How to Wake Up Fast and Attack the Day

by Janey Osterlind on 7 September 2011 21 comments
Photo: stuartpilbrow

Every day at 6 a.m., my alarm goes off. I hit snooze several times before eventually rolling out of bed 30 to 45 minutes later. Why? Because waking up is hard to do. My still-asleep self tells me I’m still tired, and my bed is comfortable. If you’re anything like me, though, you want to wake up earlier; you just don’t actually follow through. Until now, that is — I’ve compiled a list of ways to get over the hurdle of waking up the first time your alarm goes off, jump out of bed, and attack the day! (See also: 5 Effective Sleep Tips You Haven't Tried Yet)

1. Articulate Why You Want to Wake Up Fast

If you’re not clear about why you want to wake up fast in the mornings, you won’t do it. It sounds simple, but actually verbalizing your reason for getting up in the morning is an important first step. In my case, I want to get up early enough to do a little yoga. It helps wake me up slowly, relaxes me, and sets the tone for the day. In your case, it might be important to get some reading in before heading to work. It might simply be getting up early enough to not feel perpetually rushed when you get out the door. If you were able to wake up the first time your alarm went off instead of 30 minutes later, you’d have 130 extra hours — or nearly 5 ½ days — per year to do something you enjoy!

2. Assault Your Ears With Loud Noises

If you’ve ever heard the submarine alarm sound for the iPhone, you know what I’m talking about. Obnoxious noises are an excellent, albeit annoying, way to shock yourself awake in the mornings. You could also try having one of these great tunes to wake up to playing at top volume. Whatever the sound, make it loud and jarring, and you’re more likely to speed through the fog of sleep to full consciousness before your brain has time to hit snooze.

3. Put Your Alarm Across the Room

Movement, like loud noises, helps your brain to wake up quickly. Make that movement compulsory in the morning by putting your alarm across the room. By the time you get to it, you’ll be awake enough to remember that you want to get up to practice yoga this morning, or get to the gym, or read. This tip works even better if your alarm is playing an extremely loud noise — it gives you added incentive to get to it quickly. Instead of putting your alarm across the room, you could try the popular Clocky alarm clock, which rolls across the room once it goes off until you chase it down. For an alarm that combines music and movement, check out Clocky’s little brother, Tocky.

4. Splash Cold Water in Your Face

It’s common knowledge that the shock of cold water is a great way to wake up fast. You could enlist a roommate or spouse to throw water on you in the morning, but that would be extreme. Instead, prepare the night before by putting a bowl of water and washcloth by your bed, and you’ll be able to immediately give your face a cold soak in the morning before the snooze monster gets you.

5. Drink a Cold Glass of Water

Although it turns out that drinking copious amounts of water at the start of each day cannot, in fact, cure disease, drinking one glass of cold water can help raise your alertness quickly. Again, the key is preparation — have a glass of water by the bed and try to drink it all before even thinking of hitting the snooze. By then, your rational, awake mind will have taken over, and you’ll be ready to start the day.

6. Smell Something Energizing

According to FOCUS Magazine, smelling salts, which have been used for hundreds of years to revive people from faints, work because the gas in them irritates the lungs, causes people to inhale, and elevates blood oxygen levels. Similarly, certain scents, including peppermint and lemon, have been shown to increase alertness. In fact, one study by the Sense of Smell Institute (yes, it really exists) found "that people exposed to lemony, woody fragrances early in the morning" experienced a boost in motivation. The best way to have these scents at your fingertips early in the morning is with a small bottle of peppermint essential oil or lemon extract at your bedside.

7. Drink Caffeine

Caffeine is likely one of the most obvious ways to wake up fast in the morning; however, the benefit you reap from it depends on the method of delivery. If you hate the taste of coffee, try having a soda, an energy-boosting shot (like 5-Hour Energy), or a chai tea. If you’re just after the beverage that packs the most caffeine punch per milligram, check out the Energy Fiend’s Caffeine Database. Just take care to only drink enough to get you going in the morning, so you don’t get the jitters by the afternoon. Ever wondered how much is too much caffeine? Answer your question with the Energy Fiend’s Death by Caffeine Calculator.

