Fall is the perfect season for sleep. Cool and crisp nights cuddled up in a blanket are the best. That is, until you need to get up the next morning.
In full disclosure: I’m a morning lark so in a lot of ways, the dark mornings help me sleep in to a normal human hour (rather than waking at 5:45am with the sun). But for many people, the dark mornings make it even harder to get up and going, especially on workdays.
Aside from improving your sleep by tracking your progress with a Fitbit Flex or One, here are a few tips for increasing your ability to hop out of bed, even before the sunrise:
- Get to bed on time. This one seems super obvious, but it’s the most important. If you are less sleep deprived, you will experience less morning grogginess. Period.
- Leave the blinds open. Morning light sends signals to your body’s clock. So even if it’s dark when you are first awake, the light in the next few hours can still help you feel more awake and alert.
- Don’t sleep in more than two hours on weekend. The shift in sleep schedules from workdays to non-workdays has been called “social jet lag.” Even though you are not traveling, your body’s clock is switching time zones, which is taxing. It’s hard to wake up for work because you are waking during the time your body expects to be sleeping. Don’t get me wrong, life happens. But there is a cost to sleeping in.
- Have a wake up plan in place. Save time in the morning by preparing everything you can the night before. For example, get your clothes ready for the next day, pack your lunch the night before, etc. Have a plan for what you will do when the alarm goes off. For example, I find it’s so easy to get sucked into reading emails on my phone in the morning, and then I don’t have the full 30 min for my workout. So I need to plan to wake up and spend only five minutes on email or reading the paper before I get going. Start getting your plan in place.
- Have a cup of coffee. Caffeine can help! Having 1 or 2 cups of coffee in the morning can help you feel more energetic and alert. But watch the overall amount for the entire day, as well as the timing. Too much coffee late in the day can interfere with sleep at night.
- If all else fails, get through that first hour or two, and then most people will start to feel better as the day goes on. If you still feel groggy and unrested, that’s a sign that you may not be getting enough sleep, or you may have an underlying sleep disorder, such as sleep apnea.
One of the best parts of fall—and the end of daylight savings time—is right around the corner. But don’t wait for that hour of “fall back” to improve your sleep; that fix is only temporary. Monitoring and improving your sleep can give you a longer-lasting result. So keep striving to hit your goal.
Kelly Glazer Baron, PhD is an Assistant Professor in Neurology at Northwestern University. Her research focuses on sleep and circadian rhythms, and the role of circadian rhythm and the disruption in obesity. She previously wrote about adjusting to a time change.
This article is not intended to substitute for informed medical advice. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or condition. Always check with your doctor before changing your diet, altering your sleep habits, taking supplements, or starting a new fitness routine.