Strategy No. 1: Work With Your Sleep Cycle
The Method: Use a sleep-tracking app like Sleep Cycle, so your alarm will know how to wake you during as light a stage of sleep as possible.
The Philosophy: The REM (rapid eye movement) stage of sleep is the deepest, and thus the hardest, from which to be awoken. Sleep Cycle uses your phone's microphone to listen in on your tossing and turning, analyzing the quality of your sleep over the course of the night. Then, come morning, it can ease you awake at the best possible moment during your designated 30-minute window.
Does it work?
The Experiment: The first time I used Sleep Cycle, I woke up in shock because it seemed I had managed to wake up at 6:30 a.m. feeling...refreshed? The app's tracking was startlingly accurate, allowing the alarm to go off at the perfect moment, and waking me up in the least jarring and most effective way.
The Takeaway: Far too often I fail to wake up because my alarm goes off while I'm in the midst of a dream, and in my foggy state, I instinctively press snooze. With Sleep Cycle, that's no longer an issue, making for a much smoother awakening.
Strategy No. 2: Get Physical
The Method: Sign up for a fitness class with a strict cancellation policy, e.g., one that automatically deducts money from your account if you sleep through class.
The Philosophy: This strategy is twofold. Creating a routine that adds a price to sleeping in makes it much harder to justify hitting the snooze button. Plus, getting into the habit of working out early in the day will get your body accustomed to feeling energized in the morning.
Does it work?
The Experiment: When I signed up for a 7:30 a.m. barre class, I wondered what I was getting myself into. When faced with the potential of losing $15 over a class cancellation, I dragged myself out of bed, onto the subway, and into class. After a good workout session involving just the right ratio of Justin Bieber to hand weights, I felt pretty good about myself, and notably awake (even if I did briefly fall asleep on the train on the way to class).
The Takeaway: If you don't enjoy throwing money away, signing up for a class is a pretty solid way to guarantee you'll get out of bed. That said, this strategy does require spending some money upfront, so it may not be feasible for everyone. If you want to start waking up early to go to the gym, consider recruiting a friend to become your workout buddy—that way, you can hold each other accountable.
Strategy No. 3: Optimize Your Sleep
The Method: Take a sleep aid like melatonin to help you fall asleep earlier.
The Philosophy: If you can manage to get eight (or even seven) hours of sleep, your body won't fight to stay in bed longer, desperately clinging on to those last moments of coziness.
Does it work?
The Experiment: A lifetime of night-owl behavior and a job requiring a lot of computer screen interaction has contributed to my struggle with insomnia. But with a little bit of melatonin taken 30 minutes before my desired bedtime, I've been able to fall asleep before midnight. The additional hour of sleep really does make me feel significantly better in the morning.
The Takeaway: Sleep is important, and there's nothing wrong with getting a little help to fall asleep more quickly. Your morning self will thank you.
Strategy No. 4: Force Yourself Out of Bed
The Method: Place your alarm far from your bed so you can't simply press snooze when you're half-asleep.
The Philosophy: Once you're forced out of bed, you're less likely to get back in it.
Does it work?
The Experiment: Putting some distance between my phone and my bed was a challenge, because it meant I could no longer impulse-check Snapchat whenever I had a minor bout of insomnia—but less screen time actually made it much easier to fall asleep. Plus, being forced to walk over to my phone to turn off my alarm forced me to mentally acknowledge that it was wake-up time. Hitting snooze is usually an unconscious act for me, but if I'm awake enough to leave my bed, I'm awake enough to recognize that hitting snooze is a bad idea.
The Takeaway: This morning tactic is as mental as it is physical. It is easy to go back to bed after standing up to turn off your alarm—but you just can't let yourself do it. If you simply can't summon the mental fortitude to stay out of bed, it's probably advisable to add an automatic coffee-maker to your routine, so you can have a cup brewing the instant you rise.
Strategy No. 5: Create the Right Environment
The Method: Trade your blackout curtains for ones that will let some morning light in, and make staying in bed less irresistible. Lay out a sweatshirt near your bed so you don't have to rely on your covers for warmth, make your bed every day, and turn on your light ASAP.
The Philosophy: An unmade bed is more tempting to fall back into than a made bed. When you limit the number of temptations to continue sleeping, starting the day becomes much more doable.
Does it work?
The Experiment: This tactic is all about developing the right morning mindset. I used my Sleep Cycle alarm to wake up early, and prevented myself from drifting back to sleep by turning on my light, making my bed, and washing my face. I also swapped out my warm-toned light bulbs for cool bulbs that mimic natural light, so it feels like daytime even before the sun has fully risen in the morning, making it easier to get my day started.
The Takeaway: Consider this strategy a second defense to prevent yourself from going back to bed after waking up early. Becoming a morning person takes some work—and that means holding yourself responsible for sticking to your new habits