Four Tips to Wake Up Easier

I have never been a morning person, and rarely bounce out of bed feeling ready to take on the day. In fact, usually I reluctantly stumble out of the bed, desperately wishing I snooze for another 3 or 4 hours!

That said, I've found a couple of things that seem to improve my morning energy levels.

Not surprisingly, the key to waking up effortlessly is getting enough high-quality sleep. There are two components there: quantity and quality. When you get enough good sleep, the waking up part seems to take care of itself, as nature intended.

Here are 4 things that have helped me sleep better, and wake up easier:

1. Sleep in the Dark.
Make sure your room is as close to 100% pitch-black dark as you can get it. Our brains respond to light. Sleeping with too much light can affect our hormone levels and throw us off-balance.

When I moved into my current home, my room was so dark the first night that I literally couldn't see my hand in front of my face. And I slept *amazingly* well. It was an unbelievable experience that really drove home how important complete darkness is for sleep. Unfortunately, that darkness was due to a broken streetlight right outside my window... which was fixed a few days later. With the light fixed, my room brightened considerably, and my sleep worsened.

Today, I have wood blinds on my window AND a light-blocking curtain, to keep the light out. I also use electrical tape over small LEDs, like the one on my cable box, and I throw a towel over any other light sources, such as the display of my DVR. If your alarm clock does not have a dimmable clockface, you need to cover it when you sleep, to block the light. (And honestly, if you're having trouble sleeping, not watching the minutes tick by can help reduce some of the anxiety.)

2. Cut off electronics and bright lights a couple of hours before you go to sleep.

Computers and TVs emit "blue light" (light that is shifted more towards the blue end of the spectrum, as opposed to the red end.) Current thinking is that blue light can make it much harder to fall asleep; it seems to signal to our brain that we should be awake and alert.

I've found that the computer affects my sleep more than the TV. If I try to sleep right after being on the computer, even if it's late (e.g. 2 am), I am guaranteed to have restless, poor sleep. Even more interesting, I've often noticed if I stop using the computer several hours before bedtime, I am more likely to dream! And when I dream, I usually feel much more rested.

So, if you have trouble sleeping well (and waking up), try a couple of nights with no TV, computer, or other bright screens (cell phones, tablets, etc.) for several hours before bedtime. In fact, if you can, use dimmer lights around the house in the late evenings before bed. A lower watt lightbulb, for example, can provide enough "dim light" for you to get around the house, but enough darkness to signal to your brain that it's night, and help you "wind down" for sleep.

3. Plan Your Sleep in 90-minute intervals
When we sleep, we actually cycle through several levels of sleep - starting at a light sleep that gradually deepens, eventually hits bottom, then cycles back up again. Each cycle takes approximately 90 minutes (45 minutes to get into the deepest sleep, and 45 minutes to return to light sleep.)

If you wake up when you're in the deeper states, you're more likely to feel groggy, sleepy, and uncomfortable. Waking up in the lighter states (even with less actual sleep) is easier, and you're more likly to feel awake and energized.

Here's one reason I really like the sunrise alarm clocks. With a window of gradually brightening light, we can naturally wake up when our bodies are ready, within that window. If your clock is brightening over a 30 minute window, and you hit your shallowest sleep stage 10 minutes into that window - you'll wake up then, feeling good. (With a traditional alarm, you would begin going into a deeper sleep, only to be jarred awake 20 minutes later by the alarm.)

4. Nutrition!
What you eat can have a huge influence on how well you sleep.

For the last year or so, I've been experimenting with a "paleo" diet. When I'm able to stick to it, my sleep improves. I wake up feeling well-rested, and don't have a need to linger in bed in the morning. I get up and moving much more easily.

On the other hand, when I'm eating alot of sugars - my sleep goes down the drain. I have trouble falling asleep, I'm restless, and I can't wake up to save my life.

If you're interested in learning more, I can wholeheartedly recommend Mark Sisson's website, "Mark's Daily Apple" and Robb Wolf.

They both have books out as well:
- The Primal Blueprint, by Mark Sisson (Amazon)
- The Paleo Solution, by Robb Wolf (Amazon)

Making changes can be hard. It took me several months to figure out how to get my room dark enough for good sleep, and I still struggle with the nutrition. But, being able to wake up feeling well-rested and energized instead of drained is worth it.

Not sleeping well really drags you down the entire day, can make you crave sugars, struggle with energy and weight-loss, and feel depressed. Improving your sleep is one area that can really make a huge difference in your life, and I hope these tips help you do that!