Waking up early doesn’t have to be miserable

Alarm clock - Wake up
Image credit; YVdavyd & Zomorsky/Envato Elements; NP/Grateful

If there’s one thing that everyone can agree to hate, it’s the alarm clock. Whether you press snooze 80 times or slide slooowly out of bed, hearing your alarm go off is not a pleasant experience. The earlier you have to wake up, the harder it is. But believe it or not, getting up early doesn’t have to feel so miserable.

If you need to start getting up up early, you’ve got to work backward: not with the moment that you wake up, but with the moment that you go to sleep. These tried-and-true tips can help make waking up early actually feel good — without the 80 snoozes.

Go to bed early to wake up early

Sorry, but there’s no way around this bit. The quality of your sleep is directly linked to your level of grogginess — or alertness — when you wake up. You can’t sleep soundly if you’re not even sleeping enough.

A common rule of thumb is that everybody needs eight hours of rest per night, but the truth is, every individual is wired differently. You may need 10 hours to feel truly rested. Or you may be one of those lucky people who can thrive on only a few hours of sleep thanks to a rare genetic mutation.

It’s also worth knowing that, over a lifetime, rest requirements change. In 2015, the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), updated their guidelines for the recommended sleep ranges for people of every age:

Newborns (0-3 months): 14-17 hours
Infants (4-11 months): 12-15 hours
Toddlers (1-2 years): 11-14 hours
Preschoolers (3-5): 10-13 hours
School age children (6-13): 9-11 hours
Teenagers (14-17): 8-10 hours
Younger adults (18-25): 7-9 hours
Adults (26-64): 7-9 hours
Older adults (65+): 7-8 hours

Of course, you know your body best, so: How many hours of sleep do you need to feel rested? That sweet spot where you feel rejuvenated, but not like you’ve slept way too much? Now calculate what time you’d have to go to bed to sleep that many hours. It may be a scary number, like 9 p.m., but going to bed at a ridiculously early hour is completely worth the benefits.

Unwind your mind

Before you go to sleep, it’s important to relax your mind and body in preparation. First things first: Get rid of that screen. Your phone and laptop are notoriously disruptive to your sleep because the artificial light confuses your body’s internal clock. Moreover, we often spend screen time on activities that are anything but relaxing (hello, Instagram).

This probably isn’t the first time you’ve been advised not to be glued to your phone before bed, but the advice may seem impossible to follow. After all, what else is there to do after dinner but watch Netflix and scroll through social media? But simply turning off your phone and laptop one hour before bedtime will make a world of difference for your sleep. If you use your phone as an alarm clock, it’s time to buy a real clock.

MORE: How binge-watching may be affecting your emotional health

In addition to turning off your phone, avoid any stressful or brain-intensive activities. Instead of stressing about work, bills and all of your other life woes for a moment, get started with your bedtime ritual. Speaking of which…

Create a ritual

Cultivating a bedtime ritual is so important. When you engage in the same set of actions every night, your mind comes to associate those actions with sleep time. Simply going through them, then, helps send the signal to your brain that, hey, it’s time to go to sleep.

Your bedtime ritual doesn’t need to be anything elaborate. It can consist of simple activities, like brushing your teeth or changing into your pajamas. It helps to include some relaxing activities, too, to help unwind your brain. Take a hot shower or bath, write a journal entry, enjoy a warm mug of tea, meditate or listen to music, for example.

Add a little sweetness

Relaxation is great, but to really create a soft, gentle mood before bedtime, include an activity in your ritual that’s just for you: a true act of self-love. Maybe you indulge in a fancy skincare ritual, use a jade roller, or comb your hair — whatever makes you feel like you’re being sweet and tender to yourself.

After your ritual is done, set your alarm clock and go to sleep.

MORE: Can diet affect your dreams?

Don’t check your phone immediately in the morning

Now, what about the next morning? Many people tend to roll over and check their phones immediately, sending their brains straight into a stressful state. Between work emails and the 24-hour news cycle, your phone does not set a positive tone for the rest of your day. Moreover, your phone can make it harder to get up, because you’re likely to unintentionally stay in bed for an extra hour, hypnotized by endless scrolling.

Plug in your phone somewhere away from your bed so you won’t be tempted to grab it right after you wake up. Before you touch your phone, go make a pot of coffee, brush your teeth, or turn on some music.

If you need to wake up early, avoid hitting snooze

With all of the above tips, you already should have a much easier time getting up in the morning, which means you won’t feel the need to hit snooze 80 times — maybe just once.

MORE: Sleep & gratitude: How they’re connected

If you’re still having an issue with the snooze button, you still might not be getting enough sleep, or your alarm might be set for the wrong stage of your sleep cycle. Use a smart alarm clock or a sleep tracker app, such as SleepScore or Sleep Cycle, that will wake you up when you’re in a light stage of sleep rather than a deep one. Also try setting your alarm in a place where you’ll actually have to get up to turn it off, making it a little bit harder to slip back into slumber.

If you need a little extra help getting your mornings started, try some brain-boosting bulletproof coffee.