8. Eat Something

Besides the other numerous benefits of eating breakfast (PDF) in the morning (including weight loss, increased focus, and decreased stress), breakfast can also help you to wake up fast. Because we don’t eat while we sleep, our blood sugar levels drop at night. Getting some carbohydrates first thing in the morning can give you a quick increase in alertness. Try keeping something like chocolate-covered espresso beans (for chocolate and sugar) or fruit (for sugar and carbohydrates) by your bed so you can reach for it first thing in the morning.

9. Workout

I don’t mean a full workout routine, although for some (including me) that’s the whole point of waking up fast in the first place. I do mean jumping out of bed and doing a two-minute stretching exercise to increase your blood pressure and heart rate. A quick bout of calisthenics is a good way to get your brain in wake up mode fast. Not sure what exercises to do? Try some of these sun salutation yoga poses or just stretch every extremity for 15 seconds.

10. Prepare the Night Before

Waking up fast has a lot to do with how you go to bed the night before. We all know the basics, but they bear repeating: avoid alcohol and caffeine within several hours of bedtime, try to resolve bothersome disputes, and get enough sleep. It also helps to prepare for the next day on the night before by laying out clothes and putting together supplies needed for work or school. This way, your mind is better able to focus on what a great day you’re about to have, rather than dreading the odds and ends you’ll have to wrap up as soon as waking up.

So there you have it — the best of the best ways to wake up fast. I hope it helps you to wake up fast, fresh, and ready for the day ahead!

Have you found anything particularly helpful in waking up fast? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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Guest's picture
Guest

Activity quickly after waking up (especially unnaturally) increases the odds that you could have a heart attack in the morning. Heart attacks are common in the morning (http://www.physorg.com/news142791169.html and others).

However, if you are healthy and have a low risk of these issues, then it shouldn't be a problem.

Janey Osterlind's picture

Thanks for your comment - that is an important consideration. If you are looking for ways that are less jarring, but might be just as effective at getting you up at a certain time, try a "natural" alarm clock, which simulates a sunrise and wakes you up by gradually increasing light levels in the room. http://www.serenityhealth.com/alarm_clocks.html.

Guest's picture
Guest

One of the best ways to revive yourself quickly is with bright light. Melatonin, our sleepy hormone ;) levels are greatly affected by light.

Guest's picture
Weszt

Not sure if things like workouts and loud noises will work in the long run, provided you wanted to make these habits. Inconvenience and the shock of each might be discouraging.

Guest's picture

Janey,

I'm one of those people that love to stay in bed but then hate myself for wasting the time. I've given some of the ideas a try but not all at once. I'm going to start tomorrow and fight to not go back to bed. I do love my bed so! Even my dogs want to stay in bed in the morning. It's my favorite time of the day.

Thanks for the new tips! I'm really going to try it. I would love to do yoga in the AM to put a balance to the new day.

Janey Osterlind's picture

I'm completely in your boat - I really have to fight to get up in the morning! I agree that the dogs don't help either. My boxer loves napping until 10. :) Good luck with the tips! Let us know if any of them work for you.

Guest's picture
Kelsey

Water helps me wake up. I'll drink a full cup as soon as I wake up.

Guest's picture

I set 4-5 alarms each day and that's how I wake up. It's the only thing that works.

Meg Favreau's picture

Yikes! I thought it was bad when I had to set two alarms for a bit. Do you keep them all by your bed, or scattered around?

Guest's picture
Adam

Hi,

I love this website and this article but i have to second the opinion that a 'shock' wake-up isn't that good a way to get up from sleep; starting the day cranky is just no good. I set my ringtone to increase its volume gradually, it softens the 'effect' of the loud ringtone.

