Have you ever planned to wake up early, just to groggily hit snooze when your alarm rings in the AM? Or promised yourself you’d go to sleep on time, but instead scrolled through Reddit or watched Netflix into the morning hours and overslept the next day? If so, you’re not alone.
While the CDC recommends that adults get a minimum of seven hours of sleep per night, they’ve also found that 1 in 3 adults don’t get the sleep they need. And it’s not just sleep individuals struggle with — it’s waking up as well. In fact, some studies have shown that up to 57% of people hit the snooze button in the morning.
If you’re looking to hack your sleep schedule to become an early riser, we’ve got you. Read on to learn more tips and tricks for how to wake up early, including the benefits of getting up with the sun — and what might be keeping you in bed.
The first step in learning how to wake yourself up is establishing a consistent bedtime routine. Bedtime routines are helpful because they can reduce stress in the nighttime hours, encouraging you to relax and wind down before bed. Promoting relaxation and reducing anxiety — and with it, adrenaline — can help prime you for sleep.
The importance of bedtime routines can be seen as early as childhood; studies have shown that a consistent bedtime routine helps to improve sleep issues — including sleep continuity — in infants and toddlers. Additionally, children with bedtime routines perform better in areas including memory and attention.
Consistent bedtime routines aren’t just helpful for children. Research published in Scientific Reports associated sleep irregularity — that is, the lack of consistent sleep — with sleep issues such as increased daytime sleep and sleepiness, as well as delayed sleep timing.
The bottom line? A consistent bedtime routine means better sleep, and better sleep can ensure that you wake up early and are rested.
You’ve probably watched an episode of TV before bed, scrolled through social media, or read a chapter on your e-reader. And you’re in good company: research has shown that 70% of adults use electronics before bed. While watching a TikTok or playing a game may seem like easy ways to wind down at night, technology can be detrimental to sleep.
The reason is the blue light emitted from electronics. Blue light suppresses melatonin — the hormone associated with the sleep-wake cycle — making it more difficult for your brain to get into “sleep mode.” In fact, persistent exposure to blue light before bedtime has been shown to impact sleep quality, including negatively affecting your sleep cycle duration, as well as delaying REM sleep and lowering next-day alertness.
Instead of turning to electronics before you go to sleep, incorporate activities that promote relaxation into your bedtime routine, such as reading a bound book, meditating, or doing yoga poses for sleep. This will prevent blue light from disrupting your sleep-wake cycle, making for high-quality sleep and making it easier for you to wake up early in the morning.
Another tip for waking up early is to incorporate natural light in the morning. Remember, melatonin is the sleep-encouraging hormone released when the body senses darkness. Conversely, light can suppress melatonin, helping jog your brain from “sleep mode” and promoting wakefulness. So, if you’re waking up in a pitch-black room, you’re putting your body at a disadvantage.
The most obvious way to wake yourself up with light is using the natural morning light at your disposal, for example, sleeping with your curtains or shades open to let in the light. However, this isn’t a perfect solution, especially if you work non-traditional hours or live in a region that gets less sunlight.
Another step to take in the journey to waking up earlier is limiting your caffeine and alcohol consumption before you go to sleep. Caffeine is a stimulant that can negatively impact your sleep quality in several ways, including making it harder to fall asleep, disrupting your overall sleep, and reducing your ability to function well in the daytime. One study found that caffeine reduced sleep by an entire hour even when consumed six hours before bedtime.
Alcohol, on the other hand, depresses your central nervous system and can result in poor sleep quality as well as sleep disturbances. One study found that drinking alcohol six hours before bed could disrupt sleep. Sleep disruptions caused by alcohol and caffeine can lead to oversleeping and the struggle to wake up early.
To reduce sleep disturbances caused by these substances, the Sleep Health Foundation recommends avoiding alcohol and caffeine for at least four hours before bedtime.
Like alcohol and caffeine, eating before bedtime can disrupt your overall sleep quality, impacting your ability to wake up early. Eating too close to bedtime can hinder your body’s ability to digest food, resulting in a lower quality of rest.
