Feeling well-rested and energized when you wake up can seem next to impossible — especially if you're a night owl. I've always envied morning people — I've lived and worked with many, and they never cease to fascinate me (probably because I've never been able to wake up before 11 a.m. without feeling wretched). Shortly after getting my first job, I perfected the art of getting ready for work in about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, my morning-inclined peers had been up for hours, doing productive things like going to the gym and making a nutritious breakfast. Heck, some of them even did freelance work before going to their 9-to-5 jobs. While those things continue to boggle my mind, I did eventually discover some ways to make the mornings easier.
If you have trouble getting up and feeling energized in the morning, chances are you're a night owl and may suffer from either occasional or chronic insomnia. If that's the case, you've probably found some ways to be a functional human being on a minimal amount sleep. For me, coffee was always the answer — but it resulted in a vicious cycle of more sleepless nights. This forced me to find creative (aka healthy) ways to get myself energized in the morning; ways that did not involve Olympic-level latte-chugging. Although I still don't understand morning people, the seven morning energy tricks below have definitely helped me wake up more quickly — without all the shakiness caused by caffeine.
If you manage to get a full eight hours of sleep every night and still feel sluggish in the morning (or if you're forced to squeak by on four or five hours), try these tips to start your day off feeling more energized and motivated. Even if you're not a morning person, they may help you convincingly fake it.
1. Skip The Glass Of Wine Before Bed
If you have trouble falling asleep at night, it can be tempting to have a glass of wine (or several) before bed. While chardonnay can definitely help you fall asleep more quickly, your sleep will be less restful and you'll be more likely to wake up during the night if you have a nightcap — alcohol interferes with your brain activity, preventing you from having the kind of brain wave patterns that ensure deep and refreshing sleep. So enjoy your wine with dinner, but make sure to cut yourself off for the next few hours as bedtime approaches.
2. Don't Use The Snooze Button
There are few things worse than the sound of your alarm going off in the morning — so don't subject yourself to that awful noise multiple times. Hitting snooze may allow you to doze for a few extra minutes, but your brain knows that you have precious little time left in bed, so the quality of your sleep won't be restful. In fact, when the alarm goes off again, you'll feel more tired than you would have if you had gotten up when your alarm first went off. So set your alarm for when you actually need to be up. As Dr. Jodi Mindell wrote in Prevention, "That extra, uninterrupted sleep makes you feel more rested and refreshed."
3. Start The Morning With A Glass Of Water
Far be it from me to come between anyone and their morning coffee — but if you want to feel optimally awake and energized, drink a big glass of water first thing in the morning (yes, even before consuming caffeine). Rehydrating immediately after you wake up will help your body maintain a healthy flow of oxygen — and that will make you feel more energetic and rested.
4. Get A Dose Of Sunlight STAT
The old adage "rise and shine" exists for a reason — getting some sun first thing in the morning really helps you feel awake. It'll send your body's internal clock the memo that it's time to be wide awake and energized. If it's sunny out, open your curtains and let the light in while you eat breakfast and get ready for the day. During the dark and rainy winter months, consider investing in a light therapy box. They're most commonly used in the treatment of Seasonal Affective Disorder, so they're designed to mimic outdoor light.
5. Listen To Music
Studies have found that when you listen to your favorite songs, your brain releases significant amounts of dopamine. And music is the one stimulus that causes the entire brain to light up on a PET scan — so listening to an upbeat playlist in the morning will help you feel more alert and motivated. Consider making one of your favorite songs your alarm tone. I can't guarantee that it will make waking up completely painless, but it's gotta be better than having that awful default tone be the first thing you hear in the morning.
6. Engage In Some Sort Of Physical Activity
We've all been told that going to the gym in the morning is the ideal way to start the day, and it's true. So if you can get yourself out of bed early enough to exercise before work, more power to you and keep it up! Personally, I'll never be a morning person and I just can't go to the gym in the morning because I'd probably fall off the treadmill from exhaustion. But there's still hope for me and my fellow morning-haters: taking a few minutes to stretch or strike a few easy yoga poses is a quick, painless way to start the day with increased energy.
7. Eat A Good Breakfast
Don't skip the most important meal of the day! And, no, a latte doesn't count as breakfast. (Trust me — I double-checked.) Even if you don't wake up feeling hungry, eating a healthy breakfast will help you start the day off energized. Natalie Dautovich of the National Sleep Foundation suggests eating foods that are rich in protein and fiber. Avoid anything with unsaturated fat, magnesium and potassium, because those foods will make you feel sleepy all over again.
I can't guarantee that any of these habits will magically turn you into a morning person. But they will make the mornings less painful and put you on the right track for a productive day — which is just as good, right?