Wake-Up Tips: How to Make the Morning Easier

You can make positive changes to your routine to feel more rested and have more energy.

Start Small

Good news for night owls, and anyone else who doesn't bound out of bed when the sun comes up: You can learn to love your mornings. Even small changes to your routines can boost your mood and energy. Little tweaks can help you get the shut-eye you need, too. When you're well-rested, it's not a struggle to get up.

Sticking to a consistent schedule will help you feel tired when it's time for bed.

Put Your Alarm Out of Reach

Let's face it: Unless you have another hour or 2 to sleep, hitting the snooze button won't really help you feel less tired. But there's another reason to get up when you first hear that annoying beep. When you get up and go to bed at the same time every day, you'll keep your body's internal clock in sync. That makes you more alert in the morning, and sleepy when it's time to call it a night.

Morning light exposure will help you wake up.

Let in the Light

As soon as you wake, open the curtains or blinds. Or step outside. Natural light gets your brain going and keeps your body clock on track. If it's gloomy out, turn on the lights. A light-up alarm clock can help. And it may be less jarring than a noisy alarm. If you struggle with a.m. brain fog or have seasonal affective disorder or depression, try a light box (or sunlamp). It can lift your mood and help you feel more awake.

Plan an enjoyable activity to do every morning so you look forward to getting out of bed.

Enjoy a Morning Splurge

To curb your urge to stay under the covers, plan something to look forward to each morning. You could read your favorite web site over a tasty breakfast, or go for a walk in a scenic park. Anything that excites you or brings you pleasure helps to rouse your brain and makes you less sleepy.

Caffeine in coffee can increase energy levels and help you focus.

Sip a Cup of Joe

Just make sure your java's the caffeinated kind. Caffeine pumps up brain chemicals like serotonin and dopamine. They boost your mood, spike your energy levels, and help you focus. (Regular coffee drinkers are also less likely to get the blues than those who rarely or never sip the strong stuff.) Not a fan? Opt for a cup of black or green tea. They have caffeine plus other healthy compounds.

Getting in a morning workout can help you fall asleep more easily later on.

Schedule a Morning Sweat Session

Jumping jacks or a brisk walk can get your blood pumping and rev up your nervous system. You'll feel more alert in the moment -- and hours later, too. If you work out first thing, you'll fall asleep more easily than if you do it later on. At least try for several hours before bedtime. Any later and you may find it hard to nod off. Or do yoga -- it's proven to ease insomnia.

Eating breakfast is important to keep your energy levels up and increase focus.

Fuel Up

No appetite? Try to have a small morning meal anyway. Even a light bite, like an egg with a piece of whole-grain toast or a cup of yogurt with berries, gives your body the energy it needs to get going. Breakfast helps you focus, too. It may even keep your body clock on track. That'll make your morning feel more like morning and less like the middle of the night.

Exposure to lights and screens at night decrease melatonin levels and can impede sleep.

Power Down Before Bedtime

Bright lights at night can reduce your melatonin levels (that's a hormone that helps you feel sleepy). And it isn't just overhead bulbs that can have you counting sheep. The glow of cell phones, computers, and TVs also slows melatonin production. The fix: Dim the lights in your home, and turn off all screens and tech tools at least an hour before you plan to hit the hay.

Alcohol may make you feel sleepy but the effects may last until the next morning, so limit consumption.

Skip the Nightcap

Yes, alcohol makes you feel sleepy. But it makes it harder to stay asleep and can make you feel groggy in the morning, too. If you do hit the hooch, stick to one drink and have it with dinner, or at least 2 to 3 hours before bedtime.

Take a bit of melatonin about an hour before bed to help your system get ready for sleep.

Try Melatonin

This hormone helps your system get ready for sleep. It plays a role in keeping your body clock in check, too. If you have trouble dozing off or you're off-schedule because of travel or a new routine, a melatonin supplement may help. Stick to a small dose (0.3-1 milligrams) taken an hour before bed. And always talk to your doctor before taking any new medication.

Establish a relaxing bedtime routine to help you fall asleep.

Find a Good Wind-Down Routine

A relaxing evening helps you fall asleep. Avoid stressors like email and tough talks with family members at least an hour before bed. To get in the mood for slumber, you can meditate, stretch, take a warm shower or bath, or read a book in a low-lit room. If you get at least 7 hours a night but you're still worn out, see the doctor. A health problem or a sleep disorder like sleep apnea may be to blame.

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REFERENCES:

  • Carl W. Bazil, MD, PhD, director, division of epilepsy and sleep, department of neurology, Columbia University.
  • Harvard Medical School Division of Sleep Medicine: "Adopt Good Sleep Habits," "Twelve Tips to Improve Your Sleep," "External Factors That Influence Sleep."
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  • Pamela Peeke, MD, assistant professor of medicine, University of Maryland.
  • Lara, D.R. Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, 2010.
  • Tufts Journal: "Why Does Caffeine Give You Energy?"
  • University of Delaware: "Effects of Caffeine."
  • Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: "Other Healthy Beverage Options."
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  • Hubbling, A.BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, February 2014.
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  • Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health: "Breakfast."
  • Harvard Health Publications: "Blue Light Has a Dark Side."
  • The Sleep Foundation: "Melatonin and Sleep."
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