Let’s face it: Waking up is no easy task. But if you’re pressing the snooze button a dozen times or pre-setting six different alarms on your smartphone (sound familiar?), getting out of bed may be even more of a drag.
“The biggest problem with the snooze button is that it creates a lot of inconsistency in your wakeup time,” says W. Christopher Winter, M.D., medical director of the Martha Jefferson Hospital Sleep Medicine Center in Charlottesville, Virginia.
A snooze-happy habit also impacts the quality of your sleep so it can be counter-productive. “Waking up and falling back asleep several times each morning fractures your sleep so there’s not enough time to achieve a deep, restorative rhythm again,” Winter says. [Tweet this fact!] He likens repetitive snoozing to patients with sleep apnea who fall asleep, stop breathing, wake up to catch their breath, and fall asleep again. Even if they spend eight hours in bed each night, they never feel well rested. “You’re better off sleeping until the time you need to get up versus waking up early and going back to sleep several times, which may leave you feeling more tired,” Winter says. How else can you improve your snooze?
Set a Routine—Stat!
If you have a hard time getting going in the morning, the ideal fix is to start your day at the same time every single day. That means first figuring out your routine to avoid a 6 a.m. wakeup call, a 7:30 a.m. wakeup time, and then sleeping until 10 a.m. on weekends. This setup doesn’t allow your body the opportunity to adjust to any kind of routine. Of course, sometimes sticking to your routine isn’t always possible—like when you need to catch the first flight out or you’re out late with friends on a Friday night. But you can compensate: “If you have to get up earlier than usual, try to adjust your bedtime so you go to bed earlier and still get the same amount of sleep,” Winter says. After a late night, plan to wake up at your usual time to keep yourself on a set schedule, even if it means catching up on lost zzz’s with a nap later in the day.
The goal is to create a situation where your body begins to anticipate your awakening at a set time, says Winter. As a result, you become one of those annoying people who actually wake up a few minutes before your alarm clock buzzes (yes, it could happen to you).
Seamlessly start your day by turning on a light or opening your curtains as soon as your alarm goes off, Winter says. “The light tells your brain to stop making melatonin, a neurotransmitter that has a sedating effect, so you feel more awake.” Starting your day with light every morning means that your body will eventually start to anticipate it—and begin to suppress melatonin around the same time every morning making you more alert faster.
Take Advantage of Tech
When it comes to resetting your internal alarm clock, technology may be on your side. Many devices are designed to help you wake up when you’re in lighter stages of sleep, Winter says. During those lighter stages of sleep, your body is able to move (you may toss and turn, for example) and this means your brain is already starting to wake up on its own. So when your alarm goes off, you’re able to transition to alertness more easily and, possibly, even make it to that 7 a.m. spin class. “When you wake up during deeper stages of sleep, you feel more tired and have a more challenging time getting going since structures of your brain involved in thinking and problem solving are still resting,” Winter says.
Here are four of our top gadget picks that promise to make your mornings more tolerable.
Wear It: Up by Jawbone
The bracelet-like device tracks your movements while you sleep. With the Smart Alarm feature, Up by Jawbone wakes you within 30 minutes of your set time if it picks up physical movements, indicating you’re no longer in deep sleep. (So if you set it for 7 a.m. it wakes you up between 6:30 a.m. and 7 a.m.)
Set It: Renew SleepClock
It’s an actual alarm clock (though slightly larger than most) that sits on your bedside table and functions very similar to the Jawbone, but you don’t need to wear it. Sensors in the clock detect your motion and trigger the alarm within a preset timeframe whenever it detects that light sleep motion. The Renew also connects with an app that allows you to track information about your snooze patterns.
Sleep with It: Sleep Cycle app
This low maintenance option only requires downloading the app to your smartphone. Place your phone under your sheets and the app will use an accelerometer to monitor your movements, waking you up when you start to stir during a pre-determined timeframe.
Brighten up with It: Philips Wake-Up Light
Using a combination of light and sounds, this scientifically proven device promises a gradual, non-jarring wakeup experience. Thirty minutes before your preset alarm time, the device emits colored light, changing from soft reds and warm oranges to bright yellow (just like a sunrise) to slowly stimulate your body to wake up. Finally, a natural sound (a bird song or seaside waves), completes the wakeup process and leaves you ready to start the day.