Waking up early is the worst, right? Well, to give you some motivation right off the bat, it’s DOES get easier, and you may actually look forward to it! It’s also probably one of the most powerful things you can do to ensure you have a productive and happy day.
Waking up early has all the benefits in the world: increased free time, the ability to plan your day, and peace and quiet. Unfortunately, waking up early can be one of the hardest habits to create, and one of the easiest to break.
This can be especially difficult if you set your own schedule, and you don’t have early commitments. However, even those who have to be in the office at 8AM can seriously benefit from an extra hour to themselves every morning.
That’s why we’ve created these eight biohacking strategies to help you fall asleep faster, recharge better, and wake up easier.
1. MANIPULATING YELLOW AND BLUE LIGHT
Studies are finally becoming popular that show the dangerous (or at least obnoxious) effects of blue light on our sleep patterns. Our eyeballs and our bodies are optimized for sunlight. You’d wake up when the sunrise got too bright, and you’d run out of things to do when the sun went down, so you’d sleep. Now, we’ve got Netflix we can hold 5 inches from our face while we lay in bed until 2AM.
At least an hour or two before bed, either turn off your screens, or try these blue-light blocking glasses. They’re not so stylish but they get the job done and it’s worth it. Pro-tip: drive at night with these on. The difference is unreal; it’s like sitting in your living room watching a boring but relaxing TV show. Except in this living room, lunatics are flying by you in a halogen-light induced mania.
(You also might want to install F.lux or something similar on your computer. It keeps your screen at a gentle yellow all day long, and increases the strength at night. Your iPhone also comes with a night mode, where you can turn the yellow light way up.)
2. USE SLEEP CYCLE APPS TO WAKE UP OPTIMALLY (AND SLEEP BETTER)
Most people have heard of REM sleep: it’s the good stuff. REM cycles are the deep sleep that really matters when you get a good nights rest. A full sleep cycle lasts about an hour and a half. When you take a quick 20 minute nap, you never get into deep sleep, so you wake up relatively easily and refreshed. But have you ever taken a two hour nap, where you wake up drooling and wonder what year it is? REM sleep.
Apps like Sleep Cycle use the microphone or accelerometer in your phone to monitor how much you move around or snore during the night. You set an alarm range, like 6:45AM – 7:15AM, if you usually wake up around 7AM. The Sleep Cycle app will set off the alarm when you are in the lightest possible part of your sleep pattern, which definitely makes waking up easier.
This app also comes with some awesome tracking statistics, like how your sleep quality is effected by the weather, your eating and exercise, or even the day of the week. Looking at this data is just plain fun, but it can help you make much better choices to get the best night’s sleep you can.
3. STRATEGIC PHONE PLACEMENT
This strategy is meant to help you in a few ways. First, it eliminates the habit of late night browsing, or reaching back for your phone when you’ve tried to fall asleep for just five minutes and couldn’t do it. You’d be surprised how weird it feels at first, and how attached we are to that thing.
Second, you have to get out of bed in the morning to shut your alarm off. This can be enough for some people to get going, but many dedicated sleepers walk right back into bed to fall asleep. We can help with that in the next strategy. Also, since the jury is still out on how electronic, radio, and wi-fi signals might affect our bodies over the long term, it might be best not to sleep next to a hotspot night after night.
(By the way, pick your favorite song for your alarm! The Sleep Cycle app uses gentle noises that slowly get louder to wake you up gently as well. No sense in the first thing you hear being a loud, screeching beep, unless you really need it. That seems like a great way to make your flight-or-flight cortisol system the very first thing your body kick starts in the morning. That can’t be good. Actually, let’s talk about that.)
4. TURN DOWN THE DIAL ON MORNING CORTISOL (THE “STRESS” HORMONE)
Everyone has cortisol. It used to help us survive, when we were in desperate need of finding food or shelter. It kept us awake, alert, and on edge. Now, we have things like gridlocked traffic and employee evaluation meetings. It’s created a chronic cortisol epidemic.
The Cortisol Awakening Response (CAR) is the process of a sharp cortisol increase during the mornings of healthy adults. In this case, it is activated by the hippocampus (in charge of remembering your plans for the day) and not the amygdala (stress creator).
