By Cory Bruno
Waking up for an early morning workout before work can be difficult any time of year, and particularly during the fall and winter when mornings are crisp to downright cold. But for some athletes, the early morning is a golden opportunity to work out so you can maintain greater training consistency and stop missing sessions. Fortunately, there are some effective and easy wake up tips you can use at any time of year to make waking up early much easier.
Keep in mind, while some of these tips may help immediately, making these habits stick means changing your habits and creating a routine you can stick with. Use these 14 tips to help you form new habits that will ease the struggle to wake up, and you’ll rise more refreshed and motivated for your morning workouts!
1. Cut Back on the Afternoon Caffeine
The most popular drug in the world could be negatively affecting your sleep, making it difficult to wake up early the next morning. Caffeine taken as much as six hours before bedtime has been shown to reduce sleep time significantly. So when you go to indulge in your afternoon coffee, make sure you still have plenty of hours left before bedtime if you plan on getting a good night’s sleep.
2. Skip the Nighttime Booze
Alcohol may help you fall asleep quicker, but you pay a price through reduced sleep quality. Alcohol disrupts your REM sleep, which is the more mentally restorative sleep, and disruptions can lead to grogginess in the morning. Not a great way to start out for an early morning workout.
3. Reduce Your Exposure to Light Before Bed
Exposure to light and the light from your electronics inhibits the release of melatonin, a hormone that helps induce sleep. The American Medical Association made the following recommendation:
“Recognize that exposure to excessive light at night, including extended use of various electronic media, can disrupt sleep or exacerbate sleep disorders, especially in children and adolescents. This effect can be minimized by using dim red lighting in the nighttime bedroom environment.”
If you just can’t put the phone, tablet, or laptop down before bed, you can try out f.lux software, which will automatically dim and adjust the color of your screen depending on the time of day, to help reduce the negative impact of light before bedtime.
4. Set Your Workout Clothes Out the Night Before
While setting your clothes out might not seem like it will help much, taking away any small barrier between you getting out of bed and out to your workout can actually make a big difference early in the morning when everything feels more difficult. Plus, you’ll save yourself a couple minutes so you don’t have to wake up quite as early.
5. Go to Bed a Little Earlier
Many of us may say we fall asleep at 10 pm but in reality that’s just the time we get the process started, meaning we may not be asleep for another 30 minutes or more. Make a small adjustment and start your bedtime routine just 10 or 20 minutes earlier and you’ll buy yourself a little more sleep. Your goal should be at least 7-8 hours of sleep. Athletes on high workload training plans may benefit from even more sleep, up to about 10 hours/night.
6. Make Your Bedroom the Optimal Sleeping Temperature
The temperature of your sleeping space can significantly affect the quality of your sleep, because your circadian rhythm is influenced by body temperature. Studies have suggested the ideal sleeping temperature is somewhere in between 65 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit, but you should test to see what temperature works best for you.
7. Make Plans to Work Out With a Friend
Accountability is a strong influencer (it’s one of the greatest benefits of having a coach, and one of the top three leading reasons people sign up for coaching). If you’ve made plans to work out with a friend you will be much more likely to wake up in the morning and be motivated to stick with your training plan. Adding a third person to your training team is even better, because one training partner might bail, but both probably won’t.
8. Set a Consistent Wake Up Time
A consistent wake up time and routine is more important than a consistent bed time for establishing a healthy sleep pattern. Even if you had to stay up a bit later than you planned the night before, still wake up at your established wake up time. If you need extra rest during the day, consider taking a nap. And if you know you will have a shorter night of sleep in the near future, try to bank sleep in the days beforehand rather than trying to catch up on sleep afterward.
9. Put Your Alarm Across the Room
This is a simple trick to make yourself get up out of bed and move around which will help you shake any sleepiness. Once you’re vertical and out of the warm covers, you’re far more likely to just stay up and get moving. Just don’t hit snooze and jump back in bed!
10. Turn the Lights on Once You Get Up to Turn the Alarm Off
Once you get up to turn off your alarm flip the lights on immediately. For the same reason you want to avoid light before bedtime, you want to expose yourself to light in the morning to wake up.
11. Even Better, Pull Back the Shades and Expose Yourself to Natural Light
Humans have been rising with the sunrise for millennia. Even if you’re not getting up at dawn, exposure to light plays a role in lowering melatonin levels and raising cortisol in the morning, helping you feel more alert and awake. Many athletes associate increased cortisol as a negative result of training stress, and typically want to reduce cortisol levels as a means of post-exercise recovery. But cortisol levels naturally rise and fall (they peak in the morning) throughout the day in correlation with circadian rhythm. Some theorize that the morning spike in cortisol could be an anticipatory response to the coming day.
12. Do Not Hit Snooze!
When you hit snooze you’re setting yourself up for failure and likely a very groggy morning. When you lay back down and fall asleep you’re just prolonging a period of non-productive sleep. The best, more restorative sleep was REM sleep, but it is unlikely you’ll gain significant REM sleep time during a snooze interval (about 10 minutes on most alarm clocks). When you hit snooze, you’re not getting that much more rest and you’re cutting into your limited time in the morning.
13. If You Can’t Resist Hitting Snooze, Set Multiple Alarms
If you know you can’t help but hit the snooze button in the morning, set multiple alarms in short succession so you won’t go more than a few minutes without being woken up again. Make yourself a pest, to yourself.
14. Change Your Behavior
Implementing all these small changes is about building good sleep habits that may eventually lead to not even needing an alarm to wake up in the mornings. Dialing in your sleep routine will change your behavior and have you waking up more refreshed and motivated to tackle your early morning workouts.