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How to Make the Most of Your Grogginess Zone

No one is at their best for 60-90 minutes after waking up. It’s a scientific fact. But with a little effort and know-how, you can easily minimize morning grogginess and boost your day’s overall productivity.
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Do you have a hard time “getting going” in the morning? You’re showered and dressed, coffee in hand, staring at your full email inbox … and yet you just can’t seem to get your brain to boot up?

If this resonates, you’re definitely not alone. Even sellers who bound out of bed first thing and dive head-long into prospect emails aren’t going to be breaking any sales records early in the morning, personal or otherwise. The truth is no one is at their best mentally, emotionally, or physically for the first 60-90 minutes of the day. 

But this doesn’t mean it has to be wasted time. There are a few simple steps you can take to minimize morning grogginess--which will have you feeling game-ready sooner--but we also recommend curbing your expectations for what you can accomplish during this window. Instead of willing yourself to just power through, try using your early mornings to get ahead of to-dos that don’t require you to be at 100%. Not only will this allow early mornings to feel more productive in their own way, but you’ll also be setting yourself up to enter your first energy peak feeling relaxed, distraction-free, and ready to win. 

This is Your Brain on Adenosine

What’s behind this period of morning out-of-it-ness is a chemical in our brains called adenosine, which makes us feel drowsy by design. 

Adenosine consistently builds up during our waking hours, resulting in what’s called “sleep pressure”--the reason you feel sleepier the longer you’re awake. It plays a crucial role in our sleep health, since without this sleep pressure we’d never feel inclined to hit the sack. Our bodies flush the built-up adenosine over the course of our night’s sleep, but the chemical residue doesn’t just disappear the moment we wake up--it takes a while (about 60-90 minutes for most of us) for the effects to burn off completely. 

Sleep scientists refer to this gradual acclimation to wakefulness as sleep inertia, and more severe cases are aptly called “sleep drunkenness.” In your RISE app, you’ll see we’ve labeled this period as your “grogginess zone.” 

Make Moves to Minimize Grogginess 

While there’s nothing you can do to banish your “grogginess zone” from your life altogether, there are steps you can take to lessen the post-wake up adenosine load. We suggest you:

  • Step into the light. Expose yourself to sunlight (preferably outside, but a window will do) for 15-20 minutes as soon as you wake up. Sunlight signals to your brain that it’s time to be awake and is an easy way to calibrate your biological clock.
  • Drink up. The caffeine in coffee blocks adenosine receptors in your brain and helps mask feelings of grogginess. Be sure to switch to decaf at the right time during the day, though, or you run the risk of disrupting that night’s sleep. Your Rise app can tell you when to nix the caffeine. 
  • Get a move on. While you probably won't set a personal record (PR), the cortisol your body produces during exercise is a highly effective way to counter grogginess. (Bonus points for taking your workout outside!)
  • Keep it consistent. An ever-shifting sleep schedule throws off key hormonal processes in your brain, which can result in a serious misalignment of your biological clock. The effects of this are not unlike jetlag, making it difficult both to fall asleep and wake up in the morning.
  • Get those zzz’s. When we don’t meet our sleep need, our bodies don’t have enough time to complete the nightly adenosine flush, which amplifies our grogginess zone bigtime. A foolproof way to minimize your morning grogginess is to keep your sleep debt low, plain and simple. 

Make Your Grogginess Zone Work for You

It’s important to recognize that even if you’re able to reduce feelings of grogginess, you’re still not going to be on top of your game right after you wake up. But just as with your afternoon dip, there’s plenty you can still tackle when you’re not operating at full capacity--you just need to plan ahead and schedule your days with these periods in mind. 

You don’t want to be delivering a potentially career-making pitch first thing in the morning, but you can take care of routine tasks that, once completed, will make you feel more calm and capable going into your workday. And in this way you’ll also be preserving your two daily energy peaks for your most high-stakes work. 

Here are our suggestions for making the most of your grogginess zone:

  • Reserve this time for chores and other household to-dos. You don’t need to be a mental superhero to get dishes put away, lunches prepped, laundry folded, etc.
  • If your schedule permits, use this time for a workout. Exercise not only combats morning grogginess, it also gives you an added boost of energy at the start of your day. Consider turning your living room into a makeshift gym equipped with dumbbells, resistance bands or even an instructor-led workout class via Zoom. And you’ll sleep better at night with regular exercise, which will help minimize grogginess even further.
  • Pro tip: Use the back half of your grogginess zone to plan out the workday ahead. Put together your to-do list and make sure you’ve got what you need to get those to-dos done. This way you won’t be wasting your precious peaks planning, and will instead be using these potent periods actually accomplishing things. For maximum productivity, time it so you’re finishing this up just as your first peak hits. (Give this ramp-up a try 2-3 days this week and we suspect you’ll see a measurable increase in personal performance come week’s end!)

Maintain a Buffer Between Waking and Working 

One final note: With so many of us working from home right now, there’s more flexibility to our sleep and wake times than ever before. While this can be a good thing, it also means there’s less of a built-in buffer between waking up and getting to work. Since we no longer need to set aside time in the a.m. for ironing our shirts, doing our make-up, getting the kids out the door, commuting, etc., it can be tempting to opt for a few extra zzz’s when the opportunity arises.

But as alluring as a weekday sleep-in might be, we promise it’s not worth it. We strongly recommend regularly waking up at least an hour (though 90 minutes is ideal) in advance of go-time so you’ll be “clocking in” just as you’re cresting your first peak. And keep in mind that this means pursuing a consistent early bedtime, as well, so you’re not accruing productivity-sabotaging sleep debt in the process.

→ RISE uses your sleep data to predict the time and duration of your grogginess zone each morning. Consult the app as soon as you wake up so you can start planning your day with confidence.

energy-schedule-grogginess-zone
Tap the Energy tab to see your Grogginess Zone shaded in purple. Then tap the purple box for more information like time of zone relative to yesterday, duration and suggestions on how to make the most of this time.

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About Rise
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.

Rise Science is backed by True Ventures, Freestyle Capital, and High Alpha; investors behind category winners Fitbit, Peloton, and Salesforce Marketing Cloud.

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