Sleep—we crave it and we need it, but we never seem to get enough of it. A new Consumer Reports survey of 4023 adults found that 27% of Americans suffer from insomnia while 68%—the equivalent of 164 million people—struggle with sleep at least once a week. These are sobering statistics, which is why we’re dedicating the next few days to this ever-elusive, never-can-have-enough part of our lives. Welcome to Byrdie’s first-ever Sleep Week, where you can expect detailed accounts of our own editors’ sleep trials and tribulations, the latest products to help you nod off, and all the new relevant research. Suffice to say, we’re obsessed with getting more shut-eye (and the quality kind, too), and hopefully our obsession will ensure you wake more up mornings feeling well-rested and less like you want to hurl your alarm clock across the room. Read (and rest) up!
An ongoing issue I've been experiencing as of late is that I wake up feeling like I was hit by a Mack Truck. My eyes burn, I have a pounding headache, and I feel like I need a pitchfork to lift me up and off my mattress. No, this isn't from indulging in a nightly bender, but it's something I've deemed a "sleep hangover," and it really, really sucks.
My New Year's resolution was to go to bed earlier and wake up earlier, but, sadly, I have this thing I call television FOMO where I insist upon catching up on my shows before finally getting some shut-eye. It's an issue, I know, and I'm certain it's contributed to my sleep hangover. However, even when I do make a concerted effort to get an adequate amount of sleep, the symptoms persist. The notion of waking up feeling refreshed seems like a far-off fantasy, and I've been desperate for a solution. Thus, I've compiled a list of science-backed ways to feel like a champion once your alarm goes off. Want to learn how? Let's get started.
Choose Your Alarm Sounds Wisely
According to Deborah Sewitch, PhD, this sleep hangover I'm experiencing is actually a medical term called sleep inertia. "Sleep inertia can feel worse when you've awakened abruptly. It forces you suddenly into a mode that your body isn't prepared for." As such, an alarm tone that gradually increases in volume, rather than a loud blast, is the way to go.
Recently, I used the Bedtime feature for iPhone (it can be found in the clock app) to set my sleep and wake time, and then I chose an alarm tune to wake up to that increases in sound and is incredibly pleasant (think birds chirping, spa music, etc.). The next morning, I kid you not, my eyes did not burn, and I didn't have a headache. It was life-changing.
Let There Be Light
A study conducted by the Northwestern University School of Medicine found that early morning exposure to sunlight not only helps your brain to wake up, it also helps regulate your circadian rhythm. This is important for weight maintenance, too, since the study found that light exposure accounted for a 20% variation in the participants' BMI, and a steady circadian rhythm affects your glucose tolerance. Try going to sleep with your blinds open to let the sunshine in, or, if your room doesn't get much sunlight, try a dawn simulator ($90) that shines brightly and directly onto your face for maximum results.
Rub Your Eyes
Rubbing your eyes is often synonyms with waking up in the morning, but if you have an eye-burning sensation like I do, doing so may greatly help your situation. If you suffer from dry eyes and your lids stick in the morning, use the heels of your hands to break up the adhesion and stimulate tear production. You can also try depositing lubricating eye drops before you fall asleep for more refreshed eyes come daylight.
Give the Snooze Button a Rest
You already know hitting snooze on repeat will make you wake up later and inevitably give you less time to get ready and enjoy your morning, but if you're the type who sets their alarm super early with the plan to wake up after four or five snoozes (guilty), this method isn't helping. Repeatedly being woken by an alarm doesn't allow for adequate sleep between snoozes—it's better to set your alarm for a realistic wake-up time and get up once, rather than interrupt your sleep over and over.
Find the Right Pillows
Using a pillow that's too stiff or too lumpy will cause misalignment, and thus spinal pain (and in some cases, cervical pain), so it's best to make like Goldilocks and find one that's just right. If you sleep on your side, consider sleeping with a pillow between your legs to better adjust your body to avoid hip and lower back injury down the road.
Take Part in a Sleep Study
Still not sure what's causing your extreme exhaustion in the morning? Visit your doctor and look into having them conduct a sleep study. You may have undiagnosed sleep apnea (where you intermittently stop breathing for periods of time throughout the night), which can lead to poor sleep quality and low blood oxygen levels. The Mayo Clinic also lists a number of other physical conditions that could attribute to fatigue if sleep apnea checks out.
Troubling thoughts, especially if they run rampant before your head hits the pillow, can attribute to poor sleep quality and exhaustion in the morning. Try meditating before you fall asleep, or jot down positive thoughts (doing so can shift your way of thinking).
Which wake-up tricks do you employ in the morning? Please share with us below!