Morning grogginess is a constant struggle, especially once you become a parent. How are you supposed to feel awake when a baby wakes you up every few hours? But these military-approved tricks for waking up are designed to help you feel fully alert within two minutes of opening your eyes, no matter what sleep schedule (or lack thereof) you and your kids are on. They could be a game changer for you.
Exhaustion can sometimes seem like a competition amongst adults, with every grown up in sight lamenting that they are the most tired. But it turns out increased sleepiness among adults is an actual phenomenon, with the CDC reporting that one in three Americans aren't getting enough sleep. This problem is even more rampant among parents, with a study published by the Sleep Research Society reporting that "In both women and men, sleep satisfaction and duration did not fully recover for up to 6 years after the birth of their first child." This fatigue is chronic, and not getting enough sleep can make it feel almost impossible to wake up in the morning, as well as cause a myriad of other health problems.
But the military has years of experience training soldiers to be alert from the moment they open their eyes to the moment they fall asleep, so applying some of their hacks to your own routine may be able to help. Remember that no trick can substitute getting a full night's rest, but these techniques are still worth a shot.
Drill instructors rely on harsh awakenings to get recruits out of bed when they first arrive for basic training, according to Military.com using "noise, yelling, and jostling to get everyone out of the rack." Unless your partner is willing to scream at you every morning, you can't (and probably shouldn't) mimic this exactly at home. You can use an alarm clock with a harsh tone though, that will make falling back asleep not as easy.
However, Chris Brantner, founder and sleep science expert at SleepZoo.com, warns Romper via email that a dramatic wake up call "can cause your blood pressure to skyrocket." He went on to say that "this might be a good thing for training soldiers, as they need to be ready to go at all times when at war," but you probably don't need that same kind of energy at home. So find an alarm clock sound that is more annoying than panic-inducing.
Drink Water Before You Go To Sleep
Any potty-trained human will tell you it's all but impossible to fall back asleep if you wake up and need to use the restroom, but this can actually work in your favor if you want to feel alert upon waking up, as you'll have to get out of bed to deal with your problem. However, Medical News Today warned that nocturia, "the increased need to urinate at night," can cause sleep deprivation, which is known to lead to an increased risk of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and depression. So drink some water, but make sure you're not over hydrating and having to wake up multiple times a night or earlier than you want to — trial and error is likely the best way to figure out the best amount for you. And talk to a doctor if you're consistently having trouble staying asleep through the night.
Say No To Snoozing
Snoozing can feel like a gift, but in reality, it makes you feel much more tired than you would if you woke up the first time your alarm went off. As the Huffington Post explained, "Your body has several mechanisms to prepare you to wake up and get moving," like heating up your core temperature for instance, and going back to sleep will make you body think it didn't actually need to do those things. Brantner also says snoozing can lead you to "risk moving on to deeper stages of sleep, which are harder to wake from and can leave you feeling groggy if you do wake from them." There's no snoozing in the military, so take one out of their handbook and get up as soon as the alarm goes off.
Put Your Alarm Clock Out Of Reach
Not hitting snooze is easier said than done, but putting your alarm clock somewhere you can't reach from your sleeping position can help you achieve the goal. As I mentioned, loud drill sergeants wake up recruits, and they can't make that stop until they get out of bed, so you'll be simulating their conditions somewhat with this setup. Set the alarm to a harsh noise, and place it on the opposite side of the room, as you'll be forced to get out to turn it off.
"Don't think in the morning" is Jocko Willink's (former commander of US Navy SEAL Team 3 Task Unit Bruiser) number one piece of advice for feeling awake in the morning. He told The Independent, do as much as as you can before you go to bed, such as make your to-do list for the next day or coffee, so you can act as soon as you get up as opposed to spending that time planning.
Let There Be Light
You probably know based on personal experience that it's easiest to fall asleep in a darkened room, but the opposite proves true as well. Brantner's top recommendation feeling alert as soon as you wake up is to "immediately expose yourself to light. This helps signal the brain that it's time to wake up" because it resets your circadian rhythm, per Sleep.org.
To reap this benefit from the sun, leave your curtains open when you fall asleep, schedule your automated blinds to open at a specific time (if you're set up with one of those), or invest in a lamp that mimics sunlight if your room doesn't get a ton of natural light to begin with.
Set A Strict Bedtime
Bedtime is a quick affair in the military, and sleeping eight hours is a key reason soldiers are able to wake up feeling alert. Setting a strict bedtime can help you ensure you're getting adequate rest. As Brantner explains, any other hacks for feeling awake "are band-aid type solutions. What you really need here is a consistent sleep and wake time that allows for about 8 hours of sleep. If your body gets in a routine, it's going to be much easier to wake up."
Establishing consistent sleeping habits is easier said than done once you have kids, but these tips can hopefully help you as you try to figure out your new night time normal. Remember that your rest is a priority, and everyone in your family will be happier and healthier if you're rested.