No matter who you are, or what you do with your life, waking up the right way is really important to making the best of your day. One of the best, and easiest, changes I have made to my life is changing my wake-up routine (I have changed my pre-bed routine and other stuff too, but I’ll get there later). My morning routine used to go as such:
- Wake up feeling groggy and tired and hit snooze several times.
- Finally get up, still groggy and tired, already behind schedule.
- Skip my morning shower.
- Make a half-assed breakfast because I’m low on time.
- Leave in a rush
Does that sound like fun to you? No. It doesn’t, and trust me it isn’t. So I decided to change it. I several changes myself and poked around online to best figure out my wake up routine.
Before I get too into it, there is one thing you should know about sleep: our bodies go through sleep cycles, and not all of this sleep is equal (yes, this applies to naps too). In the simplest terms, humans have two general stages of sleep REM, standing for Rapid Eye Movement, and non-REM sleep (which has several levels within itsself). REM sleep is the deepest sleep, low muscular activity and high neural activity, where most of our dreaming takes place. Non-REM sleep stages vary from light sleep to deep sleep over three levels. Your body cycles through these sleep stages many times over the course of your sleep. For a much more in depth explanation, check out the how sleep works website. Knowing this, lets get into the changes I made and how they helped me conquer the day.
Sleep Cycle alarm clock
Since we just talked about sleep cycles here is one of the first changes I made: get a sleep cycle alarm clock. Since REM sleep is the deep, dreaming state, waking up from this will be a challenge, and can leave you disoriented and sleepy for hours. Similarly, the deep sleep stage of non-REM sleep is also difficult to wake up from. So you want to set your alarm for during the light sleep stage of non-REM sleep. This is where sleep cycle alarm clocks come in. Without one, you are waking up at a set time regardless of how your body feels.
These aren’t fancy machine with electrodes or anything, there are several free apps out there that can do this very well. You place them on the corner of your bed as you go to sleep, and it monitors your bodies movement throughout the night. You set a wake up time period of usually half an hour, and the app will set off the alarm when you reach the lightest stage of sleep. If you want to wake up by 7:30, then you will be woken up from 7:00 to 7:30. Yeah yeah who wants to be woken up half an hour earlier, that’s half an hour less sleep? Trust me, it’s worth it.
SleepCycle alarm clock is the app I currently use, and I believe it has a perfectly functioning free version on both IOS and Android. It can be found here https://www.sleepcycle.com/
Don’t hit snooze
Especially with a sleep cycle alarm clock, hitting snooze will just confuse your body and leave you having a much harder time waking up in a few minutes. Similarly, my personal preference is to get up as soon as I am awake. Exposing yourself to light and activity helps me wake up completely before I start anything else.
Wake up consistently
Even though my schedule for the day changes from day to day, I try and always get up at the same time each weekday. Weekends are pretty variant for me and they don’t always work out to the same time. So I try for at least 5/7 days waking up at the same time. To me, it is easier again for me to wake up and pop right out of bed when it’s the same time every day.
I like taking showers in the morning, I felt as though they would wake me up, and yeah, maybe they did, but they were hot, relaxing showers. That’s what you should be doing when trying to fall asleep. There are many articles on cold showers, there are pros and cons for various circumstances, but in the mornings it was really hard to motivate myself to step into a freezing cold shower. As I prodded around online, these “morning shower rituals” started to pop out to me, and this is the general idea of how they go:
- Start your shower normally – warm water (yay!) and cleaning
- Turn the water cold. As cold as possible. For thirty seconds.
- Turn the water as hot as you can bear for another 30 seconds.
- Turn the water ice cold again, for another 30 seconds.
Hot and cold hydrotherapy has been used by many and for a long time. Research shows this method can lead to many benefits, including reduced stress, stronger immune system, better circulation, better fat burning, and even helps with depression. It also, of course, leaves you very awake. I have enjoyed how I feel after these showers every day, and they are much easier to start doing. Here is a great description of the process as well as explanations of the benefits and links to several scientific studies.
Give yourself time
This is personally my preference – I have simply given myself more time in the morning, and I complete my routine much better when I am not trying to go fast. By setting my alarm window 15 minutes earlier, I can complete my morning necessities easily in the time, stress free, and therefore starting the day with a much more positive outlook. I enjoy work, training, and life more. Once I am done all my things, with the few minutes left I get out a piece of paper and start writing down how I’m going to make today a great day.
Prepare for the day
I don’t mean this by gathering bags or lunches or checking on appointment times, It would be best to complete those the day before or have left time to do them in the morning. I mean mentally ready yourself, pump yourself up to get things done. I’ll take a piece of paper and start writing things into these three categories:
- How did I crush it yesterday? What did I do to get my goals done. I tend to only think about the positives, and not what did I not do yesterday. Feel your success and know you can succeed.
- What am I going to do today? No “I’m going to try and get this done”, or “if I have time I’ll do this”. I say I AM going to do this today. (and if it ends up I miss something, so what? Reflect on that in the evening and make it a plan for tomorrow)
- How am I going to crush it today? Again, all positive actions that will complete your goals for today. These things allow me to feel ready and already beginning to complete these tasks.
These goals can be really anything, from school, sport, work or general life. It helps to engrave my goals in my head and get them done during the day.
Now go conquer your mornings
That’s my setup for the day, what I try and do each and every morning. It helps me, and some or all of these things may help you. They aren’t guaranteed for everyone all the time but I would encourage anyone to try them out. They are simple to do. Some of this is just my opinion, so feel free to do your own research as well. If you have something else to add or disagree, let me know in the comments, I’d love to hear from you.