Additionally, lying down shortly after eating disrupts gravity’s ability to guide food through your esophagus, potentially triggering nighttime heartburn. Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) can get worse at night, so GERD sufferers should be especially mindful of eating before bed.
You should eat your last meal between two and three hours before going to bed to allow proper time for digestion. A light, healthy snack before bedtime is okay, as long as it’s low in sodium, caffeine, and acid, as these can trigger acid reflux and disturb sleep.
Quick tip for how to wake up early: get out of bed! Forcing yourself out from under your duvet can help jumpstart you into motion and make it less likely that you’ll go back to sleep. Placing your alarm across the room is an easy way to accomplish this.
Bonus point — once you’re up and going, you’re less likely to hit the snooze button. Snoozing your alarm in favor of extra sleep negatively impacts sleep in many ways, including interrupting your REM cycle (which can cause grogginess throughout the day), throwing off your internal clock, and resulting in oversleeping.
While sleeping during the day may sound counterintuitive to keeping a sleep schedule, your overall health can benefit from naps. According to the Mayo Clinic, naps have many positive benefits for adults, including reducing fatigue, increasing alertness, and increasing performance. All these positives can lead to more restfulness and better sleep hygiene, which can help you wake up early.
When incorporating naps into your day, consider how long you’re napping for as well as your specific sleep concerns, including whether you suffer from a sleep disorder. Napping for too long during the day can interrupt your sleep cycle and lead to grogginess, as well as exacerbate sleep problems like insomnia. The Mayo Clinic recommends keeping naps between 10 and 20 minutes in the early afternoon to ensure you’re reaping the positive benefits without disrupting your sleep patterns.
As we mentioned earlier, darkness triggers the release of melatonin, which helps regulate feelings of drowsiness and sleepiness. Melatonin is a factor in falling asleep, but some things may disrupt our melatonin production, including age and various sleep disorders.
For those struggling with reduced melatonin production or sleep issues, consistently taking a low dose of melatonin can be helpful to ensuring productive sleep. The Cleveland Clinic recommends adults take between 0.5 and 3 mg of melatonin to promote sleep.
It’s also important to take melatonin supplements at the correct time to ensure the sleep aid is no longer in your system when you wake up, as this could lead to drowsiness. Aim to take the medication one to two hours before sleep, when the body naturally produces the hormone.
If you’re thinking about taking melatonin, talk to your doctor beforehand to make sure that melatonin is right for you.
Moderate exercise during the day has benefits, including directly and indirectly improving your sleep quality.
Indirectly, exercise reduces fatigue in those with chronic fatigue syndrome; additionally, exercise can reduce anxiety and stress and lower your overall body fat, both of which are factors in developing sleep disorders such as insomnia and sleep apnea. Studies have also found that exercise directly leads to improved sleep quality, including sleep duration.
When incorporating exercise into your routine, be sure to time your workout so it doesn’t negatively affect your sleep cycle. Exercising too close to bedtime can hurt sleep, as it raises your heart rate, body temperature, and adrenaline — all factors that can make it harder to fall asleep. Instead, focus on exercising in the morning or midday, which will help prepare your body for deep sleep and make it easier to wake up refreshed and early.
As with any update in routine, gradually introducing changes can help you form habits you’re more likely to stick with. To start, ease yourself into your new routine by making small, easy shifts that will set you up for success.
When you’re trying to start waking up early, the first change to focus on is your bedtime and wake-up time. Think in gradual increments, like going to sleep and waking up 15 minutes earlier. Make these adjustments in 15–30 minute increments over a series of days to set yourself up for success.
To begin, think about how much sleep you need and work backward from your ideal wake-up time to set a bedtime that will ensure you get a good night’s sleep. Then, follow the schedule you’ve set consistently to build it into a habit. Once you’ve eased yourself into the new routine, start incorporating additional techniques that will help you wake up early, like exercising regularly or limiting screen time before bed.
