Your Perfect Day Starts Tomorrow: Wake up Feeling Refreshed

You wake up to a rumbling danger-alert: is this an earthquake? Your brain is in total panic control mode: it’s assessing damages and creating an escape plan. A few moments later you realise it’s just your alarm clock vibrating, not an actual earthquake. And then a massive burden rolls onto your shoulders: you have to get your butt to work again. But the snooze is so sweet…

Suggestions

If this looks like your current morning routine, you’re starting your day by thinking how terrible it is to be alive. This is taxing to both you and your body. Ideally, your body should wake up naturally – without any alarm clocks – but that’s simply not possible for everyone.

For most of us, there are commitments, such as school or work, we have to attend early in the morning – being late is not acceptable. If that includes you, I have three suggestions.

Firstly, wake up immediately after the first alarm goes off. That way the damage to your body is limited to one blow. This one requires a bit of willpower, but it’ll be worth it, I promise you. There is no point in going back to sleep for five minutes because sleep cycles work in ~90-minute intervals (naps are a bit different). You’ll just end up hurting yourself more if you wake up in the middle of it.

Secondly, go to bed earlier. This is a subject that I’ll cover more in-depth in the bedtime routine post (coming sometime in the future), but it’s relevant here as well. Your body needs its hours of sleep, typically between 7 and 9 hours. You’ll have to experiment on your own to find out how much exactly do you need. The point is that if you get enough sleep, it’s easier to wake up naturally.

And thirdly, keep your sleepy-time consistent. That means going to bed and waking up at the same time every day. Since your body is very habitual, you don’t have to put in much effort to get it up and running in the morning once you’ve trained it to sleep consistently. Yes, that means giving up sleeping in on the weekends, but do you need it anymore if you’re not in constant sleep deprivation on the weekdays?

Implementation

“Okay, sounds great. I’ll just jump up after the first alarm, go to bed earlier to get full night’s of sleep and sleep during the same hours every day. Hooray!“

Your enthusiastic brain, maybe

While those ideas are simple, they aren’t easy to implement. Here are some tips for making sure you’ll follow through with it. To get better quality sleep, you should:

  • Shut down all screens at least an hour before going to bed.
    This will stop signalling your brain that it’s daytime. Ideally, you’d want to kill the lights as well, but since this isn’t realistic, you should at least dim them as much as possible. If your brain sees any light, it thinks that it’s daytime and keeps away the sleep.
  • Take some time to think.
    Yes, I’m sending you to your room so you could think about what you’ve done. Literally. Your brain needs some time to process everything that happens during the day, and it can’t do it before you rest your head on the pillow and wait for the magical “Unemati” (Sandman in Estonian, kind of a dream-fairy if you will). Every available moment to think is filled with smartphones and other boredom-repelling devices, and the only moment left is right before sleep.
  • Set your sleep schedule in stone.
    If you need to go to work or school every day at the same time, then all you need to do is choose a time to wake up and work backwards from there. If you don’t know how many hours you should sleep, start with 9 and take it from there. If you find yourself waking up before the alarm, you can reduce the sleep time a bit. On the other hand, if you feel like you’d need more sleep, then just lengthen it.

To wake up immediately after the first alarm, you could:

  • Force yourself out of bed.
    Put your alarm clock to another side of your bedroom. Or perhaps you’d want to use a one that runs away from you instead. Setting the volume to the max will help as well, to scare the hell out of you and get the blood running. Doing so ensures you have to leave your comfortable blanket behind and pursue the dangerous task of silencing the roaring dragon.
  • Motivate yourself out of bed.
    Doing something you absolutely love right after sleeping will motivate you to wake up. Be it playing video games, checking the price of Bitcoin or trolling your neighbours. This can be used instead of or combined with the tip above. Beware, though, you still have to maintain control over whatever it is: too much of a good thing becomes harmful.
  • Make sure you stay out of bed.
    All of your efforts will be in vain if the Gods of Sleeping get to you and lure you back to bed. That’ll just start a new sleeping cycle and waking up in the middle of one harms your body even more. Instead, create yourself a morning routine that keeps you busy until you’re fully awake. Opening curtains and going outside to let some light shine onto your body will send a signal that it’s daytime, and sleeping is done.

My experience

I’ve been waking up and turning off the alarm as quickly as possible after it goes off, both because I don’t want to disturb anybody else in the house and because I hate fighting with myself whether to stay in bed or not. I don’t need to place the alarm far away, I just jump up from my bed, turn off the alarm, and head straight to the bathroom. Doing that stops me from going back to bed and falling asleep again.

Unfortunately, I haven’t mastered the bedtime routine, yet. I’m trying to turn off the screens after 9 and get ready for bed. Something always comes up, and I’m finally able to fall asleep way too late. No worries, though, I’ll cover bedtime routines in another time.

Resources

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