How many times have you woken up to your alarm clock, rolled over, pressed snooze and fallen back to sleep? And when it goes off again, you press snooze again. And again, and again, until you dare to glance at the time and to your shock discover you’ve only got a few fleeting minutes to get dressed and dash out the house.
Sounds familiar? This happened to me more times than I care to admit during my days as an insomniac. Even worse is when instead of hitting snooze, you accidentally turn the alarm off. I did that many times too. In fact, I missed my very first day of college because of it!
For years I searched for an answer to the problem. The advice as usually one of the three:
- Use multiple alarm clocks
- Put your alarm clock over the other side of them room
- Buy an extra loud alarm clock
But no matter how loud the alarm clock, or how far away it was, I would just get up, press snooze and promptly fall straight back to sleep. And I would repeat the process for multiple alarms as many times as necessary.
The reason why the common advice doesn’t work is simple. The problem isn’t waking up as such, it’s staying awake. So the problem isn’t finding a way to wake up in the morning – that’s easy – but instead how to feel more alert so that you don’t fall back to sleep once you’ve woken up.
If you be really honest with yourself, you know that you probably could wake up as soon as your alarm goes off if you really wanted, but the truth is that deep down you don’t want to. If you got up straight away you know that you’d feel drowsy. An extra 10 minutes in bed doesn’t seem much, but when you’re feeling so sleepy in the morning, you want to catch as much sleep as you can.
So what if when you alarm goes off, instead of pressing snooze and falling back to sleep, what if you pressed snooze and instead just lay awake in bed, gradually feeling more awake, so by the time your alarm goes off again 10 minutes later you’re really to get out of bed feeling alert.
Sounds much more realistic than jumping out of bed as soon as the alarm goes off right? It’s a lot more doable too and I’m going to share with you a simple technique that will help you feel gradually more alert in the morning.
When your alarm goes off in the morning, press snooze and then just before you lay back down, pull your curtains wide open to get as much sunlight into your room as possible. You won’t feel awake straight away, but after ten minutes you’ll be wide awake and ready to get out of bed.
Now this seems ridiculously simple but the reason this works is because it deactivates your body’s nighttime sleep system and activates your body’s daytime wakefulness system.
Your body uses light as an indicator as to whether it should wake you up or send you to sleep. When it’s dark your body secretes a hormone called melatonin designed to send you to sleep. But when there’s daylight, the light travels through your eyes, through your optic nerve and right to a part of your brain called the suprachiasmatic nucleus where your body clock lives. Your body clock sees the light, realizes it must be morning, and so stops the production of melatonin and proceeds to wake up your body.
If you keep your curtains shut your body clock thinks it must still be night and so it keeps the melatonin flowing and keeps you asleep. That’s why just opening your curtains is so effective at waking you up.
If you do this at the same time each morning your body clock will slowly be trained to expect you to wake up at the same time each day. So even before your alarm clock goes off, your body is preparing to wake you up. If you be consistent, in time, you’ll wake up in the morning feeling totally refreshed as soon as your alarm goes off and you won’t even need to hit the snooze button.
If you need to get up when it’s dark outside, take a look at the Philips Wake Up Light. It’s a dawn simulator that uses a special light to mimic the rising of the sun. The drawback it’s not as bright the sun, but the big plus is that it turns on 20 to 40 minutes before your alarm goes off. So before you’re even aware of it, the Wake Up Light is preparing your body to get you up so that when your alarm does go off you’re already feeling awake and alert.