Your Guide To: Waking Up Early

hello all,

It is inexplicably a morning person’s world, and all of us night owls are left scrambling around trying to make it to work/8 am classes/brunch on time.

I understand: waking up is hard to do.

As a (relatively) high functioning night owl, my primary survival method is “outright tricking my body into moving before 1 pm.” Here’s how:

  • manipulating light: Basically, light is a cue to your brain about what your body should be doing behind-the-scenes. Your brain wants to regulate your sleep cycle by giving you certain chemicals at certain times, but it’s taking hints from your environment about what time it actually is. For example, you’ll want dimmer lights in the evening, which will put your body into Sleep Mode to help reduce any insomnia time you may have, but light can also play a role in waking up. If possible, I recommend leaving your curtains open to let in natural light as the sun comes up. Position your bed to catch any stray rays of sunlight, and the morning light will torture you into waking up.
    In the late fall/winter, you may not get the morning light that you need, so you’ll have to switch to suddenly turning on as many lights as fucking possible and forcing yourself to stay exposed to them. Do not stay in bed while you do this! If you really need to lay down, go ahead and get on the floor, but sit upright if you can. Stretching will be helpful if you can bring yourself to do it.
  • process your confusion: I know there’s a lot of annoyingly sarcastic mugs out there proclaiming how mean the drinker is until they get their coffee, and that people who use those mugs usually forward chain email, but do not let your fear of being grouped with those people stop you from acknowledging your own Morning Brain. Being woken up the wrong way can lead to grouchiness and confusion, and if this is something you experience regularly, you need to communicate this to anyone you live with– especially if they’re morning people. Gently tell them that you will not be talking much in the morning, but that it’s not about them. Then, focus on finding ways to ease yourself into a good headspace. (Tasty, simple breakfasts are key here. You can stare into your strawberries and tasty toast like it’s the great abyss and give yourself something to feel good about.) My personal Morning Brain is usually 5-15 minutes of confusion that, if provoked by complicated questions, turns into panic/anger. And by “complicated questions” I mean “what time are you coming home today?” or “do you know where the keys are?”
  • create a sense of urgency: There are two good options for this. The first is getting a pet that will need attention early in the morning. (However, this is hard to predict. I had no idea that my cat would demand clean water promptly at 6am, but it has helped me wake up.) They’re persistent (purr-sistent…) and if you ignore them you’ll feel guilty, which makes them better than alarm clocks.
    The second is one that should be utilized carefully, because you definitely don’t want it to backfire. If you need to get up really early, a couple of tall glasses of water before bed will make you need to pee. You’ll get up, because bladder discomfort is usually prioritized above sleep.
  • strategic drug use: Plan your caffeine carefully. Contrary to popular belief, daily coffee will only sabotage you. (If you drink it every morning, your body will adjust very quickly. Essentially, you’ll be in the same position as someone who never drinks coffee, except you’re worse off if you skip a day.) Instead, save coffee for when you really need the boost, and it’ll pull you up when you need it. Stay away from afternoon/evening coffee!
    If you’re dealing with bad insomnia, and you’ve gone through the whole rigmarole of unsolicited how-to-fall-asleep advice, you maaaay want to go drug seeking to your doctor. This is not something I have a lot of experience with, but if you can’t fall asleep before 2 am, it’s obviously going to make waking up at 6 a bit difficult.

Some people seem to wear how little they sleep as a badge of honor, like it means they’re stronger than us mortals somehow. Besides being inexplicably self-sabotaging, these people are flat-out wrong; long term sleep deprivation is incredibly dangerous. If you drive at all you need to be sleeping in a way that’s going to keep you alert. (Tired drivers can be just as dangerous as tipsy drivers– be careful and safe!) 


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