Check out our sleep calculator to figure out how much sleep you need based on age.
Waking up early can be difficult, so it’s important to have a “why” that motivates you to get out of bed. To find your “why,” think about the reasons you’re looking to change your sleep schedule. Do you want to exercise in the morning? Spend more time with your family before work? Feel more energized throughout the day? Dedicate time to a passion project? Giving yourself a reason to wake up early can help motivate you out of bed.
“If you need motivation to get out of bed in the morning, create a morning routine that you love and look forward to,” says Whitney Roban, Ph.D., a sleep specialist at Solve Our Sleep and member of the American Sleep Association advisory board. “That could entail a meditation and/or mindfulness practice, your favorite cup of coffee or tea, and a delicious yet healthy breakfast.”
Sleep chronotypes are sleep behaviors and traits that vary from person to person, including the specific characteristics associated with alertness and activity for an individual throughout the day.
Understanding your sleep chronotype can help you hack your sleep schedule and create a routine that works best for you. For example, the “bear” chronotype is naturally an early riser, so individuals that fall within this chronotype may not need to overhaul their routine to wake up early.
In contrast, the “wolf” chronotype is most productive at night and struggles to wake up in the morning. If you fall within this chronotype, you may need to adjust your schedule or sleep patterns more heavily to wake up early.
If you’re struggling to wake up early, it’s important to consider why that might be in addition to focusing on how to change your habits. There are many reasons, from sleep disorders to poor sleep hygiene, that may make it more difficult for you to become an early riser.
Stress, anxiety, and depression are all reasons you may struggle with healthy sleep. Research links depression to excessive daytime sleepiness, which may make you more exhausted during the day or prone to excessive naps — two things that can throw off your sleep patterns and make it harder to wake up in the morning. Research also shows a link between depression and insomnia, a sleep disorder characterized by the inability to fall asleep.
Likewise, stress can interfere with sleep quality and length, leading to restless nights that result in oversleeping. Pro tip: If you’re struggling with depression or stress interfering with your sleep, try incorporating relaxation activities (like meditation) into your bedtime routine, and talk to your doctor about other ways to manage your mental health.
Sleep hygiene describes the behaviors, routines, and environmental factors that contribute to your overall quality of sleep. Good sleep hygiene can lead to more restful sleep, which results in improved energy and memory function. On the flip side, poor sleep hygiene can lead to lower energy levels, difficulty focusing, and trouble falling or staying asleep.
“Our bodies thrive on consistency, as does our circadian rhythm,” says Roban. “Therefore, you will sleep better when you go to bed and wake up about the same time every day. If you do this, along with practicing healthy sleep hygiene such as staying off electronics before bed, staying away from alcohol and heavy foods before bed, and having a relaxing bedtime routine, you will have better sleep at night.”
Sleep disorders are a primary reason you may struggle to fall asleep, sleep restfully, or wake up early. According to the American Sleep Association, between 50 and 70 million Americans suffer from sleep disorders. There are over 80 million known sleep disorders that impact the quality and duration of sleep, including:
If you’re experiencing any symptoms of sleep disorders, speak to your doctor about a plan to manage your symptoms.
Our circadian rhythm is our internal process that regulates the body’s sleep-wake cycle. As such, circadian rhythm disorders are conditions that disrupt this cycle, often making it difficult to fall asleep or wake up in the morning. Unlike the sleep disorders mentioned above, circadian rhythm disorders are sleep disorders caused by a misalignment of our body’s internal clocks with external factors. Examples of circadian rhythm disorders include:
Waking up early comes with many benefits, both anecdotal and science-backed. From lowering your commute time and giving you more time to spend with family to increasing your energy and boosting your mood, changing your sleep schedule might just change your life.
If you consider yourself a night owl, waking up early may seem near impossible. But there are science-backed reasons to get yourself out of bed in the morning, and with our tips for how to wake up early, you’ll be up with the sun in no time. To make sure you’re getting truly restful sleep, improve your sleep environment with a Casper® Original Mattress.