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How to Wake Up and Feel Good As Soon As Possible

It’s normal not to feel your best the moment you open your eyes. Read on for tips on how to wake up and escape your grogginess zone ASAP.
15 MINS

Waking up early in the morning isn't everyone's favorite thing to do — except for the morning people, maybe. Many of us, though, can probably relate to hitting snooze rather than getting right out of bed.

But rise and shine doesn't have to be the start of an ultra-sleepy morning routine. While it's true that we can't wake up and feel amazing immediately, there are things you can do to jumpstart your body and feel human ASAP.

Below, we look at proven tips on how to wake up, as well as the two cornerstones of waking up well, feeling good, and having energy throughout the day — sleep debt and circadian rhythm.

Misleading Ads Overlook Sleep Inertia

If you've heard of sleep inertia, you know it's impossible to wake up in the morning and instantly feel good. Unlike some ads proclaim, we don't jump out of bed brimming with energy.

Instead, your body undergoes sleep inertia the moment you wake up. It's an integral aspect of your sleep cycle, thanks to the lingering effects of adenosine (a chemical in your brain that induces drowsiness).

Morning sleep inertia is a period of sleepiness and reduced cognition. In the RISE app, we call it your "grogginess zone.”

Don't Do Important Work In the First 90 Minutes

Morning sleep inertia is invariably linked to low energy levels, which can last up to 90 minutes. That's why RISE offers a sleep quality check-in 1.5 hours after you’ve woken up. It’s a more accurate estimate of how you're feeling that day.

Since sleep inertia is synonymous with poor decision-making, cognition, and performance, we recommend putting off your most important work until you're clear of the grogginess zone. Try not to schedule vital tasks that require peak cognitive functioning during this window of time, say a job interview or an important conversation with a loved one.

If scheduling your workday isn't within your control, wake up earlier than usual to give your brain enough time to get up to speed. Set your alarm clock at least 90 minutes before the task. To compensate for the new wake-up time and not build up sleep debt, go to bed earlier the night before or bring forward that day's bedtime routine. Short afternoon naps also help pay down your sleep debt and counter daytime sleepiness.

Everyone Experiences Sleep Inertia When Waking Up

The truth about sleep inertia is, it's an inescapable part of the human sleep cycle and happens to everyone.

You should also know sleep inertia will manifest no matter if you’ve had enough sleep or not. Whether last night was your best sleep ever or you’ve woken up several times in the middle of the night, you’ll likely still feel groggy in the morning.

Of course, sleep inertia won't be as intense if you have low sleep debt as when you’re sleep-deprived.

How to Wake Up and Feel Good, Even With Sleep Inertia

How to wake up: A person reaches their arms into the air while under the covers in bed

Morning sleep inertia may be inevitable, but there are ways to minimize it. Below, learn the techniques for how to wake up in a way that sets you up for a productive day.

Resist Sleeping In Too Much

Let it be said that not hitting snooze when you really want to is one of the hardest things in life. Yet, that act of self-discipline pays off when you want to wake up and feel good as quickly as possible.

Drockling — repeated hitting of the snooze button — encourages sleep fragmentation and increases daytime sleepiness. Instead of kicking off the heavy cover of sleep inertia, you may be intensifying and prolonging its effects.

Rather than give in to the urge to snooze, we recommend placing your alarm clock far from your bed, preferably at the other end of the room. This encourages you to get out of bed in the morning when it goes off.

Science also shows replacing the conventional beep with melodic sounds may help reduce sleep inertia to wake up better.

Still, it's important to pay down your sleep debt when you can. RISE calculates the exact amount of sleep your body needs, which varies from person to person thanks to your unique biology. Catch up on lost sleep by going to bed earlier. If that’s not doable, sleep in on your weekends and days off. As long as you wake up within an hour of your regular wake time, you'll still be keeping your circadian rhythm steady for better sleep overall. 

The takeaway here is to use your best judgment based on how much sleep debt you currently carry and how you feel during the day.

Let In Bright Light

Bright light — natural light is best — signals to your internal clock that it's time to wake up in the morning. Exposure to sunlight suppresses melatonin production, making you less sleepy in the morning.

Plus, warm sunshine gently raises your core body temperature, which is another circadian cue to wake up.

Lastly, bright light boosts your body's concentrations of cortisol (a hormone that encourages alertness) and serotonin (a neurotransmitter that regulates mood and will later convert to melatonin when sleep is needed). This infuses you with feel-good vibes to start your day on a positive note.

P.S. — If sunlight isn't available when you wake up, research shows artificial dawn light significantly downplays sleep inertia.

Drink Coffee at the Right Time

If you Google "how to wake up," caffeine almost always pops up in the search results. But is there any truth to it?

According to science, caffeine blocks the adenosine receptors in your brain and protects you from the worst of sleep inertia. So yes, a cup of coffee (or two) helps you wake up as quickly as your biology allows.

Unfortunately, caffeine also has long-lasting effects as it stays in your system for up to 10 hours. RISE's Limit Caffeine reminder helps you track how late you should stop drinking coffee to prevent it from disrupting your sleep routine.

