Sleep is an essential activity — the body needs a certain amount to function. But some people have difficulty waking up, even when they get the recommended amount of sleep.
Many people use caffeine in coffee, tea, and energy drinks to wake them up. However, this can cause people to consume too much throughout the day, leading to adverse health effects.
Instead of relying on one way to wake up, it is important to consider the various factors that can influence sleep and alertness and try some other strategies. Below, we describe 10 tips for waking up.
To wake up refreshed, get the recommended amount of sleep. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine and Sleep Research Society recommend that adults get at least 7 hours of sleep regularly to promote and maintain health.
They also note that younger adults, individuals recovering from sleep deficit, and those with illnesses may require 9 or more hours of sleep per night.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), just over 35% of adults get fewer than 7 hours of sleep a night. The prevalence was the same among males and females, while adults between the ages of 45 and 54 reported getting less sleep than people in other age groups.
A study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health explored the effects of screen time on adolescents’ sleep.
The researchers found that adolescents who reported being awakened by calls or notifications on their phones were between three and five times more likely to develop sleep problems than peers who were not awakened by their phones.
Participants also reported more difficulty falling asleep when exposed to screens before bedtime. Overall, the researchers consistently found that using a phone before bed increased the risk of developing sleep problems.
Further research involving children and adolescents also found that exposure to media screens was associated with shorter total sleep time and a delay in falling asleep. These conclusions were based on evidence from more than five dozen studies from around the world.
The researchers advise parents to promote sleep-friendly screen behavior by restricting exposure to digital media at least 1 hour before bedtime.
Researchers have also made similar observations in adults. One study, for example, found that adults who reported longer average screen times were more likely to have shorter sleep duration and worse sleep efficiency.
For children and adults, it can help to:
- limit exposure to screens before bedtime
- make sure screened devices are fully off before bed
- store these devices outside of the bedroom
Another technique that may help a person wake up is to practice yoga regularly.
Doctors have documented two cases in which people with chronic insomnia practiced yoga for 1 month and found that they slept better. The team reported that this intervention improved:
- the amount of time it took to fall asleep
- the total amount of sleep
- the amount of time it took to wake up
However, determining how yoga may have had these effects will require further research.
Also, practicing yoga regularly in the morning may have beneficial effects on mental health. Improved mental health and lower stress levels can lead to better sleep and, in turn, make it easier to wake up.
Additionally, some people feel more alert after stretching and strengthening their muscles, and doing so in the mornings may help with waking up.
Evidence suggests that regular exercise improves sleep quality, the ability to wake up easily, and alertness during waking hours.
People with conditions such as sleep-disordered breathing and obstructive sleep apnea, for example, may sleep better if they engage in daily physical activity.
Researchers must conduct further, larger-scale studies to confirm these findings and answer additional questions, such as:
- Which types of exercise can improve sleep and alertness?
- What duration of an exercise session will have these benefits?
- Does the timing of exercise play a role?
An article published in the Journal of Circadian Rhythms reports that the sleep-wake cycle in mammals is influenced by the physical activity of the muscles and that exercise can stimulate the genes that control this cycle.
However, determining exactly how physical activity affects the sleep-wake cycle — and which forms of activity may be best — will require further research.
A short workout with gentle, tension-releasing stretches and energizing moves, such as squats, could help stimulate the muscles and help a person feel more alert.
The balance of nutrients also impacts the sleep-wake cycle.
In animal studies, researchers have found that feeding times can have this effect, as the genes that influence the digestion of carbohydrates are most active at the beginning of the wake cycle.
The same authors report that when mice followed a strict daily feeding schedule, correspondingly timed behavioral and physiological patterns occurred.
Some nutrients have greater effects on the cycle than others. While carbohydrates can stimulate the genes associated with the sleep-wake cycle in some cells, amino acids from proteins tend to slow down the activation of circadian rhythm genes in the liver.
Nutrients’ effects on the sleep-wake cycle are still under investigation. At present, it seems that people may feel more alert after their first meal, providing that it contains the right nutrients.
Ambient temperature also influences the sleep-wake cycle, according to studies in mice, though the team found that the effects of temperature were lesser than those of light-dark cues. The researchers reported that the mice were more active in colder temperatures.
Meanwhile, research in humans indicates that cold water immersion causes physiological changes in the body associated with increased alertness. These include:
- increased heart rate
- increased blood pressure
- increased respiration
The sleep-wake cycle responds to changes in light, and morning sun exposure can help people feel more alert.
For people who need to wake up before sunrise, sources of artificial light — including light boxes and some wearable devices — can help prompt alertness. Doctors typically recommend these devices to people living with circadian rhythm disorders.
The brightness of a light source is measured in lux. The sun provides about 100,000 lux on a cloudless day and about 1,000 lux on a rainy day. Indoors, people are exposed to about 100–200 lux, but in the evenings, this can drop to about 40 lux.
A bright light box may expose a person to 3,000–10,000 lux, depending on how far they are standing from the box.
A doctor can make specific recommendations about light box use, and it is also key to follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
Having a consistent sleep routine is key for maintaining health and waking up refreshed. Try to get to sleep and wake up at the same times every day, including during weekends and vacations.
Many of the body’s processes may contribute to the sleep-wake cycle, and having a routine for other aspects of life may help support a consistent sleep pattern. These aspects may include eating and drinking and taking medications.
Indeed, small adjustments to a daily routine may influence the sleep-wake cycle.
Caffeine is present in coffee, teas, chocolate, soft drinks, and in pill form. It can temporarily block factors that promote sleepiness.
According to the Sleep Foundation, people can feel the effects of caffeine within 15 minutes of consuming it, and the effects can persist for up to 6 hours.
Doctors recommend limiting the intake of caffeine to 250 milligrams per day — which translates to about three 8-ounce cups of coffee. When determining the daily intake, it is important to consider all the possible sources of caffeine in the diet.
Caffeine should never compensate for sleep, and it can have negative health effects. Read about them here.
If a person has tried the strategies above and is still experiencing poor sleep quality or having difficulty waking up after adequate sleep, they may benefit from seeing a doctor.
They may have an underlying sleep disorder. Also, other conditions, such as depression, can reduce alertness. These issues require medical attention.
To wake up feeling refreshed, it is important to get an adequate amount of sleep.
While many people use caffeine to help them wake up, too much caffeine can be dangerous, and other strategies may be more healthful and effective, including trying light therapy, limiting screen time before bed, and getting enough exercise, which may involve yoga.
If these methods of improving both alertness and sleep quality are not effective, it is a good idea to consult a healthcare provider. An underlying sleep disorder or another condition may be involved.