I have never been a morning person. As far back as I can remember, I have always struggled with the daily routine of waking up. I just can’t comprehend how anyone is able to wake up fast and feeling refreshed, let alone quickly and happily remove themselves from beneath their cozy duvet. And I’m not alone. We asked you on Twitter what you do in the morning when your alarm goes off, and 74% of you said you snooze for ages, compared with just 4% who jump out of bed. The other 22% of you have the willpower to snooze just once.
I’ve wasted too many hours neither sleeping nor doing, caught in the trap that is snoozing, so I called on an expert for help. I spoke to Neil Stanley, MD, an independent sleep expert, who said, “If you’re lying in bed and not throwing back the curtains, you’re not starting your day.” Essentially we should be sleeping for longer or getting up and at ’em, but that’s easier said than done…
Keep scrolling for Dr. Stanley’s reasoning for us snoozing in the first place and how we can break the habit once and for all.
There are a number of reasons some of us snooze and some of us don’t. “When it comes to sleep, we are all different,” says Dr. Stanley. “Some people are morning people and some people are evening people. Some need to sleep for a long time and some for a short time. Some people can just turn off from their surroundings a lot easier and sleep anywhere. While others need a bed and a dark quiet room—this is genetically determined.
The same can be said for snoozing, “Some people find it difficult to get out of bed and will press snooze 10 times and some will leap out in the morning and feel great because of it.”
This explains why, even before the invention of smartphones and their blue light, I have struggled to get to sleep early and wake up feeling refreshed. It’s more genetics than it is the effect of modern-day gadgets. Despite genetics playing a part, there are some things we can do to stop snoozing and wake up faster.
Read on for Dr. Stanley’s seven tips…
We are designed to sleep at night and be awake during the day. “The body wants predictability,” says Dr. Stanley. “In an absolutely ideal world, the body would like us to go to bed and wake up at the same time every single day. The body wants to know how much time it has to sleep so it can use that time as productively as possible.”
The thing is, our bodies are incredibly smart. You know how some people wake up without even needing an alarm? That’s because your body knows when you need to wake up. “Your body starts waking up 90 minutes before you actually wake up, which is why you can often wake up before your alarm. It goes ‘I know she has set her alarm for 7 a.m., so I’ll start to wake up before.’
“But if you’re not telling your body a precise time, rather you're aimlessly snoozing in the mornings, your body doesn’t know what to do and how to use the time productively. You won’t wake up in the right stage of sleep.” Which is why so often I’ll wake up feeling groggy.
Of course, in the real world it’s tricky to keep to a regular pattern of bedtimes and wake-up calls. But Dr. Stanley recommends you stick to as regular a pattern as you can. “It’s most important to fix the wake-up time. This lets the body know how much time it has to work with.”
Make sure you wake up at the same time every day (even weekends!). “If you’re waking up on Friday morning at 6 a.m. then sleeping until 10 a.m. on Saturday, that’s not going to help you. You will just feel rubbish on Monday.”
While you may think a lie-in on a Saturday, Sunday or both is good for you, Dr. Stanley says it’s not. The combination of a weekend lie-in and then an early night on a Sunday will leave you feeling rubbish come Monday. “You’ve usually done nothing on a Sunday, you don’t need that rest and recuperation! You’ll get more out of your sleep and feel better across every day by being as regular with your bed and wake up time as possible.”
“Make sure your room is dark and cool, between 16–18 degrees is optimal. You need to be able to lose body temperature, and you lose this out of your head and face so the bedroom has to be cool, but the bed itself doesn’t need to be.”
You should also invest in an old-school alarm clock. “Get mobile phones out of your room. If your mobile phone is your alarm clock, then it is there pinging and whirring throughout the night.
“It’s narcissistic to think that the world can’t do without you for eight hours. You don’t need to check in on the world if you wake up in the middle of the night, the minute you do that you have opened eyes and you’re awake. There should be no screens of any sort in your bedroom and don’t use anything with a screen an hour before.”
“Wake up as soon as you can start seeing daylight,” recommends Dr. Stanley. “Daylight tells your body it’s time to wake up. Then the more sunlight you can get during the day the better you will feel, this is key.
“Exercise in the morning, get outside and into the daylight. Even on the dullest, most miserable British day, the light is much more than you can get inside a house. We have evolved and adapted, so even on a cloudy day, we’re still getting that boost. Regular exercise really helps you to achieve quality sleep.”
“If you’re awake you should not be in bed. It legitimizes the bed as a place you can be in bed but not asleep. ‘Stimulus control’ is the first thing they teach in cognitive behavioral therapy for people with sleep problems. When you are in your bed, it should be with the expectation you will fall sleep. If you’re not asleep you should not be in bed. It’s not your office, games room or cinema.”
“There is no point lying in bed, it may seem comfortable and warm and inviting, but if you’re just lying in bed and not throwing back the curtains or exercising, you’re not starting your day," explains Dr. Stanley. "You could have spent more time having good productive sleep, instead of the broken sleep that comes with snoozing, or productive time spent away from your bed exercising or working.”
“If you’re eating a normal healthy diet, then you’re getting all the nutrition necessary for sleep. There is no specific supplement or food that will help you sleep. The general rules are that you don’t want to eat a big meal too late, no later three hours before bed," says Dr. Stanley. "You’ll only have to burn off those calories which cause heat, so then you can’t cool your body down enough to be able to sleep well.
“Alcohol is good for putting you to sleep, but it’s highly calorific so when your body starts burning off the calories your temperature will rise and you will wake you up.”
So what about coffee, should we all avoid the java?
“Caffeine is personal; some people can drink coffee late at night and it has no effect. If you’ve had a big meal, with a couple of glasses of wine, it’s pointless having a decaf!”
Of course, we still need to live our lives, “I read recently someone suggested avoiding spicy foods, this is nonsense! Three-quarters of the world’s population eat spicier foods and sleep just fine. It comes down to what you’re used to—sleep is part of life; we should enjoy life but also enjoy sleep.
“As Oscar Wilde once said, ‘Everything in moderation.’”