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Waking up early in the morning can difficult. The bed is warm, you are comfortable, turning off the alarm clock is easy, and an additional 5 minutes (which is shorthand for no less than 30 minutes) of sleep is an alluring idea. I’m sure that all of us have encountered this exact scenario many times throughout our lives, myself included. This is why I can absolutely identify with the challenge of switching gears and waking up early. I have never been a morning person until I traveled to Asia and came back from the trip and found myself waking up before sunrise. Let’s just say that this tickled my fancy enough to want to get back in this groove multiple times and I have had clients with this same desire as well.
If you want to become a morning person, below are some practical tips and pieces of advice that may help you get to sleep earlier and become an early bird (who gets the worm).
- Identify why it’s essential. This may sound basic, but if you don’t know why you are doing it, then you aren’t going to keep it up.
- No napping during the day. This may sound simple, but it’s imperative and a common mistake, as you will not be able to fall asleep later in the evening. You can take a power nap of 10-15 minutes, but nothing more than that if you do. My general advice for those that have a tricky time with napping is to avoid it.
- Personally, I am a fan of taking melatonin and getting into bed a little early with a book that has nothing to do with your daily world. It helps to close the browser tabs of your mind. This varies by person as some people can’t put down a good book and it may keep them up later. Know your vices on this one.
- Remove anything stimulating like cell phones and tablets. These devices are slippery slopes and allow work or play to encroach on your beauty sleep. Cell phones, tablets, and other electronic devices also negatively affect your rest in many different ways.
- I think it helps not to have an alarm clock close to your bed.
- Try different things like having an alarm clock that makes you solve a puzzle or that wakes you with the news. See what works. The goal is to have it in your head you are doing something different and that you are being woken up to some sort of activity. This will help prevent you from merely shutting it off and going back to sleep.
- If you use an Alexa Spot, you can have Alexa do sleep meditations from places like Headspace or wind down to music before falling asleep.
- I have had clients use animals as their alarm clocks as the dogs will follow up where the alarm clock falls off.
- Use a sleep calculator to see when you should go to bed for your goal time of waking up.
- I knew of several clients that developed unique ways to wake themselves up: one used a Christmas tree timer connected to a hairdryer. Odd, yes, but it worked. Another used an alarm clock for those with hearing impairment. It would vibrate and flash a light.
- I had a client who used a more zen approach and had a light that would gradually turn on and a bell that would ding and slowly become more frequent.
- Some people suggest eating a banana and having milk, turkey, and carbohydrates as they have natural sedative effects due to tryptophan. Similarly, a hot shower or bath 60-90 minutes before bed can be calming and relaxing; it can also assist in dropping your body temperature, which is a natural signal in your body that it is time to rest.
- Part of what makes waking up at a different time so tough is breaking a sleep cycle. Another thing can is sleep deprivation in general, as sleep is shown to affect mental health. Working as a counselor, I absolutely see the role of reduced sleep attributed to many diagnoses that can easily be treated through good sleep hygiene (ADHD, mindless eating, anxiety, depression, stress).
- For going to bed, I think it helps to think of yourself lying in a place with everything you associate with relaxing. For me, that’s a lake with nothing else around it and laying on a raft. Find the visualization that works for you and allow yourself to steep in it. This helps your brain let go of control.
- If you wake up, try counting and focusing on your breath. Slowly counting as you breathe in and slowly as you breathe out. This helps to turn off that logical part of your brain that sometimes kicks on “What time is it? Do I have to pee? How long was I out?” These thoughts never help and don’t check the clock.
- Visualize what you want to do with your new routine and know that the first few days will likely be the toughest. Build in a morning reward for your new behavior. If you get tired during the day, try to walk or get some exercise. This helps you to get the most of out of the day so you can crash later.
- Oh, a note on caffeine. Mileage varies on this advice, but I first ask people how sensitive they are. I then have them cut back their caffeine intake, so nothing is after 3 pm and then try to cut it back even further. It can easily mess up the best-laid plans.
- Ambien and other sleep medications can be a slippery slope in my experience and research points it this way too. It’s not suitable for long-term use, and it’s not that much more effective than trying to sleep without it.
Photo by Wojciech Święch on Unsplash