Let me guess…
You drag yourself out of your warm cocoon every morning, bleary-eyed and miserable, ready for another slog at work.
You know you’ll feel tired all day, and then have no energy to actually do anything fun when evening finally rolls around.
All because you can’t get a decent night’s rest.
I’ve struggled with mornings in the past and finally knew it time to address it to improve the quality of my day.
So in this article, we’ll cover exactly how you can wake up refreshed in a few simple steps.
But first, let’s look at why a good night’s sleep is so vital…
The Importance of Sleep
Many people assume that sleep is a passive process but research shows that some parts of the brain are actually more active during the night.
When sleeping, we’re processing the day and forming new connections in our mind.
Sleep plays a huge roll in our mental and physical health, so if you’re constantly waking up groggy, then the long term effects can be detrimental.
So what are the warning signs of sleep issues?
Warning Signs of Sleep Disturbance
- Inability to fall asleep
- Restlessness in bed
- Waking up during the night
- Sleeping past your alarm
- Low energy or fatigue when waking
- Headaches or physical symptoms in the morning
So if you’re suffering from the above and need to some simple ways to improve your sleep (and morning), let’s get into it.
How to Wake up Feeling Refreshed
Firstly, as with most articles on bloomsoup, my main caveat that I’m by no means a perfect morning person.
While my sleep is pretty good right now thanks to the majority of the following practices, I still have work to do. This list is a great personal reminder for me of things I need to work on to ensure I wake up ready to go.
1. Create a Power Down Routine
To be honest, if you really want to learn how to wake up refreshed, first, you have to become a master of your power down routine.
You see, a good morning really starts the night before.
If you’re ill-prepared before you go to bed, you’ll naturally be playing catch up as soon as you wake up.
Ideally, you should have a ritual that you follow without fail before going to sleep. You see, our brain is really a pattern recognition machine, picking up on cues in our environment.
If our pre-bed routine varies wildly, our brain is unable to identify the necessary cues to power down ready for sleep.
Try to make your process as consistent as possible. For example, brushing your teeth at the same time will allow your brain to associate that action with the start of the ritual.
The rest of this guide will include elements to consider when implementing an effective nightly ritual.
2. Prepare for the Following Day
Waking up tired and groggy isn’t a great feeling, but it’s made even worse when you have to prepare for the coming day…
Especially if they’re tasks you could have pre-planned.
If you need to go to the gym, get you’re clothes and water bottle in your gym bag, ready to go. Prepare your lunch.
One of the reasons we wake up tired is that we’re mentally organising all the annoying life admin we have to do when we wake up. If you can tackle these before bed, you’ll sleep better and wake up energised.
3. Write in Your Journal
As well as planning what you need to do the following day, one of the reasons we fail to get sufficient rest is that we overthink…
Either past incidents or those big, hairy existential life questions that haunt us just as we’re nodding off to sleep.
Part of a good power down routine includes writing some of your thoughts down in a journal pre-bed.
To sprinkle some extra magic dust, include a daily dose of gratitude to put you in a cosy mental space before heading off to slumberland.
4. Organise Your Schedule
Another component of waking up feeling tired is due to decision fatigue, which is common when we’re unsure exactly what we have to do the following day.
This is where a little planning can go a long way. Whip out your calendar and make sure you have your to-do list locked in.
That way, you can avoid needless indecision when you wake and start the day with positive momentum by demolishing your to-do list.
5. Go to Bed at the Same Time
When people are planning how to wake up refreshed, they often overlook the basics.
Part of the nightly ritual should involve going to sleep at the same time every night. Our body thrives on routine, and working backwards by 8 hours from the time you need to wake up will reveal your optimum bedtime.
So, for example, I’m currently waking up at 5.45am each day. The ideal for me is to be in bed, lights out, at 9.45pm (pretty rock n’roll I know).
This provides enough time for some decent kip even if the sleep is sometimes a bit restless.
6. Leave Your Phone Alone
Blue light, emitted from our phones, tablets and computer screens has been shown to affect our sleep patterns.
It’s therefore wise to say no to that extra Netflix episode and its evil autoplay if we want to sleep well.
Try to avoid mindless scrolling at least 30 minutes before going to bed.
7. Try These Fashionable Glasses
Even leaving your phone alone for 30 minutes before bed, with the amount of evening screen time we put in, we can easily verge on blue light overload.
That’s why you might want to try these blue light blocking glasses.
A small disclaimer: I haven’t tried them myself. Tim Ferris recommended them for improved sleep.
So, if you love your tech, it might be worth giving them a go.
8. Change Your Mattress and Pillows (if Needed)
As a physio by training, I always had numerous patients complaining about their mattress and pillows and either not getting enough sleep or waking up in physical pain.
Your sleeping equipment is vital to getting a good start the following day.
While everybody’s personal preferences will vary and there is no one size fits all for comfort, I’m a big fan of orthopaedic mattresses and pillows, so perhaps you want to give them a whirl.
9. Adjust Your Sleeping Position
Just as your equipment is important, so too your sleeping position is vital. Ideally, you want to avoid any postures that contort or twist your spine.
That might mean trying to sleep on your side or putting a pillow under or between your legs to avoid excessive lumbar spine rotation.
