Can I tell you a secret?
Sometimes, I send text messages in the dark.
I’ve gone to bed after midnight because I’ve been really into a Netflix series.
The other night, I ate dessert right before getting into bed.
Sometimes my insomnia symptoms return and I can’t fall asleep, so I lie in bed and play games on my phone.
I’m not perfect. We’re all learning, and we’re all struggling to do everything we’re supposed to, and we’re never going to get it right 100% of the time.
I want to talk about sleep inertia because it affects me on a regular basis, unfortunately, and it’s THE WORST. But it’s also avoidable. Sleep inertia is, in the fancy words of Wikipedia, “a physiological state of impaired cognitive and sensory-motor performance that is present immediately after awakening. It persists during the transition of sleep to wakefulness, where an individual will experience feelings of drowsiness, disorientation and a decline in motor dexterity.”
Pressing the snooze button after waking is an example of sleep inertia at its best. Your body wakes, then goes back to sleep, then wakes, and this cycle repeats until you finally get out of bed. But what you’re doing is sending a ton of mixed signals to yourself and putting your body back into a sleep cycle, then jolting it awake again.
When I finally do get out of bed, I feel so gross, and I see it as my body and my brain going, “Sooo, are we actually going back to sleep or are we awake and partying now? Just cause you pressed snooze twelve times and we’re a little confused.”
The idea of nine more minutes of sleep sounds glorious ...until it isn’t.
As I write in my book, The Calm & Cozy Book of Sleep:
“It’s not worth it. If you have time to go back to sleep, you’re not using your alarm clock for the reason it was intended. Pressing the snooze button is not just prolonging the inevitable, it is making mornings more difficult than they already are.”
I think I was writing that to myself mostly. Maybe half-to-70 percent of my book was written for you. The rest is a reminder to myself. My new year’s resolution for 2021 was to get back into an enjoyable and productive morning routine. The first part of that involves going to bed at a healthy time that allows me to get out of bed easily the next morning.
Let’s go through this plan together...
Step 1: Go to bed at a time when you feel sleepy, not exhausted, and make that your regular bedtime.
Don’t make it a time you think you should be going to bed if you’re not tired enough to fall asleep. If your healthy sleepy bedtime is a bit earlier than you’re used to, try setting an alarm on your phone or smartwatch to remind you that it’s time to start getting ready for bed. I did that for a while. The reminder would buzz at 9:30, telling me to start winding-down for my 10:30 bedtime. It’s too easy to look at the clock and realize you have to be in bed in 5 minutes. Don’t do that to yourself.
Step 2: Set a non-annoying alarm to wake you at the time you need to be out of bed.
If you’re normally a snooze-button-person, allowing yourself extra time to fall back asleep is torturing yourself. If you’re like me and find mornings extra tough, and even if you don’t, try a sunrise alarm clock. They wake you up gradually by slowly increasing the amount of light in the room, so you feel less tired when you finally do wake up. You could also do this by using an alarm that plays music at increasingly louder intervals. Gradual light or sound is always better than a loud jolt of buzzing or flashing. If you’re not a career firefighter, why wake up like one?
Step 3: Turn on a lamp or sit up, or stretch.
Do something that involves moving from your current position. Send the signal to your body that it’s time to get up.
Step 4: Get out of bed.
So, once you’re out of bed, what are you going to do?
Another big part of having an enjoyable morning routine is planning your morning activities so you have something to look forward to. It’s a lot easier to go to bed at a healthy time when you know you’re gonna need energy for the next morning. And if skipping a morning routine that you love is a punishment for making poor choices the night before, you’re hopefully going to learn from them.
If you love a hot cup of coffee or tea first thing, grab your favourite mug and make that a part of your routine. You could read a few pages of a book, or go for a walk, or chat with your partner before the workday-prep-rush begins.
Whatever feels like a nice way to start your day - do that!