Adam

Guest's picture
Cindy

The best way I've found to get out of bed is to put a price on it. I used to ride the bus to work which allowed me to avoid any transportation costs (I got a free public transit pass from my employer). If I slept in I'd miss the bus, have to drive myself (gas $), pay for downtown parking ($8 per day), eat out for lunch (about $7). I figured it was at least $15 to sleep in an extra 30 minutes. Totally not worth it!

Guest's picture

I set my alarms to ring every 10 minutes, after 3-4 times, I can leave my bed :-(

Guest's picture
Sean H

When it comes to working out, I have heard that jumping in place or with a jump rope does a lot more than just wake you up. Your blood cells are at rest when sleeping but still are dying by the count of 50,000 every 3 seconds while a new 50,000 are being reproduced. But when you get up and jump for 5 minutes, you are jump starting that process by increased blood flow which gives you more energy. 50,000 dying and creating? No wonder we get tired throughout the day, our body is doing so much!

Guest's picture

Although I understand why each of these things can help someone wake up in the morning, I personally find being jolted awake in the morning not only makes my morning more irritable, but I feel like I actually lose sleep. I've gotten to the point where I can't find an alarm tone that is quiet enough so I usually just use my phone on vibrate! I realize that is a rarity (I am an extremely light sleeper), but in general, it seems as though an abrupt entrance to each morning would get, for lack of a better word, exhausting. I do really like the suggestions of refreshing smells, drinking cold water, and simply preparing for your day the night before. Have you smelled the awake scents from Bath and Body Works (not their actual brand, but a product they carry in large stores) that are tangerine lime? It is so fresh smelling and really does have an invigorating quality.

Guest's picture
Kim

I recently downloaded an app on my android phone (I think they also have one for iphone?) called the GOOB alarm clock (Get Out Of Bed). If your phone is connected to a wi-fi connection at home (as mine is), you measure how strong the wi-fi signal is in the room with the router, then set an alarm with that level as the cut off.

So, for me, when I am standing next to my router, I get about 45 wi-fi strength showing on the app. In my bedroom, it is more like 30. So I have set my alarm for 40 wi-fi strength. When the alarm goes off, I have to walk my phone to the router to turn the alarm off. Works like a treat!

Guest's picture

Thanks for this article! Putting your alarm clock away from easy reach is an important tip! When it's going off, you'll have to get out of bed! And of course, make it loud!

Guest's picture

Definitely have to try #3. Whenever I can reach my alarm, I just hit the snooze button or shut it off and go right back to bed. Great article & great tips!

Guest's picture
Guest

Trying to use your conscious willpower to achieve what you want is very often the wrong angle to tackle a personal issue, and getting up in the morning is no different. The best way is to just hand it over to your subconscious mind and let it control your body as if is it was a robot in the morning. When the alarm clock rings, don't think, don't debate wheter you have time to snooze 5 minutes (more often than not it's not going to be only 5 minutes if you do) just let your suibconsious mind raise you out of bed, into the bathroom turn on the shower and once your in the shower you can allow your conscious mind to wake up.

Guest's picture
Guest

The thing is that I have no reason at all to wake up in the morning, I need something fun that balance my will to go out or something, I just need a fruker reason so I can have some joy in the 8 or 11 hours, It's not mainly caused by laziness, for example I have a game that I have waited for in half a year or more, so I get all excited and ready as soon as I wake up, but for example health caring in the morning is just not my thing at all

Guest's picture
Jane

The drinking water as soon as I wake up does it for me, I also drink plenty of water before I go to sleep.

Guest's picture
Guest

None of these work for me. I have the light alarm clock, I have one across the room and I have one on my phone. I even tried to the iPhone shaking one which I realized I could just turn off. Getting up does not wake me up. I get up to pee but can fall right back asleep. If I don't "sleep", I just don't want to get up.

I just actually ordered smelling salts as a last resort since I'm close to losing a great job that supports my son and I. I don't know what else to do. I have been prescribed Adderall which I would take an hour before I needed to get up but I can even sleep through that. Don't tell me it's depression either because I'm on meds for that now too.