It might also be sensible to play with the height of your pillows so as to keep a neutral neck position.
10. Install Blackout Curtains
It’s so hard to sleep properly when you have artificial light filtering through the curtains, messing with our body clocks.
I’m lucky enough to have an amazingly annoying security light attached to the neighbour’s property that blazes through the window at completely random intervals, making me feel like I’m about to be interrogated.
Changing your curtains can help and blackout blinds are the best bet.
11. Try a Sleep App
To really maximise your morning, you need to measure what’s going on before you wake up. This is where sleep apps come in handy.
An app like Sleep Cycle can help you crunch the data and see if the rest of your interventions are helping you get better rest to wake up feeling refreshed.
By tracking your nightly twitches and syncing the app with Apple Health, you can monitor your energy levels.
Also not only does it serve as an alarm clock, but you can set a wake-up window where it detects the best time to activate depending on the depth of your sleep.
12. Install a Pleasant Alarm
Do you remember the terrible selection of alarms available on our old phones?
Waking up to that racket made even the hardiest morning person want to roll over in disgust.
Luckily, some clever old sausage has addressed this and supplied better alternatives.
Try something like Rise, which takes a softer approach to mornings. To raise you from your slumber, sleep specialists advise a gently increasing sound to avoid being jolted awake.
This alarm should do the trick.
13. Test a Sunrise Alarm Clock
If traditional alarms aren’t your thing and you seek a natural wake up call, a sunrise alarm might be the solution.
Traditionally used by people suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder, you can set these alarms to start emitting gentle light 30 minutes before you want to wake up, imitating a natural sunrise.
By doing this you can avoid getting yanked out of your enjoyable dream and facing an immediate spike in your cortisol levels.
At the end of the 30 minutes, you can often choose an alarm like birdsong to really take you back to nature.
You can get fancier ones with all the bells and whistles like radios, but it’s probably best to try something cheaper like this little puppy, first.
14. Don’t Snooze
The temptation when you wake up washed out is to reach over to whack the snooze button.
And while doing this once or twice won’t hurt, the action sets a precedent that can very easily become habitual.
It also immediately places you in a reactive, negative mindset.
Even if you’re feeling tired, it’s better to standardise your wake up ritual and practice positive actions for when you do begin to wake up with more energy.
15. Avoid Reaching for Your Phone
Even if you feel tired and want to laze around in bed, avoid tinkering with the mind candy on your phone.
Scrolling through social media or answering emails immediately puts you in a reactive state where you can feel like life’s being sucked out of your day before it’s begun.
This will naturally affect your motivation and energy levels when you do get going.
Instead, you want to ensure that your first action is positive and sets a precedent for what’s to come…
16. Make Your Bed
This is a big one. When you’ve prepared the right environment for sleeping well, to know how to wake up refreshed is largely a matter of attitude.
Making your first action a quick and easy win can put you in the right frame of mind to begin the day with more energy and enthusiasm.
If you’re not convinced, watch the following speech to see why it’s such a powerful habit to form:
17. Adopt a Morning Routine
Just like your evening power down ritual, the effect of a strong morning routine is game-changing.
I’ve written a full article about my current routine here, so check it out. Although I’m still tired if I don’t sleep well, having that system dialled in has helped me consistently wake up focused and energised.
If you were to ask me for one of my top tips on how to wake up refreshed, it would be to focus on your morning ritual.
And if you haven’t already, check out The Miracle Morning, by Hal Elrod for an extra dose of inspiration.
I’ll include a couple of elements of my morning routine, which will hopefully help you dust those morning cobwebs.
For years, I hated stretching and avoided it. Even now, when I spend too much time sitting and writing (feeling tighter than an old knot), I ignored my intuition to stretch.
That was until I made it a part of my regular morning routine. And it’s been awesome. Even if you start off tired, you soon warm up and the sensation of gently releasing muscular tension becomes quite enjoyable.
When combined with a bit of mindfulness and breathing, you come away feeling super alert and ready to go. Highly recommended.
19. Drink Water
A bit like stretching, we all know that we should be drinking more water through the day, and yet it’s always tough to implement this habit.
Obviously, it’s even more important when you’ve been sleeping (for hopefully 8 hours) and becoming dehydrated overnight.
That can definitely lead to a groggy start to the day, including headaches and concentration problems. What’s helped me is placing a big water bottle by my bed.
As soon as I wake up I down the water like a man emerging from the desert and within 30 minutes I experience improved alertness and attention.
20. Splash Cold Water on Your Face
Perhaps this is just me, but my other ritual is the old cold water face splash, which I’ve done ever since I was a grumpy teenager waking up for school.
As well as doing a Wim Hof style cold shower after the gym, I find this little habit can wake you up a treat and help get your game face on.
Obviously sleep is massively important, and you need a system where you know how to wake up refreshed.
Part of that involves following the basics that we all know and erm…love – healthy eating, exercising and all that jazz.
It really comes down to nailing good habits.
If your evening routine is all over the place, or you’re unsure what you have to do when waking, it’s no wonder you get up feeling like a toilet brush.
So, use this list to inform your daily ritual and watch yourself burst at the seams with morning cheer.