The Surprising Thing That Makes Getting Out of Bed Easier

Getting out of bed can be hard. We’ll share tips to get out of the grogginess zone quicker and tell you how your sleep debt and circadian rhythm play a role.
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Jeff Kahn, M.S., Rise Science Co-Founder
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Person thinking about getting out of bed in the morning

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. 

It's Normal to Feel Groggy After Getting Out of Bed

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.  

How to Spend Less Time in the Grogginess Zone

getting out of bed: Woman sitting on the floor while tying her shoes

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.

  • See the light: Exposing yourself to sunlight soon after you get up in the morning (preferably outdoors but a window works, too) can help calibrate your body’s internal clock, signaling the end of the sleep phase and the beginning of your waking hours. You’ll also be setting yourself up for restful sleep at the end of the day. When you expose your skin and eyes to sunlight soon after waking, it can help increase your body’s production of serotonin, a precursor to the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin. About 12 hours later, the serotonin gets converted into melatonin to help promote better sleep at night. 
  • Drink it in: Start your day with a glass of water. After eight hours of sleep, the body can get pretty dehydrated, which can make it difficult to focus and think clearly. Drinking water can help you feel more alert and energized. And if you find that a morning cup of coffee or tea helps kickstart your day, you’ll be happy to know that its energetic benefits are backed by science. Caffeine blocks adenosine receptors in your brain, helping accelerate your escape from the grogginess zone.  
  • Move that body: If you need a good reason to make exercise a part of your morning routine, here are two. The energy-boosting benefits of exercise endorphins can help you shift into wake mode more quickly, and regular exercise can help you sleep better at night.
  • Aim for consistency: An erratic sleep schedule can throw off your circadian rhythm, the internal body clock that dictates when you sleep and when you are awake during roughly 24-hour cycles. When you don’t have a consistent bedtime and wake time, it can be harder to get out of bed in the morning. So do your best to stick to a regular sleep schedule that aligns with your circadian rhythm (more on this later).
  • Get to sleep: To get the complete adenosine flush your brain needs each night, it’s crucial to meet your body’s sleep need. Because not getting enough sleep can amplify the effects of sleep inertia, the most important thing you can do for better mornings is to keep your sleep debt low.  

What Is Sleep Debt, and Why Does It Matter?

getting out of bed: Man looking at his alarm clock while lying in bed

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.

Develop a Sleep-Friendly Evening Routine

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.)

  • Remove as much light as you can — especially bright light and blue light — 90 minutes before your target bedtime. Blue light can prevent your body from producing the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin, which will make it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep. When you can’t avoid blue light, a pair of blue-light blocking glasses is the next best thing.
  • In the hours before bed, avoid alcohol, caffeine, late-night snacking, and excessive hydrating — all known sleep disruptors. (The RISE app will tell you exactly when to start limiting caffeine and alcohol during the day.)
  • Institute a wind-down routine at the end of the night that relaxes your body before bed. Have a cup of tea, take a warm bath or shower, listen to calming music, or read a chapter of a novel.
  • Make your bedroom a sleep sanctuary. Keep it cool (65-68 degrees), keep it dark (use blackout curtains and an eye mask), and keep it quiet (a white noise machine or earplugs can help).

Get to Know Your Circadian Rhythm and Chronotype

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. 

Get the Sleep You Need to Win the Day

Smiling woman holding a cup of coffee while sitting on the couch

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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Rise is the only app that unlocks the real-world benefits of better sleep.

Instead of just promising a better night, we use 100 years of sleep science to help you pay down sleep debt and take advantage of your circadian rhythm to be your best.

Over the past decade, we've helped professional athletes, startups, and Fortune 500s improve their sleep to measurably win more in the real-world scenarios that matter most.

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