Do you find it more difficult to wake up on those chilly, dark mornings? Well, you’re not alone. There is actually scientific evidence that winter can be a challenging time for waking up. But why is that exactly?
When it comes to winter wakeups, we have a few obstacles to overcome. Most prominent, however, is darkness, which interferes with our circadian rhythm.
Due to fewer daylight hours and later sunrises, there are fewer hours of daylight each day. Our bodies use sunlight as a cue to initiate their daytime circadian rhythms. It is natural for our bodies to want to sleep later as the sun rises later in the day. When you don’t have sunlight to kickstart your system and suppress melatonin (the sleeping hormone) while increasing cortisol (the alert hormone), getting up can be tough.
It is also less appealing to leave the warmth of our beds in the winter because of the colder temperatures. In preparation for sleep, our body temperature drops as we get closer to bedtime, then slowly rises as we wake. However, if the room is freezing, you’re more likely to stay curled up in your warm, cozy bed.
When you’re skipping fresh fruits and veggies, eating too many sweets, and not exercising as much as when it’s warmer, your energy levels may plummet. As a result, low energy makes it harder to get up when the alarm goes off early in the morning.
The good news? You can use these tips to help you wake up in the winter.
1. Lighten up your morning.
Despite the temptation to remain hidden under the covers, the sooner your body realizes it’s time to get up, the quicker your mind will follow. If you turn the lights down, you will likely feel sleepy. Even if it seems painful, flood the room with light.
On those dark mornings when you really struggle with this, there are some handy night lights that work on a timer and gradually become lighter until it’s time to wake up. Also, you don’t have to make the tortuous decision to turn the light on.
Each winter, around ten million Americans suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). You can develop real problems like overeating, depression, and brain fog as a result. Light therapy devices or artificial light can really help treat this problem, as they stimulate the brain’s cortisol awakening response, which allows it to prepare for the day ahead.
2. Stick to your sleep schedule.
Regardless of the season, it’s crucial to stick to a routine sleep schedule in order to get a good night’s sleep. In the winter (and really, any time of the year), setting a bedtime and wake-up time can be beneficial, as it creates a natural rhythm for your body.
At the same time, you might experience increased sleepiness during the fall and winter months. In any case, it is crucial to keep yourself on a regular sleep-wake cycle in order to avoid disrupting your circadian rhythm.
3. Be prepared.
It’s hard to get out of bed when you’re lying in bed, thinking about all the things you need to do in the A.M. This could include taking a shower, walking the dog, choosing an outfit, packing lunch, or preparing for a presentation. In addition, you may have trouble staying awake in the morning due to sleep inertia.
Therefore, Dr. Charles Bae, a neurologist with Penn Sleep Centers, suggests crossing some things off your list the night before.
“Anything that can save you time in the morning will help out, especially when they’re awake and not alert,” says Bae. “For sleep, we always talk about a bedtime routine, which is important, but I think people should also be focused on a morning routine.”
4. Have a drink.
Immediately after waking up, drinking water will stimulate the body and keep you awake. That’s why my nightstand always has a glass of water on it, ready to drink in the morning.
5. Take a morning walk.
“The morning sun hits the receptors in your eye called melanopsin. That blue light detector tells the suprachiasmatic nucleus in your brain that it’s daytime, and you start making different hormones and neurotransmitters to wake you up for the day,” explains cardiologist Michael Twyman, M.D. Natural blue light from the sun promotes a healthy sleep cycle, helps boost alertness, and even elevates mood. The fact is, going for a walk and staying active in the morning can help you start the day more relaxed as opposed to scrolling through social media or watching a show on television in the morning.
“Then when the sun sets and that receptor doesn’t see blue light anymore, the body knows it’s nighttime,” he adds. “Cortisol will start dropping, melatonin will start to rise. That cascade has to happen to have optimal health.”
6. Eat an apple.
As the saying goes, “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.” But did you know that it originated in 1866 as a Pembrokeshire proverb but was first coined in 1913? A better question, though, is this fact or fiction?
