Why It’s So Hard To Wake Up In The Morning, According To A Psychotherapist

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A woman stretches in bed in the morning. If you find it hard to wake up in the morning, we asked a p...
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If you're not a morning person, waking up is hard to do. Maybe you hit snooze eleventy million times before eventually stumbling to the kitchen for coffee. You might even curse in the general direction of people who seem to have no problem bouncing out of bed to greet the day, like Anna trying to get Elsa to build a snowman with her. If you're more of an Elsa when the sun starts rising, you probably wonder (every single day) why it's so hard for you to wake up in the morning.

For morning haters, there are a few reasons why it takes you so long to get going. "Being a morning person or night owl is a combination of your genes and your environment," says psychotherapist Dr. Mike Dow, Psy.D., Ph.D., author of Heal Your Drained Brain. "If you have one of the many genes for being a 'morning person,' your melatonin (sleep hormone) levels are likely to rise earlier in the evening and fall earlier in the morning than someone with 'night owl' genes."

What you might know as "I haven't had coffee don't talk to me," researchers call sleep inertia, which is that time period after you wake up where you're not really awake yet. For some, sleep inertia can last around four hours, while others (those "morning people," you say with spite) don't really experience it at all. If you're still dreaming of your bed hours after leaving it, Dr. Dow recommends 30 seconds in the coldest water you can handle as a wake-up strategy.

"That cold water shower skyrockets your stress hormones — and this can be a sort of replacement therapy for people who aren’t morning people," he says. In this case, the blast of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline isn't a bad thing. This helpful sort of stress can wake you up (and make you look forward to your hot coffee even more).

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Even with the coldest water in the world, you might still struggle to climb out of bed because of something called phase delay. This means that you've had to adjust your sleep schedule to the demands of your work life versus what your body needs. For people with phase delay, this forced schedule doesn't align with your natural circadian rhythm. Unfortunately, one way to get your body to align with your schedule is to get up at the same time every day, which means no sleeping in on the weekends.

There are ways to help you set that consistent schedule, Dr. Dow tells Bustle. "Someone who is naturally a night owl but needs to be productive in the morning can dim the lights around 8 p.m. and take melatonin before the target bedtime," he suggests. Time-release melatonin can help if you have trouble staying asleep, while fast-dissolve melatonin can help when you have trouble falling to sleep in the first place, he says. Melatonin can help preserve your quality of sleep, which also plays a role in whether or not you have a hard time waking up in the morning.

Whether or not you want to take a supplement, establishing a sleep hygiene routine is important. It's all about having a solid bedtime routine that allows you to wind down before going to bed by indulging in your favorite form of self-care. Take a bath, practice yoga or meditation, spray lavender on your pillow, and unplug from electronics at least 30 minutes before going to bed. Dr. Dow suggests putting down the coffee mug around 2 p.m. and trying to avoid alcohol and sugar before bed, which can both disturb your sleeping cycle.

Blue light from your devices can be a huge factor in keeping you up later (and keeping you sleepy longer). If you're bringing work spreadsheets and the latest episode of Stumptown to bed with you, Dr. Dow tells Bustle that your brain won't be able to make the melatonin it needs, and it will start associating your bedroom with being awake.

The bottom line? If waking up early is not your jam, your body is telling you to take more time for evening self-care. If you're just not a morning person, you might have to work a little harder to establish a new routine, but actually being awake during the day is worth it. "If you’re anxious or not sleeping well right now, you’re not alone," Dr. Dow says. "I think this is a reminder for us all to go back to the basics: wake up, live well, sleep deep, and repeat."


Dr. Mike Dow, Psy.D., Ph.D., psychotherapist, author of Heal Your Drained Brain

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