Waking up extremely early (4:30AM – 5:00AM) increases and prolongs the CAR. CAR is greater when you wake up in daylight than darkness, which may explain why it is so much easier to get out of bed when the sun is up. Your CAR is always higher during weekdays, especially when you have a heavy workload. So, it’s not necessarily a bad thing. But if you always have terrible mornings and leave the house with a bad attitude, try this exercise.
A. Stand with your feet separated a bit wider than your shoulders.
B. Exhale and slowly bend forward with your arms crossed around your chest. Squeeze your hands into fists to relieve tension in the spine. Feel the muscles that are stretching, and rate your exertion between 1-10. Don’t go past 7.
C. Inhale and gradually “roll” upward to standing position, vertebrae by vertebrae. Raise your arms outward and upward in a V, even stretching your fingers to the sky. Fill your lungs to capacity, and hold your breath for a few moments in this position.
D. Exhale, and slowly let your arms drop while extended. Let out as much air as you possibly can while you repeat this process for at least a few minutes.
This exercise works for a few different reasons. The forward bend signals a relaxation response. Concentrating on your stretches and ratings inhibits your panicking amygdala. Stretching muscles oxygenates the blood, lowers body acidity, and releases tension.
5. MAKE YOUR BED A SACRED SPACE
This is a common one, and all comes down to creating an unconscious habit. When we watch TV in bed or play on our phones, we are telling our brain this is a place to stay engaged. Keep your bed sacred, and use it only for sex and sleep.
If you must wind down for the day with a screen, use it on the couch. Grab a blanket and treat it like bed so you feel comfortable, but when you move to your actual bedroom put the phone away. If you can’t sleep after 15 minutes of trying, get back up to the couch and read a book for a bit. You’ll quickly feel tired.
Imagine getting into the front seat of your car every morning. Inserting the key into the ignition and backing out of the driveway becomes instinctual; your brain knows that the front seat means time to drive. Give your brain the same assistance when you hop into bed.
6. USE ARTIFICIAL DAYLIGHT TO MAKE FALLING BACK ASLEEP IMPOSSIBLE
There are special lights that are used for this process that replicate the wavelength of sunlight, but those can be pretty expensive. Instead of starting with that, take a trip to your local big-box hardware store. Head over to the work lamp section, and you’ll find insanely-bright LED lamps that will flood your room with white light.
As soon as you wake up, roll over and turn one of these bad boys on. Do NOT look directly at it, especially not first thing in the morning! This type of instantaneous light can force you to get out of bed, and if you keep it on while you get ready you might feel more alert and awake when you leave the house.
7. TAKE THE MORNING METABOLISM KICKSTARTER
This process works well when you place these items across the room with your phone. Before bed, fill a large 24oz glass or tumbler with ice cubes. Next to it, place a serving of protein power in it’s scoop.
When you wake up and stagger over to set off your alarm, dip your hands in the now-melted-but-still-cold water, and splash some on your face. Then, mix the water with the protein power and chug it down. This mixture is a near-perfect way for your digestive system to start functioning well in the morning, and the full glass of ice water really makes you feel like your gears are turning.
8. USE MELATONIN, CAFFEINE, AND L-THEANINE AS NEEDED
Most of us have had early morning events that throw us off, or sometimes get into a funky sleep schedule that can be hard to break. This means it’s time to break out the chemistry experiments.
We’ve all heard of melatonin, and if you are following all of the other steps it will definitely make you drowsy and ready for bed. However, some people report feeling too groggy in the morning after melatonin.
Head down to the drugstore and pick up generic caffeine pills and L-Theanine. It should cost you around $20 for a full month’s supply. As soon as you wake up, take one serving of each.
The caffeine is self explanatory. Wait 15 minutes, and you’ll experience a hit of energy and alertness more powerful than a cup of coffee (and if you take these pills, watch your coffee intake carefully. One more additional cup at maximum, and no caffeine after noon).
Finally, L-Theanine is a herbal supplement that pairs well with stimulants like this. It will extend your buzz and decrease any sort of crash you might experience. Even if you stick to just coffee, this is a good sidekick for anyone.
Remember as we said before: it does get better. Anyone can turn their morning into an energy-filled primer that helps you conquer the rest of the day. Turn on your favorite music as you get ready, sit down to breakfast with your children, and lay out all the necessary items such as ironed clothing the night before. So from us to you, good morning. We’re all in this together.
PS: It’s not just about waking up early… It’s what you do with the time that’s given to you. How about a 10-minute morning flexibility routine to help you get moving and feel better in your body?