Sometimes getting out of bed feels like the hardest thing you’ll do all day. But why is it so difficult, and what can you do to make it a little easier?
For anyone whose alarm clock snooze button is showing signs of wear from overuse, take heart. Help is here. This guide will explain why morning grogginess is normal, how adjusting your sleep schedule can give you more energy during the day, and what else you can do to make the most of your mornings and feel better during the day.
If you think you’re the only person whose bed seems to be subject to extra gravity in the mornings, you’re not. Feeling tired when you wake up is just part of being human. As the body transitions out of sleep, it’s normal to feel the desire to stay in bed or go back to sleep. It’s called sleep inertia.
Biologically speaking, sleep inertia is caused by adenosine, an organic compound that causes feelings of sleepiness. Adenosine builds up in your brain during the day and gets flushed out during sleep. But the chemical residue doesn’t completely disappear the moment you wake up. It can take 60 to 90 minutes for it to dissipate and for its effects to wear off. (In the RISE app, we label this your “grogginess zone.”)
Now that you know feeling groggy upon waking is normal, as a next step, we recommend adjusting your expectations — and your schedule — for what you can accomplish first thing in the morning. Instead of trying to force yourself to hit the ground running by tackling a difficult task or a high-stakes meeting, allow yourself time to ease into the day with productive activities that require less energy and focus. You might create your to-do list, go over your schedule for the day, or check your email. Think of it as getting organized as your body powers up for the day.
Although you can’t avoid sleep inertia entirely, there are things you can do to help your brain shake off its adenosine load a bit more quickly.
Sleep debt is a running total of the hours of sleep you’ve missed over the past 14 days, as compared to the sleep your body needed. (The RISE app uses sleep-science-based models and the past 365 nights of sleep data tracked by your phone to learn your unique sleep biology and calculate your sleep need in hours and minutes.) If feeling excessively tired all morning or for the entire day is becoming the norm for you, high or even a moderate amount of sleep debt could be to blame.
How you feel during the day isn’t just about how much you slept last night. Your sleep debt total (a running tally of sleep loss over the past two weeks) is what actually predicts your daytime energy levels. While last night carries the most weight at 15% (according to the RISE algorithm), your sleep debt is truly a reflection of many nights of sleep — 14 to be exact. It can be liberating to know that it doesn’t all hang on one night. Of course, that also means you won’t be able to fix your sleep debt in one night either.
Since getting to sleep debt zero can be an unrealistic goal for people with busy lives, we recommend aiming to keep your sleep debt at five hours or less. At five hours of sleep debt, most people can still feel and perform at their best, or something close to it.
Many of the things that can help you avoid accumulating excessive sleep debt are the same things (listed above) we recommend for minimizing your time in the morning grogginess zone: a consistent bedtime and wake time, regular exercise, and morning light exposure.
But if you have problems getting out of bed in the morning, don't just think about how to get out of bed. Think about the best way to go to bed at night, too. Crucially, and perhaps counterintuitively, what you do during the day and in the hours before bedtime can impact your ability to get a good night’s sleep — i.e., get the sleep your body needs — and keep your sleep debt low.
Better mornings and days start with practicing good sleep hygiene. Follow the below guidelines to help prepare your body and optimize your sleeping environment. Just remember, that sleep hygiene is about your daytime behaviors too. (You can read more about those in our Sleep Guide.)
The more you can get your sleep schedule in line with your body’s natural circadian rhythm, the better your chances of waking up feeling as good as you can. At Rise, we refer to circadian rhythm as your energy schedule because it predicts the natural peaks and dips you have during each roughly 24-hour cycle. The word “roughly” is important here because the length of your cycle can vary depending on your chronotype.
So, what’s your chronotype? Do you think of yourself as a morning person or an evening person? An early bird or a night owl? Your answers indicate your chronotype or underlying circadian rhythm. If you’re a morning (early) chronotype, your body clock is shorter than 24 hours. If you’re an evening (late) chronotype, your body clock is somewhat longer.
Your chronotype is determined by age and genetics, and your sleep times and associated light exposure are the primary signals to the specific length of your circadian rhythm. The RISE app uses special algorithms and your recent sleep history data to estimate your personal daily energy cycles. It gives you specific windows of time for when to go to bed and wake up that will ensure you meet your sleep need in order to have the best possible next-day energy outcomes.
Any way you slice it, sticking with a consistent bedtime and wake time based on your personal energy schedule — available in the RISE app — is best. Doing that can help you get the sleep you need and keep your sleep debt low, so you can feel as good as possible when you wake up in the morning.
Meeting your sleep need, exercising, hydrating, and getting some sunlight first thing in the morning will help you spend less time in the grogginess zone. The more strategic you can be about what you do in the first 60-90 minutes after waking, the sooner you can get on with the business of winning the day!
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