming in under the door.
Finally, don’t expect to hit the bed after a long day or project and instantly fall asleep. While this will work sometimes, you usually need at least 20 or 30 minutes to ‘settle in’ and wind down before bed. Make sure you make time for this and find out what works for you.
If you’ve followed everything else correctly, then congrats! You’ve prepared yourself, for at least one night, to successfully get up early in the morning. As soon as you wake up, get your body moving! Whether that means walking into the kitchen to start making breakfast, hopping in the shower, or putting on your workout clothes, start doing whatever it is you have first on your list. Whatever you do, just make sure you DO NOT get back into bed! That is the easiest way to fall back into a slumber and oversleep!
Although not necessary, here are two more aids I have found that help make getting out of bed easier. I had only previously read about these alarm clocks before, thought they were a bit expensive, a bit of a gimmick and never really considered buying one until a few weeks ago. Happily, I can say I was wrong, at least with the gimmick part.
Philips has an alarm clock which simulates a sunrise right as your alarm is about to go off. If you set your alarm for 5:00AM, the clock progressively gets brighter and brighter from 4:30AM until 5:00AM to simulate a natural sunrise that makes it easier for you to wake up. I thought it was stupid, until I had an Amazon gift card, bought one, and tried it out. WOW, it makes a difference!
As long as I log at least 6 or 7 hours in dreamland, getting out of bed has been phenomenally easier. I’ve tried different apps that track your sleep to help wake you up, tried timing my sleep cycles just right, but nothing has compared to how well this clock works. Rarely do I feel that grogginess that I normally would if it was just a loud, buzzing alarm waking me up.
With this clock, I actually start to wake up around 4:45AM because of the light; 15 minutes before my alarm goes off. While it still feels early in the morning, it doesn’t feel like an un-climbable mountain trying to get out of bed. Instead, I normally acknowledge the time, roll out of bed, throw on my workout clothes and I’m off. There is still a desire to go back to sleep, but it’s weak, if that makes any sense. If for some reason I don’t entirely wake up to light, there is an actual, beeping alarm to wake you up. Additionally, I also keep my phone’s alarm on across the room as a double backup.
To make things even easier, I installed a smart plug on a light that illuminates my whole room, so I’m not laying in darkness. If you’re not familiar with what a smart plug is, it’s a small device that is between an outlet and whatever device your using, that connects to wifi and can be controlled from your phone. In my case, I have it connected to my light.
The wonderful thing about this little gizmo is I can schedule it to turn on and off at specific times. So, every morning I have it set to come on at 4:55AM. Sure enough, every morning at 4:55AM, it clicks on and my room is lit from corner to corner. Furthermore, a smart plug isn’t all that expensive, in fact it’ll probably be cheaper than the alarm clock depending on where you buy it.
The Philips alarm clock I bought is available on Amazon for about $40-$50. If you search around, there are some cheaper Chinese replicas that may work just as fine, I don’t know. If you want to risk it with one of them, go for it, some offer white noise, nature sounds, etc. On the flip side, Philips also offers a larger model that has a bigger and brighter light for people with larger rooms or who want to place it farther from their bed.
Are you a frequent traveler and want to keep up on your early morning habits? Great! The Philips model is the perfect size for travel as it measures less than 8″ in diameter and is fairly thin. It can easily fit into your carry-on bag and its power cord can disconnect from the body of the clock.
Smart plugs are much more affordable, and you can get a decent one for about $20-$25. The one I use and has seemed to be incredibly reliable is the TP-Link (Model HS100). The best thing about this one is it doesn’t require you to have a hub (if you don’t know what this is, don’t worry about it) and the app is really easy to use on my iPhone.
Bonus tip! I can be incredibly lazy at times, and decided to pick up an Amazon Alexa just to see what all the fuss was about. The TP-Link smart plug can wirelessly connect to Alexa, so when you’re in bed reading and need to turn off the light, you can simply say, “Alexa please turn off the bedroom light.” And within a second or two, *Click*, the light is off and you’re still in bed!
It’s difficult to get an accurate picture of the alarm clock because it’s so easy to manipulate camera settings and the light around it. If you’re not familiar with cameras, just take my word for it that if you place it close to your bed you will wake up. I can sleep like a rock and it has no trouble waking me up. Anyways, for the photographers out there, these two photos were taken about 3 feet from the alarm clock with an 18-55mm lens at 1/30 shutter, 4.0A, and 800 ISO. There wasn’t much else light on other than my ceiling fan which is about 9 feet away. This is the alarm clock at maximum brightness vs. no light at all.
Also published on Medium.
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