The slower you build up energy in the morning, the more painful waking up will be. What’s better, spending thirty minutes wrestling with the snooze button followed by an hour ramp up to normal mental functioning or quickly starting the day with energy?
In my recent article on morning rituals , I mentioned how I wake up at 5:30 each morning. A few readers asked how I deal with the initial grogginess that comes with waking up so early. As someone who isn’t a natural early-riser (I could easily sleep in until noon) getting over the early-morning sleepiness wasn’t easy. However, by using some of the tips I’ll describe, you can be more alert in your morning hours without having to inject yourself with a pot of coffee.
Why Go Without Caffeine?
I never drink coffee and I only occasionally drink caffeinated teas. While caffeine can be a temporary chemical solution to your drowsiness, I don’t believe it is the best strategy overall. I’ve found caffeine offers more energy, but it comes with side-effects. A few I’ve noticed:
- Post-caffeine crashes.
- Disrupting normal sleep.
- Withdrawal symptoms and addiction.
- Difficulty focusing. (Although some research  suggests otherwise)
Whether caffeine is a miracle drug or junk is hard to say. However, given the side-effects, if you can boost morning alertness without the artificial stimulants, why bother drinking the stuff?
How to Build Energy Into Your Mornings
Here are a few things I’ve found helpful to reduce the transition period from being asleep to becoming fully alert. Not only does speeding up this wake-up process save time, it makes waking up less of a struggle. A few tips:
- Light. Your body’s natural clock is tuned to the amount of light. Turn on all the lights in your room right after waking up. Getting bright lights can help trick your body into thinking it is time to get out of bed.
- Exercise. Put something physical right at the start of your morning. In the summer, I did a quick morning run and found it helpful in shaking off any sleepiness. Considering the outside temperature hovers around -30 C, I’ve stuck to doing a few pushups in my room. The exercise gets your heart pumping and snaps you out of a groggy state.
- The 10-Minute Rule. If you want to stick with a consistent wake-up time, practice the ten-minute rule. This means you commit to staying awake for at least the next ten minutes. Once you get over that initial period, the temptation to go back to bed is usually gone.
- Active Work. Start your day with work that actively uses your mind. Creative activities like writing, drawing, programming or designing work better than passive activities like reading. By focusing your mind early you can stay focused and brush off any unwanted drowsiness.
- Don’t Skip Breakfast. Wake up early enough to get something to eat. Skipping meals throw your metabolism out of balance, causing you to gain fat and lose energy. Skipping breakfast also means your blood sugar will be low in the morning and energy levels down.
- Commit to a Sleep Schedule. The obvious solution to combat sleepiness is to get more rest at night. Carrying a sleep debt throughout the week with the hopes of paying it off on the weekend is a bad strategy. Instead, compress your work into the morning hours so you can get the 6-8 hours you need each night.
- Turn Up the Volume. I’ve found listening to music or audio books helpful in keeping myself awake during the morning. Best of all, if you put on an audio book from your favorite speaker, you can get some encouragement to start your day.