How do you wake up in the mornings? I’ve written posts before about how to be a morning person, and about morning routines… but then I started thinking about how important it is to wake up in the right way too. It’s all very well having a nice morning routine that helps you to be more productive, but if you wake up in the wrong way you won’t feel great.

What does “waking up in the right way” mean though?

First, it pays to understand the different stages of sleep and what they mean. Human beings sleep in cycles which generally last around 90 minutes. We’ll have around 5 of these cycles per night, depending on how long our individual cycle is, and how much sleep we need.

Four stages of sleep

A sleep cycle has four stages. As a general rule, when we fall asleep we progress through stages 1-4, then begin again at stage 1.

Stage 1: very light sleep – when we’re just dozing off
Stage 2: lighter, non-REM sleep – lasts around 20 minutes
Stage 3: deeper, non-REM sleep – lasts 30-45 minutes
Stage 4: REM (rapid eye movement) sleep – the first REM stage lasts around 10 minutes but increase up to an hour as the night goes on.

Ideally, when we wake up we want it to be at the end of one of our sleep cycles. You can get mobile apps that sit on your bed and will aim to wake you up at the end of a sleep cycle – but you don’t need one of these to be able to wake up well.

The importance of a regular sleep routine

We are often told that it’s important to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. There are many reasons for this, one of which is that if you stay up later and wake up later on the weekend, your body experiences symptoms similar to jet lag and this can actually lower your insulin sensitivity and even give you symptoms of type 2 diabetes – just from adjusting your sleeping time by a few hours!

If you have a regular sleeping and waking routine, it becomes easier to wake up in the mornings – your body knows what is coming and is ready to wake up.

What if your alarm goes off in the middle of a sleep cycle?

Get up any way! Once you’re awake, you’re awake and the best thing to do is to just get up – even if you feel like you’ve not had enough sleep or you’re still tired, or it’s a bit earlier than you would earlier get up. 

Why not just snooze my alarm and catch up on missed sleep?

Apparently 58% of under-35s snooze their alarm at least once in the morning, and 25% snooze it at least three times! It’s so tempting to snooze the alarm and just have a few more minutes’ sleep, right? But honestly, how good do you feel when you finally drag yourself out of bed? Sluggish and knackered, I’ll bet!

The problem is that whatever point you’re at in a sleep cycle when you wake up, if you go back to sleep you begin your cycle again – which generally means that when your snoozed alarm goes off again (and again, and again) you are in the middle of a deeper stage of sleep where it’s really hard to wake up. So then it’s likely that your body has been woken up from this deep sleep twice – once when the alarm went off, and again when your snoozed alarm went off again. That’s why you feel so rubbish all day, even if technically you’ve had 7 or 8 hours’ sleep.

Change your alarm clock

If your alarm is a sudden, loud noise that wakes you up immediately, that’s not a fun way to start your day. And it gives you no chance of coming out of a sleep cycle naturally. It’s worth finding a new way to wake up that allows you to do so gradually.

One way of doing this is with something like a Lumie alarm clock which slowly lights your room as if the sun is rising, allowing you to wake more naturally. If you don’t fancy that you could just change your alarm tone for something a little more gentle. I actually use the mp3 from this podcast to give me a gentle and peaceful wake-up call. Actually nowadays it only takes a few seconds of the opening sounds for me to wake up.

In summary, to wake up well:

  • Go to bed and get up at the same time every day. Even on the weekend.
  • Don’t hit snooze, even when you really want to!
  • Use an alarm that will wake you up gradually rather than suddenly.

Why not try a new waking routine for a week, and see how you get on?

Vicky Charles

Vicky is a single mother, writer and card reader.


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