The transition from university to full-time work is hard enough to deal with without being forced to completely change your sleeping pattern.
You might already be an early riser, and therefore suited to the usual 9-5 working hours. But for those who consider themselves 'night owls’, the change can be extremely difficult.
If the latter is true, and you still struggle with mornings after trying all these strategies, it might be worth looking into flexible working that allows you to work on your terms.
The point to take from this article is that no one size fits all; some strategies may work for you, and not for others. So if you’re desperate to breathe life and energy into your mornings, read on for tips on which aspects you could consider changing.
1. Learn to stop snoozing
Every time you snooze, you restart a new sleep cycle, which then gets interrupted every 9 minutes until you finally get up. And guess what? You’re at your most rested when your first alarm goes off – the more you snooze, the worse you end up feeling. Starting the day with a feeling of resistance isn’t exactly a precursor to a good day.
2. Drink a WHOLE glass of water when you wake up
How much water do you think you drink in your sleep? None? Correct. So, logic (and science) infers that drinking a lovely big glass of H2O as soon as your alarm goes off helps to wake your body up by re-hydrating it, which in turn, makes you feel so much more alert.
3. Actually eat a proper breakfast
It’s a highly disputed topic as to whether breakfast’s importance is overstated. There’s not enough evidence to prove either side right.
Common sense suggests that it’s your first meal for over eight hours. Breakfast is supposed to fuel you for the day, as opposed to dinner which fuels you for the evening. Others argue that they lack appetite first thing in the morning, or they’ve always skipped breakfast, and they’re “fine”.
But what if you could feel better than just “fine”? If you want to try to do breakfast right, aim for a slow-release bowl of something like porridge or muesli. If you have a little more time, make sure you eat as much protein in your breakfast as you can (think: eggs, kippers, beans etc.).
Protein contains amino acids which help your brain perform at its best, and means you release the energy you gain from food at a slower rate.
4. Get some daylight ASAP
Open your curtains as soon as you wake up, or better yet, actually go outside and get some sunlight. Even if you can’t face parting with your bed just yet, compromise with a quick dash to the curtains, then return to your bed to bask in the morning glow.
The influx of daylight tells your body that is time to be awake. Humans are hard-wired to follow an internal sleeping pattern, and daylight helps us to achieve this by reducing the ‘sleepy’ hormone, melatonin.
5. Exercise really gets you going in the morning
Exercising in the morning is one of the easiest ways to wake up, it’s just harder to motivate yourself to do. To increase to the chance you’ll actually exercise, try laying out your workout clothes next to your bed the night before.
Also, opting for an AM routine can help you sleep better at night. If you don’t have time for a full body workout, just 20 star jumps will help buckets to invigorate your body.
If meditation is more your cup of tea, try 10 minutes a day. Meditation can be a very rewarding way to start your morning. Try Headspace’s 10 day free trial for a taster.
7. Go to bed earlier (obviously)
It’s probably the most important point in this article, and the most obvious too, but you need to sleep 7-9 hours to feel your best in the mornings.
Don’t force yourself to stay up late just because you can, and don’t watch one more episode every night; no matter how good the show is, it will be there tomorrow.
8. Put your alarm clock in a different room
If you struggle to get out of bed after your alarm goes off, you could try placing an additional alarm in a different room that goes off a few minutes after your main one.
This is especially effective if you live with others who would be disturbed by the noise should it go off – it forces you to get out of bed, which will hopefully wake up your body enough that you can’t drift off again.
9. Have a fun activity that you do in the mornings
The reason you’re probably reading this is because your mornings are a mess, and you can barely wake up in time for your bus, let alone another activity. But this is worth trying if you are serious about improving your mornings.
Maybe finding time to watch an episode of something will make extended mornings more appealing than, say, getting up early to go for a run. Try waking up a little earlier each day, or just dive in and give yourself an extra hour.
Remember, you’ll feel worse if you go back to sleep, so get up and do something nice that you normally wouldn’t have time for.
10. Schedule appointments for first thing in the morning
This is especially for those who are job-hunting, or working part-time. It’s so difficult to motivate yourself to get up early for yet another day of applying to jobs.
With this in mind, any appointments or meetings you might have, book for first thing to make you get up. Once you’re done with the appointment, you’re awake, feeling accomplished, and have so much more of the day left to actually get stuff done.
11. Focus on improving the quality of your sleep
Avoid too much protein close to bedtime, as this will only make you more alert and less likely to want to drift off.
Make sure you stay away from blue screens (phones, laptops, TVs) in the run up to bedtime, as one research study shows that after two hours of using a blue light emitting device, your melatonin levels (‘sleepy’ hormone) are “drastically inhibited.”
Other tips include removing any trace of light from your room, and reading just before sleep.
12. Establish a routine
If you stick to a set time of waking up (work permitting), your body will naturally drop into a routine meaning you’ll eventually wake up naturally at the time you need.
To fully commit and reap all the rewards a regular sleeping pattern provides, you will need to wake up at the same time on weekends (or at most, a one hour lie in).
A study of Korean teenagers found that, having not slept enough during the week, catch-up sleep at the weekend worked adversely to rejuvenate them, and their concentration was in fact worse because of the effect this had on their sleeping pattern.
13. Prepare for your day the night before
You’re going to feel much more lethargic in the morning, so prepare for the next day the night before. Lay out your outfit, get your ironing done and prepare your lunch in the evening when you have a lot more time.
Of course it’s hard to think about tomorrow once you’re at home and free from work, but it will be easier than rushing in the morning to get everything done.
If you’re already a morning-washer, we’re sure you can agree that showering does wonders to wake you up. However, the hot water can also work against your morning routine by making you sleepier. If you can hack it, you should try this cold shower technique.
15. Optimise your heating
Set your heating to come on at least 30 minutes before you need to get up in winter. And while you’re at it, line your clothes for the day up on the radiator, meaning tomorrow’s outfit will be more appealing to get into.
There’s nothing worse than prying yourself from your warm and cosy bed into the harsh cold of your unheated room.
Lizzi Hart is a linguistics graduate and a marketing executive at the Graduate Recruitment Bureau (grb.uk.com/graduate-jobs)
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