I have always fought mornings, for as long as I can remember. They are just. not. fun. It is not exactly a lack of sleep thing and it doesn’t seem to matter what time I go to bed. Me and mornings just do not get each other.
My brain knows that once I get up and get moving, I will be awake and not feel so awful. It also knows that I will be more motivated, more productive, and have a better day from start to end. But, apparently, in those moments when my alarm is sounding, my brain is also unable to accept that a new day has started.
1. Track your sleep quality
Without signing up to for a full-fledged sleep study, there is little in qualitative data that you can collect to study your own sleep. There are a number of smartphone apps which lay claim to the ability to track your sleep quality and show you pretty graphs depicting your different stages of sleep, but I would caution you against relying on this data.
Keep a journal of your sleep habits.
For at least 30 days, record the time that you go to bed each night and the time that you wake the following morning. I would also record how I felt when I woke up and how many times I hit the snooze button.
2. Set a strict bedtime and stick to it.
Support your body’s need for routine. We usually think about bedtimes in relation to raising small kids. Toddlers thrive on set routines like reading a story every night at bedtime or putting the bath toys up after the water drains from the tub. There is good reason for that, our brains crave structure. As adults, our routines evolve with our interests and age, but our need for the structure of routines remains consistent.
Create a relaxing bedtime routine.
It can be hard to let go of the day and admit that it is time for bed. This is where time schedules come in very handy. Admittedly, I do not do very well at shutting down and going to bed on time. But, it is something that I want to work on more this year. Most doctor’s and sleep study professionals advise that you power down television and electronics at least one full hour before going to bed. You can use that extra time to implement a relaxing, wind-down-to-bed routine.
3. Understand sleep cycles and use that to your advantage.
Even though I have always struggled to get decent quality sleep, and probably wake groggy and disoriented about 90% of the time, there is a distinct difference when I happen to wake at the right time between sleep cycles. For unexplained reasons, about 10% of the time, I can wake up (usually well before my alarm is set) and feel great after much less sleep than what it normally takes.
Try an app like Sleep Cycles for your phone as an alternative alarm clock.
I have only been using this app for a little less than a week, but so far, I think the reviews are spot-on. I understand that the ‘data’ provided by the app based on how it tracks your sleeping habits is not solely reliable as the phone cannot actually tell the difference between sleeping time and awake time and is just using information logged on your movements to guess at this information. But, even after only a few days, I have been consistently waking easier. Whether it is the placebo effect, or there is really a distinct benefit to waking up at the right time between cycles. It is definitely working for me.
Most professionals who study sleep behaviors and the phenomenon of sleep inertia do not support the validity of apps like Sleep Cycle despite the overwhelming positive reviews by users. Those in the field of sleep study generally regard this as the placebo effect. I personally feel like there is a little more to it. I think if it was just the placebo effect, it wouldn’t work for so many people.
4. Consider how non-sleep related activities may be negatively impacting your sleep quality
If you are like me and have problems either sleeping, or with sleep inertia, you have probably already cut the obvious stimulates, like don’t have a cup of coffee an hour before bed. But, there are probably factors that are affecting your sleep that you haven’t even linked to sleep.
Actively work to calm your stress.
I am a generally anxious person, and even though I don’t tend to lay awake with racing thoughts, the amount of unmanaged stress in my life does directly affect the quality of my sleep and how often I wake throughout the night. Try self meditation, aromatherapy or any other technique that you find calming in that hour before bedtime to calm your stress.
Check your eating habits. Not just what you eat, but how often and when.
Eating too much or too late means that your body is still working hard to digest your dinner and likely will not be able to focus on attaining good quality sleep. The same goes for not eating enough before bed, hunger can keep you up or make you wake at odd times as well.
5. Make sure your nutritional needs are being met.
Some studies suggest that deficiencies in magnesium or vitamin D negatively impact sleep quality. I have struggled with chronic fatigue and horrible sleep inertia for a long, long time. Although my overall eating habits are mostly healthy, I am becoming more aware every single day, exactly how much nutritional deficiencies can show up in different areas.
Low vitamin D levels have been linked to excessive daytime sleepiness.
Although this information is relatively new, and there has only been a few studies showing the correlation, there are two important relationships to consider. The first is that during another separate sleep study, it was found that 84% of the 173 participants were coincidentally deficient in Vitamin D.
Based on that finding, the second notable thing occurred, a sub-study was done with the same patients. In this sub-study, those that were low on vitamin D levels were given a supplement. It was noted that a significant number of those with the deficiency saw a complete resolution of sleep problems after correcting the deficiency.
Balance magnesium, sodium and potassium intake.
It is generally advised that it is rare to deficient in magnesium. However, at the same time, there has been an increase in reported cases of magnesium deficiency. The University of Maryland Medical Center suggests that if you have any number of common health conditions, you may not be utilizing enough magnesium, leading to a deficiency. There are also another group of alternative health practitioners pushing magnesium supplements as a sleep aid. 10 Powerful Reasons to Eat More Bananas