Woke Up Before Your Alarm? Stay Awake, Don't Go Back to Sleep
There's nothing more jarring than the sound of your morning alarm. Even hearing it on others' phones, hours after your own abrupt wakeup, can cause you to flinch in fear. Though we depend on that shrill sound to get up each morning, it's actually better to wake up naturally—so don't even think about hitting that snooze button.
Waking up before your alarm clock sounds can be a blessing and a curse. Thankfully, it means there's a little more time—sometimes even hours—before it's time to rise. Yet it can also induce a restless dread, leaving us sweating and worrying the hour or minutes before it's actually time to get up.
As Matt Galligan, CEO of Circa, discussed in an article with Fast Company, waking up before your alarm sounds off is the best way to start your day. In fact, we all should ease ourselves into the routine of getting out of bed whenever we wake rather than relying on the alarm.
As helpful as our shrill ringtones are at yanking us out of sleep and into each new day, alarm clocks actually go against our bodies' natural cycles. We're designed to follow circadian rhythms, or a 24-hour sleep and wake cycle. Our bodies are meant to sleep when night falls and rise when the sun starts peeking through our curtains, not when we hear a loud, jarring sound. When our alarm clocks sound each morning, we're ripping ourselves out of the sleep cycle and essentially interrupting our bodies, making for a groggy and unhappy start to the day.
How do we improve the cycle of shrieking alarm clocks and grumpy mornings? As Galligan tells Fast Company, it's all about training our bodies. By listening to that circadian rhythm, we can ease ourselves into happier, less exhausted mornings.
Our bodies' internal clocks are excellent judges of when we've had enough sleep. So, when you find yourself awake at 7:45 but don't have an alarm set to sound until 8:30, your body is telling you that you don't need those extra 45 minutes of shut eye. Mental Floss explains that our bodies are much more effective wake-up tools than any alarm clock could ever be.
The article points out that we're wired to love predictability above all else. That's why you might find yourself wide awake at 7:30 a.m. every weekend—if you wake up at the same time each day during the week, your body is going to continue the trend even on your days off. Once it detects a pattern, your body will hone its timed releases of hormones to help keep you steady. When it's time for bed, our bodies reduce our PER levels, a protein that controls when we sleep and when we rise. As a result, we get sleepy.
When our bodies think it's time to wake up, they increase the release of PER. It doesn't happen immediately, though; instead, the protein is released over time, gradually building up as it gets closer to our wakeup time. The more we rely on this natural cycle, the easier it becomes to get out of bed in the morning. Rather than waking up stressed, panicked, and surprised, our bodies have silently prepared us to rise gradually and naturally.
This means that, if you want to break free from your alarm clock and wake up in a better mood each morning, it's crucial to stick to a schedule. Your body knows when enough sleep is enough, and once you set a routine, it'll follow it perfectly and precisely. Begin with one easy task: stick to one wake up time. Don't stray, even on weekends, or you'll confuse your inner clock. After awhile—Galligan claims 30 days—you'll have no problem rising at the perfect time for work each morning.
Hitting snooze is a lot easier than waking up and getting the day started. Honestly, who bounces right out of bed the second their alarm sounds? Probably not you—and definitely not me.
However, our love of the snooze function on our alarms is a bad habit. When we rely on our alarms to wake up, as mentioned above, we're already rising in a groggy, grumpy state. One tap of your snooze button might sound like the perfect solution to snag a few more minutes of desperately-needed sleep, but it in fact confuses your body even more.
As Mental Floss notes, giving ourselves those 10 or 15 extra minutes to fall back into a light slumber only make our actual wakeup worse. As soon as we lay our heads back down, our bodies' internal clocks flip into reverse, flooding our system with calming sleep hormones—even though our alarm clock just sent a rush of "good morning" hormones through us to get us out of bed. Our brains and bodies quickly get mixed up, and we end up feeling even more exhausted when our alarms sound a second time.
Resist the temptation of the snooze, and you'll start your day off a little easier. Waking up is never easy for non-morning people, but delaying your wakeup by even a few minutes can set you up for a groggier day.
While most of us probably won't be turning off our alarms for good, we can make our mornings easier by training our bodies to wake up naturally. Though you may dread the thought of waking with the sun, the more in tune you become with your body's sleep needs and internal clock, the more refreshed you'll feel each day.
Just don't go for any coffee right away. Your cortisol levels spike after waking up, so drinking your morning cup of joe should be after this period. More on that can be found here.