How to Get More Sleep and Wake Up Refreshed

Breena Fain

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Have you been wondering how to wake up feeling refreshed? Picture it – the sun drenched bedroom, beams of soft light pouring in, and the faint sound of birds singing as you gently open your eyes and give a good and long stretch. This seems more like a dream than a way to wake up – save for the coffee and sleeping pill commercials.

No one we know wakes up like this. And if you’re reading this article, it’s likely this image has triggered a slight rage. But before tirelessly chucking your reading device out the window, we have some things that may help you get better sleep and wake up refreshed.

First of all, if you’re having trouble sleeping, you’re not alone. More than a third of Americans do not get the recommended amount of sleep, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Additionally, two out of every 10 Americans suffer from a sleep disorder.

The challenge is that sleep can be so elusive, yet is a central component to our overall well-being. When something so vital to our health slips away from us, it can leave us waking up frustrated, overwhelmed and helpless. Whether you’re dealing with chronic insomnia or battling an unusually stressful period at work, it’s likely you’ve seen a shift in other aspects of your life due to the lack of sleep. Perhaps you’re a bit slower to move at work and a bit faster at instigating arguments.

Although there are many reasons you might not feel rested in the morning, the most common solution is also the simplest – going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, while getting at least eight hours of sleep. This advice can seem painfully obvious, but executing it is quite difficult if you struggle with sleep.

Why it’s important to go to bed and wake up at the same time: 

During a full eight-hour night of sleep, your body spends the first four hours recharging physically, and then spends the last four hours recharging emotionally. So, say you typically go to bed at 11p on the weeknights and sleep for a full 8 hours. In which case, during the hours of 11pm – 3am, your body recharges physically. And between 3am – 7am, your body recharges emotionally.

If that’s your normal cycle, then those times get hardwired into your sleep rhythm. Then, if on Saturday you end up staying out late and don’t get to bed until 1a and then sleep in until 9a getting your full 8 hours. That seems ok, right? Wrong.

You actually just chopped off two hours of physical recharge time from your night. At 3am, your body still switches to emotional recharge time just like it does every other night of the week. You sleep in later, so you get a few extra hours of emotional recharge time, but your body still hasn’t gotten the physical recharge time it needed so you still wake up feeling tired.

To solve this problem, it’s crucial you start small. Building up routines slowly will help you figure out how to wake up feeling refreshed.  It’s going to be a lot harder to tackle based on willpower alone (e.g. setting your alarm for 6am and forcing yourself to get up). Pick one sub-problem that’s the easiest to address first – either going to bed on time or waking up on time – and then the other will fall in line.

Falling asleep faster, and earlier

If you’re falling asleep too late, it’s important to establish a bedtime routine that will help you slowly push your sleep time earlier. To start, figure out what time you need to wake up, then subtract eight hours with a 30-minute buffer. For example, if you need to wake up at 7am, plan on getting into bed to sleep at 10:30pm. If you’re normally falling asleep at midnight, don’t force yourself to follow the new time frame right away – build up to it by working backwards from midnight and slowly push your bedtime earlier in small increments of 15-20 minutes at a time. This slow, progressive momentum is key in creating a long-term solution.

Creating a plan for the hours leading up to your new bedtime is key. Firstly, address head-on what’s keeping you up. Are you getting in bed on time, but continuing to be on your phone or laptop? Are there work-related issues you’re sorting out? Or are you binging on Netflix for several hours before you try and sleep? Or perhaps you finished your day, but you still don’t feel fulfilled? Making note of your current behaviors and emotions is key in making small, incremental changes to more quality rest.

Six Guidelines For Falling Asleep:

Whether it’s staying up late watching Netflix or spiraling about work, it can be difficult to wind down and relax the body before sleep. Here are a few small changes you can make in your routine that will help.

  • Go to bed only when you feel tired
  • Get up and do something if you haven’t fallen asleep in 20 minutes
  • Only use the bedroom for sleep
  • Avoid naps
  • Remove all use of electronics a couple hours before bedtime
  • Read or meditate to ease your body into a restful state

How To Wake Up Feeling Refreshed

“Early to bed, early to rise” isn’t just an empty phrase – waking up earlier puts your body back in in its natural rhythm. It should be one of your biggest considerations when thinking about how to wake up feeling refreshed. However, with the demands of work, family and life, we’ve fallen out of that pattern. Till Roenneberg, a professor at the University of Munich Institute of Medical Psychology, said that the alarm clock is responsible for “social jet lag.” This is referring to the persistent clash between the sleep our bodies need and what our lives demand, like being on time for work. We’ve optimized our sleep patterns for production as opposed to our own circadian rhythm, which is our internal process that regulates the sleep-wake cycle and repeats roughly every 24 hours.

The circadian biological clock is controlled by a part of the brain called the Suprachiasmatic Nucleus (SCN). According to the National Sleep Foundation, when we’re exposed to light in the morning, the SCN prompts our body temperature to rise and our cortisol levels to increase while levels of sleep-inducing hormones like melatonin drop off, rousing us from sleep.

One way to ease this clash and wake up refreshed is to go to bed and get up earlier. Waking up earlier (and not hitting snooze!) can also give you more time to read, meditate, or engage in fulfilling activities before you start your day. The more energy and better mood levels you are in throughout the day will allow you to more easily rest at night.

Four Tips For Waking Up:

One way of waking up refreshed and avoid the repeat snoozing is to insert something between the stimulus of your alarm and going back to sleep, like the following:

  • Drink a glass of water (place it on your night stand before bed)
  • Do an increasing number of push-ups
  • Use a sunrise alarm clock, gradually preparing your body to wake up
  • Turn on a guided meditation

The important thing to know is that poor sleep patterns are temporary for most people. Although it can feel overwhelming now, there are ways to slowly find your way back to equilibrium. No matter where your sleep routine is at it’s possible for you to learn how to wake up feeling refreshed.

No matter what you do to get more sleep, the most important thing to channel is self-compassion. Sleep is not something we can so easily control and the lack of sleep is often a byproduct of another stressor in our lives. In order to address sleeplessness, we must look at the bigger picture. Whether it’s a recent event troubling us, burnout from work, unhealthy eating habits, or an impending decision, sleep will often serve as a wake up call to something deeper. The best way to get to the heart of that problem is with ease and true self-care.

We hope this article has been helpful in your journey to sleeping better and waking up refreshed. If you have other ideas on how to sleep better, please comment below! If you’d like more tips like this, feel free to sign up for our newsletter.

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