Work Out

Regular exercise doesn’t just keep your body fit and healthy; it also diminishes sleep inertia to wake you up more quickly. In fact, research indicates exercise is an important circadian cue to fine-tune your internal clock. Plus, working up a sweat is the best way to increase your body temperature and shake off the last of the grogginess.

Pro Tip: Combine your workout with sunlight to get the best of both circadian cues. Go for a morning stroll outside or relocate your exercise mat to the backyard.

Shower in Cold Water

Another option to help you wake up in the morning is to take a cold shower.

Scientific literature indicates cold water spikes your heart rate, blood pressure, and metabolism to wake up your cells. A small study also discovered that cold water has anti-depressive abilities to put you in a better mood.

Pro Tip: If you aren't up to dunking your body under freezing cold water first thing in the morning, splash some on your face instead.

Wake-Up Cornerstones: Sleep Debt and Circadian Alignment

How to wake up: A screenshot of the sleep debt breakdown in the RISE app
The RISE app will show you the amount of sleep debt you have.

Now, let's take a closer look at how sleep debt and circadian rhythm independently — and synergistically — influence your wake-up and feel-good process.

Keep Your Sleep Debt in Check

Sleep debt directly relates to sleep inertia, and ultimately, your ability to wake up in the morning and feel great as soon as humanly possible.

Your sleep debt is a running total of how many hours of sleep you've missed relative to your sleep need over the past 14 days. To better explain sleep debt's influence on your morning routine, we'll use the following scenario of what happens during high sleep debt.

High sleep debt worsens sleep inertia. Not only is it more difficult for you to wake up in the morning, but you may also feel groggier for longer. The negative impacts of high sleep debt also extend to the rest of the day — your energy dips feel more profound, contributing to reduced productivity and increased moodiness.

To feel as good as you can in the morning (and throughout the day), keep your sleep debt low. RISE clues you in on your running sleep debt to ensure you're getting the right amount of sleep each night.

Besides getting enough shut-eye, a consistent sleep schedule is also integral to minimizing sleep debt. This is where your circadian rhythm comes into the spotlight.

Circadian Alignment Is Key

Your circadian rhythm influences your chronotype, sleep habits, and energy fluctuations, all of which majorly contribute to how you feel when you wake up.

Think of your circadian rhythm as an internal clock that tells you when to sleep and when to wake up. In other words, it determines your chronotype — whether you’re a morning person, a night owl, or somewhere in between.

Work, school, and other societal demands are common disruptors of our natural circadian rhythm, resulting in circadian misalignment. Late sleep times and early wake times inevitably raise your sleep debt to unhealthy levels.

Inconsistent bed and wake times — coupled with modern stressors and prolonged light exposure — throw your dim light melatonin onset (DLMO) off-balance. The DLMO indicates the start of your Melatonin Window, which is when your brain secretes peak levels of the hormone melatonin to promote sleep, making it the best time for you to go to bed. Missing or shifting your DLMO means you have less melatonin to work with, which increases sleep latency and fragmentation, making it harder for you to fall asleep and stay asleep. As a result, you accumulate more sleep debt. Eventually, your physical health and psychological wellness also deteriorate.

Going against your biological clock and inborn sleeping preferences ultimately makes you feel more tired than if you had adhered to them. After all, your circadian rhythm dictates how much energy you have and when you have energy during the day.

The solution: Work with your circadian rhythm and chronotype to avoid circadian misalignment, and keep sleep debt low. In other words, try to sleep when your body tells you to. A consistent sleep schedule is key to circadian alignment. If you're new to the concept of circadian rhythm, you may not know how to track your optimum sleep and wake-up times. This is where RISE comes in handy.

How to Wake Up Better With RISE

A screenshot of the Melatonin Window in the RISE app
The RISE app will tell you the time of your Melatonin Window each day, and you can even receive a reminder.

RISE uses science-based research, recent sleep-wake times, and daily activities to estimate your personal Melatonin Window.

How it works:

  • Look for “Melatonin Window” in the Energy tab. It will show you the window of time when your body produces optimal melatonin to help you fall asleep and stay asleep.
  • Aim to hit the sack at the start of this window to align with your body’s circadian rhythm. Since it’s your Melatonin Window, you’re primed to fall asleep faster and have more restful slumber to reduce sleep debt.
  • To make your entry into dreamland more seamless, carry out your wind-down routine 1-2 hours before bed. Slowing down your mind and relaxing your body sets you up for more sleep success. 
  • Next, plan your wake-up time according to your Melatonin Window and sleep need with a sufficient buffer against sleep latency and fragmentation (if possible). For instance, let’s say RISE has calculated your sleep need as 8 hours. If your Melatonin Window is between 10:30 p.m. and 11:30 p.m., and you estimate you’ll need a buffer of 30-60 minutes, add your sleep need to this timing, so your alarm rings at 7:30 a.m. the next day.

Sleep Better to Wake Up on the Right Side of the Bed

Once you’ve learned how to wake up and feel good as soon as you can, you’re all set to take on the day with your most energetic self. It all starts with the two laws of sleep: managing sleep debt and playing by the rules of circadian alignment. Follow the tips and tricks throughout this guide for better sleep tonight and more energy tomorrow.

When in doubt, RISE is there to illuminate every step of your way.

Sleep better. Sell more.

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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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