One of my biggest challenges since graduating college has been learning how to wake up early. It seemed that every morning I would hit the snooze button 6 or 7 times, wasting an hour of productivity (or at least uninterrupted sleep).
But last year, I decided I had had enough of the snooze button. By applying a number of tips and tricks from various sources, and having a sense of humor about the morning hours, I was able to ween myself off the snooze button and start waking up early.
Breaking the Snooze Addiction
My first decision when wanting to wake up early was around the snooze button. Do I just start setting my alarm for 5am so I can hit snooze for an hour and wake up at 6am, or do I learn to stop hitting snooze and wake up on the first ring of the alarm? I realized I would rather be able to wake up for the time I set on my alarm.
By learning the discipline of waking up the first time the alarm rings, I can change when it is I want to wake up. Right now the desired time is 6am–so I set my alarm for 6am and I’m good to go. But what happens if I need to start waking up at 5am, or decide to get up at 8am? If I only learned to wake up exactly at 6am, hitting snooze or otherwise, then changing the wake up time is an added challenge. But if I can get up as soon as the alarm clock goes off the first time, then it doesn’t matter for what time I set the alarm.
And it’s worked. For the past year, I’ve been waking up early by not hitting snooze. I’ll admit that I have days (and sometimes a week) where I “relapse” into hitting snooze, and if I told you that I love every minute of 6am, I’d be a liar–but, I have become an “early-riser.”
To do so, I had to combine all the tips and tricks that I’ve learned and read about through the years (trust me, I’ve done a lot of research on this). The 12 step intervention plan I used is below. I tried to link to the original sources I learned each tip from, where I could remember.
12 Tips to Stop Hitting Snooze and Wake Up Early
- Appreciate waking up.
One of the most important steps for me was changing my mindset about waking up. It was easy for me to hit snooze because my morning mind was focused on returning back to my warm, welcoming bed. But now, waking up and mornings are different for me- every time my alarm rings I focus on the fact that it’s a new day with new opportunities. I’m only 25, so hopefully I have quite a few more years ahead of me, but there’s no reason to not start living each day to it’s fullest.
- Set an alarm you’re happy to wake up to.
I hate the process of waking up–regardless of what time it is. You’re in the middle of a great dream, and then suddenly an annoying, loud sound comes from nowhere to wake you up. I decided if I’m going to appreciate waking up, I can’t use the same old alarm clock. Instead I switched to a sound I actually enjoy, one that I’m happy to hear in the morning–it’s currently the song “A Brand New Day” from Dr. Horrible’s Sing-a-Long Blog.
- Have something to do / a reason you are getting up.
Do you ever have an early flight on a Saturday morning and find it easier to get up at 4am that day than to get up at 6am on any normal day? It’s because you have a deadline for when you can be up, and you have something immediate to do upon waking (getting ready and getting to the airport). By having something you need to do, it makes it easier to stay awake and avoid the snooze. If you can’t think of anything that you want to do immediately upon getting up, showering is a good start.
- Set a short goal.
My goal for waking up at 6am was technically only for one week. But after that week, I kept going. By giving myself a short goal of waking up early for just 7 days, it seemed less daunting. Each morning, when I hated the fact that I was awake, I would repeat to myself that it was only short-term. By having the mindset that I just have to get through this week, it was more manageable. I then told myself the same thing the next week, and then the week after, etc etc.
- Go to bed earlier.
This one is obvious, but it certainly does help. I know that my body needs an average of at least 7 hours of sleep each night for me to be productive during the day. That means if I want to wake up at 6am, I need to be in bed by 11pm. It’s much harder to wake up early if you go to bed late.
- Don’t sleep too comfortably.
Often my problem in the morning isn’t having nothing to do, it’s that I look back at my bed and think of how it incredible it would be to be able to return to it. By sleeping in a slightly less than heavenly bed, the allure back into it diminishes. Luckily I have a Sleep Number bed, so I’ve set the setting to 70, much firmer than I’m used to, because it’s not as entrapping as sleeping on 35.
- Try to wake up in the right cycle.
Studies show that how much sleep you get isn’t nearly as important as how much REM sleep you get. They also suggest that waking up in the middle of an REM cycle can leave you drowsy, but waking up in between one can be more refreshing. By sleeping for the right amount of time (e.g. 7 1/2 hours instead of 8), you can make it easier on the body to wake up.
- Put the alarm on the other side of the room.
By putting the alarm on the other side of the room, it’s a lot more inconvenient to keep hitting snooze. If you have to keep getting up and walking, you’ll get your muscles moving and the body up.
- Turn on the lights.
Despite the invention of the light bulb, instinctually we still desire to rise and sleep with the sun–that’s why most people want their rooms to be dark when they’re sleeping. Well the same is true for waking up–light signals our body that it’s time to get up.
- Drink some water.
Not only does drinking water get you doing something physical (walking to the kitchen and getting water), it also supplies the body with it’s most precious resource after a 6-8 hour drought. Drinking cooler water also helps wake up the body because of the additional energy required to heat the water during digestion.
- Wake up at the same time every day.
Waking up at the same time every day allows your body to set your internal clock so that it becomes accustomed to the 6am hour. Over time, your body will naturally start prepping itself to be awake at 6am, often times allowing you to wake up just before your alarm, and if you have an alarm sound that you are looking forward to hearing, it can make it even more pleasant to hear it from the beginning. The biggest hurdle to this tip is the weekend. Many people, myself included a few years ago, wake up at 6am all week and then sleep in till Noon on Saturday. The general rule of thumb is to wake up no later than 2 hours after your normal waking time, otherwise you destroy any internal clock setting.
Perhaps the strongest driver for me when I first started was committing to waking up. I wish I could pretend that my discipline is so great that I just committed it internally to myself and that was enough, but it’s not. I committed to it as a project, which meant if I failed, I owed someone $100. I also committed to a friend, who decided to wake up at 6am as well. Each morning for that first week, we IMed each other at 6am to prove that we were both up, realizing that we’d call each other out if we didn’t wake up at that time. Money and friendly challenges can be motivating factors.
How You Can Wake Up Early
By attacking my snooze addiction from multiple angles, and creating a routine using the above tips, I’ve been able to survive waking up at 6am. As a result, I’ve had more productive days because I’ve started the day off right.
I’m sure not everyone will need to incorporate all of the tips like I do, but at least you can pick and choose which ones will work for you. No two people are exactly alike–you have to find out what motivations, tricks, and techniques work for you. Good luck, and good mornings.
My Wake-up Routine
For those of you curious about my specific routine, this is what my mornings currently look like:
- Alarm goes off playing “A Brand New Day.” (Note: I usually try to change the song I wake up to every couple of weeks, otherwise I grow to hate the song and it becomes less effective).
- I wake up, walk across the room to my alarm–usually forcing myself to sing along with the alarm.
- I turn off the alarm, hit the lights, and go to the kitchen for a glass of water.
- I come back into my room, agonize over what time it is, drink the water, and get on my computer to do something that involves brain activity (reading email or a sudoku puzzle).
- If I’m feeling ambitious, I stretch / prepare to workout or, more often, hop in the shower.
Got your own tips for waking up early and not hitting snooze? Share them in the comments.
Note: The original version of this article was first posted on the drewtarvin.com.