It turns out that apples are amazing for waking you up in the morning. Apples are high in natural sugars, which help you wake up, but the real benefit of eating them in the morning is that their energy slowly awakens your body.
Furthermore, they contain around 13 grams of sugar, and according to studies, this is similar to the effect coffee has on the body. And apples are packed with health benefits, including promoting brain function.
7. Resist hitting snooze.
Again, who wants to get out of bed when it’s freezing outside? However, you need to resist that temptation to fall back asleep.
It might be detrimental to your sleep health to hit snooze, according to the Cleveland Clinic. By expecting the extra minutes, your brain might condition itself to expect more time. It’s also a waste of time to sleep for such a short period, as it is not actually restful. It is possible that you will feel more sleepy afterward.
“So how do you stop relying on the snooze button?” asks Angela Ruth in a previous Calendar article. “A little self-control can go a long way.” Try not to let temptation get the best of you. “Additional minutes that are not beneficial, if you remember. Try counting 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 — and hop out of bed.”
“Get up and do some jumping jacks,” Angela suggests. Take a cold shower or splash your face with water. “Anything to get yourself out of bed and feel a bit more energized,” she adds. “It can be hard at first, but your body will thank you later.”
In addition, avoid annoying talk news or blaring alarms at the start of the day. Make your alarm soothing and upbeat instead. Listening to one of your favorite songs or listening to a funny podcast will make getting up much simpler.
And, if you’re still struggling, invest in a sunrise alarm. A sunrise alarm simulates a gradual sunset at night and a gradual sunrise in the morning to encourage you to fall asleep and wake up naturally.
8. Activate your nostrils.
Hafiz Shariff, sleep expert and founder of Owl + Lark, recommends using stimulating scents, such as peppermint, rosemary, or orange, “to help stimulate the brain and get you energized for your day.” A digital oil diffuser can be used to achieve this, set to turn on ten to thirty minutes before your alarm clock.
“For a more low-tech option, keep a tissue or cloth by your bedside that you can dot with a few drops of oil to smell once you wake up,” she says. “You could also mix it with some hand cream or body lotion for a longer-lasting morning boost.”
9. Maintain your body temperature.
Is there anything worse than shivering in bed because you’re too cold? If this describes you, it’s time to take control of your body temperature before you go to sleep.
In the winter months, our bodies tend to cool down while we sleep, so you may notice a chill or draft while sleeping. To counter this, consider investing in a winter duvet. They’re thicker and warmer. There are even some that come in two halves, so you can wear a lighter one in the summer and a thicker one in the winter.
You can also have slippers and a robe ready for when you wake up. Also, socks can help you sleep faster because they help regulate your body temperature. You’ll save your feet from freezing feet in the morning as well with cozy socks.
10. Take time to reflect.
There are a number of cognitive benefits associated with mindfulness practices, especially practicing simple meditation techniques.
By relaxing, quieting your mind, and focusing on regular, smooth breathing, you can improve your mood, reduce impulsive behavior, and boost your brain’s executive function.
11. Get your day started with upbeat music.
As well as healing, music can help you develop a rhythm physiologically. You can get your blood pumping and your lungs breathing by listening to music as your brain and body wake up.
Moreover, listening to music has been found to:
Essentially, music sets the tone for your body’s daily rhythm and mental state.
12. Have something to look forward to.
Focusing on something you want to do rather than drudgery makes getting out of bed easier. As such, get yourself into the habit of setting aside a few minutes each morning for a ritual that makes you eager to get out of bed.
Perhaps it’s a cup of coffee in bed, a short YouTube, or a soothing shower. If ritualistic rituals aren’t your thing, consider a reward for waking up. There may be a chapter in that book you can’t put down you’d like to read, or perhaps you’d like to indulge in a more lavish breakfast than usual.
Whatever it is, make sure you give yourself something to make your day a good one.
Featured Image Credit: Photo by Max Vakhtbovych; Pexels; Thank you.