I have had to wake up in the mornings with no assistance since middle school. I am very well acquainted with the snooze button and having my REM cycle interrupted. But after years of practice getting up in the morning is relatively easy for me now.
Below I share the tricks that have worked for me in learning to wake up on time.
Know your Sleep Cycle
I have seldom found that more sleep means more awake-ness the following morning. In fact, a lot of times when I sleep in past when I normally wake up, I feel less awake.
The real key is waking up at the right intervals. A REM cycle is on average about 90 minutes, this is why it is recommended to get 9 hours of sleep. However, on this interval 7.5 is probably just as good.
Knowing about how long your REM cycle is is the best way to estimate when will be the easiest time for you to wake up. There are a lot of apps now-a-days that can monitor your heart rate while you sleep and give you this information.
The Snooze Button
The Wrong Way
I feel that a lot of people have a mis-understanding of how they should be using the snooze button to achieve the best quality of awake-ness. For a lot of years of my life, especially when I was young, I did too. I used the snooze button as a little haven of ‘a few more minutes’ where I could get just a little bit more sleep before the inevitable. The snooze button relieves us of the responsibility of having to remember to wake ourselves up.
Through trial and error, I realized that the amount of grogginess that I felt when I got up the first time the alarm went off versus the 4th to 5th time it went off, was still relatively the same. If anything, I felt more groggy when I tried to put off the inevitable, and was jarred out of sleep multiple times. Those few times I had the will power to get up right when my alarm went off I actually felt a little less groggy.
The problem is that the extra amount of sleep allotted by the snooze is not actually very beneficial. Even if you were woken up during your REM cycle, you are not going to fall back into it during a snooze interval. Unless you give yourself another 90-120 minutes of sleep, snoozing is not going to do anything to give you any more quality sleep than you have already gotten.
The Right Way
In light of this knowledge, I have learned to use the snooze button a better way that allows me to wake up with the maximum amount of happiness and energy. I have come to think of the snooze time not as extra sleep time, but as waking up time.
Sometimes being woken up during REM sleep is inevitable. Regardless, you have probably set your alarm because you need to wake up at that time. And as we have already established that snoozing is not going to make you feel any less groggy, the best thing to do is to just wake up. The first alarm should be a signal to start the waking up process.
I use the time between when my first alarm goes off and when I actually need to get up to start psyching up my brain for the day. If I am having a particularly difficult time, I start using my phone to play games or check emails. Looking at the screen and engaging my brain in a task helps me to get the ball of awake-ness rolling. If I happen to fail in my waking up task, the next snooze alarm is a reminder.
If you have ever had problems sleeping, you have probably already heard this several times. But again, through my years of waking up on my own, I have found that the more often I wake up at the same exact time, the better I feel when I wake up at that time. My body gets used to waking up at that time. I often wake up naturally just a minute or two before my alarm goes off. Or am I already starting to wake up by the time my alarm goes off. It is a very pleasant feeling to wake up naturally when I need to and not be jarred from sleep in the morning.
The key to getting this feeling though is maintaining a consistent sleep schedule. Even on weekends, even on vacation, one needs to wake up at the same time to ensure that they will continue to do so. I found that when I stopped sleeping in on weekends, that overall I felt better about my energy level in the morning on any given day.
When it’s Really Hard to Wake Up
Sometimes it is unavoidable to have to wake up earlier than you are used to. You have to catch an airplane, or an appointment. Sometimes you just have to indulge those late night parties, or you need to do your homework late into the night to get it done on time. Or sometimes it is just really fucking cold and getting out of bed seems like the worst thing in the world. I have compiled some tips for how to wake up in these difficult instances.
Set your alarm for when you need to get up.
As has already been established, those extra minutes of snooze are seldom helpful. Setting your alarm for when you need to get up will ensure that you get the most possible good sleep possible, and wake you up at the latest possible moment. Those minutes that otherwise would have been spent in light sleep, can instead be used for deep sleep.
Also, waking up knowing that you have no fall back, no extra time to spare for dilly-dallying will ideally kick-start your brain into action.
Put your clothes for the next day in your bed with you.
This one is especially great for getting up on days when it is cold. Putting your clothes in bed with you will keep them warm. When your body is cool from sleep, it is really nice to put on some pre-warmed protection before you have to exit the comfort of the bed.
Regardless of temperature though, the close proximity of the clothes makes them easier to convince yourself to put on. It gives you something productive you can do to start getting ready without yet having to commit to actually standing up.
Drink a lot of water before bed.
There is nothing more compelling than the call of nature to help you get out of bed in the morning. Of course it will take some trial and error to figure out about how much water to drink so you don’t wake up before you want to, but overall I have found this to be a really good strategy.