We all know the struggle: Your alarm goes off at a ridiculously early hour, and you hit snooze seven times until you absolutely must drag yourself out of bed in order to make it to work on time. It’s not like you did anything more taxing than watching Netflix last night, but rough mornings like these are becoming far too common—and they’re taking a serious toll on your morning productivity.
The thing is, waking up doesn’t have to be so hard. With the help of Nancy Rothstein, an adjunct professor at New York University and a sleep wellness consultant known as The Sleep Ambassador, we put together 12 fool-proof tips to help you wake up easier. Get up, go forth, and show that to-do list who’s boss.
[Related: What Your Morning Routine Says About You]
THE NIGHT BEFORE
1. Set (and follow!) a consistent bedtime.
First and foremost, Rothstein says, the key to waking up easier is setting (and following!) a reasonable and consistent bedtime. At this point, you know how many hours of sleep your body really needs to function at its best during the day, so determine the time you want to wake up and then count backwards from there to set your bedtime. Of course, there will be nights when you won’t follow your schedule perfectly, but it’s the overall consistency that counts.
2. Tune out tech at least one hour before bed.
In a world that revolves around constant communication and the convenience of all things digital, it’s hard to even think about setting aside a full tech-free hour every evening. But it’s definitely worth a shot, even if you have to start with 15 tech-free minutes, then 30 tech-free minutes, and then 45 tech-free minutes, before finally making it to an hour. The light that radiates off of your electronic screens will keep you awake longer, Rothstein says—and that makes it a lot harder to stick to your predetermined bedtime.
3. Drink mindfully.
Sure, that glass of wine before bed totally helped you fall asleep right after you drank it, but it also messed with your sleep cycle all night long. Rothstein warns against drinking too much too close to your bedtime, as doing so will only disrupt your sleep patterns and leave you feeling extra-drowsy the next day.
4. Prepare your body for bed with a pre-sleep routine.
Creating a pre-sleep routine goes hand-in-hand with tuning out tech before bed: In the hour that you’ve given yourself to be laptop-, tablet-, and phone-free, you can make time to do what relaxes you most. Take a hot shower, hold some relaxing yoga poses, or do what Rothstein loves most and curl up in bed with a good book. Once you’ve settled on a pre-bedtime ritual that you enjoy, do your best to follow it every night—doing so will let your body know it’s bedtime and help you fall asleep faster when you finally do turn out the lights.
[Related: Good Books to Read for Every Mood]
5. Get a real alarm clock (aka anything that’s not your iPhone) and give it a home far away from your bed.
You’ve heard before that it’s smart to stick your alarm clock on the other side of the room: It forces you to get up to turn off the alarm, after all, which in turn forces you to wake up a little faster. But why the “real” alarm clock? Isn’t it totally commonplace to use our phones nowadays? It sure is, but Rothstein says the combo of the harsh light of a smartphone screen and the temptation to check notifications created by leaving your phone near your bed are damaging to your sleep habits. And hey—you can find a regular alarm clock for pretty cheap.
6. Don’t look at your clock if you wake up in the middle of the night.
I know, I know—it’s so tempting to sneak a peek at the clock any time you wake up in the middle of a good night’s sleep. But Rothstein says doing so is problematic for a number of reasons: The bright lights of the clock will jar you awake and make it harder to fall back asleep, you’ll likely worry yourself awake by calculating the number of hours you have left to sleep, and if you’re using your phone to check the time, you might be tempted to check any notifications you’ve received. In the end, it’s better to save yourself the trouble and just shut your eyes again if you wake up before your alarm is set to go off.
IN THE MORNING
7. Set (and follow!) a consistent wake-up time.
Just as setting a consistent bedtime is important, so is setting a consistent wake-up time. Ultimately, you want to avoid compromising the amount of sleep you’re getting for an extra-late night or a super-early morning. But if you’re hoping to start waking up earlier so you can get to the gym before work? That’s great, but Rothstein says to transition to the new wake-up time slowly: Rather than setting the alarm clock a whole hour back the very next day, try setting it back another 15 minutes every week, or until you’ve fully adjusted to each new time. This will make the big adjustment that much easier—and you won’t be cheating yourself out of a ton of Z’s.
8. Avoid technology for 10 to 15 minutes after waking up.
Again, this morning tip mirrors Rothstein’s no-tech-before-bed rule: In the first 10 to 15 minutes after you’ve woken up, let yourself exist without technology. As Rothstein puts it, you should do your best to really connect with yourself before you start connecting with the rest of the world. And if you’re at a loss as to how to spend those first few early-morning minutes? Look to tips 9–12 for some easy (and energizing!) ideas.
9. Open the curtains and let in some natural light.
Few things are quite as invigorating as some good ol’ morning sunshine, Rothstein says, so open your curtains, pull up those shades, and soak some in. Your body is programmed to respond to natural light in the mornings, so just by exposing yourself to a lil’ sunshine right after you wake up, you’re setting yourself up to be energized and ready for the day ahead.
10. Get up and stretch.
Arch your back, bend your knees, or lift your arms up high, because getting out of bed and stretching is an excellent way to ease you into the motion of the day. Rothstein says spending a few moments stretching or holding simple yoga poses will allow you to spend a moment focusing not on your giant to-do list, but rather on relaxing, breathing, and starting your day on the right foot. (Literally.)
11. Make your bed.
You might not give making your bed (or, um, not making your bed) a second thought, but believe it or not, Rothstein says this simple task is an excellent way to wake yourself up and set yourself up for a productive day. When you make your bed, you’re starting your day by accomplishing a task you can be proud of—and making a clear division between day and night. An unmade bed invites you back in before the day has even begun, but a made bed motivates you to move on. Plus, who doesn’t love pulling back the covers on a beautifully made bed at the end of a long day?
12. Set goals for the day.
Before you jump in to the hustle-and-bustle of everyday life, Rothstein recommends taking a minute to sit up straight on the edge of your bed and think about what you hope to accomplish today. Set three or so concrete goals for yourself—they don’t have to be big, but to a certain extent, they should challenge you. Setting these goals gives your day a sense of purpose, which in turn should energize you and make waking up that much easier.
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