How I Quit Pressing Snooze and Finally Became a Morning Person

It’ll change your life.

Photography by PHUONG NGUYEN

I’m not a morning person: In fact, getting me up in the am usually involves copious amounts of coffee, some whining, and of course, multiple pushes of the snooze button. It’s a known fact, however, that pushing the snooze button isn’t doing me any favors—in fact, studies have shown that hitting snooze tricks your body into thinking you can fall back asleep, leading you to be even groggier when that alarm hits again a few minutes later. Your body has, essentially, stopped waking you up once you fall asleep again, leading to a groggy feeling that stays with you two to four hours after you finally wake up.

So, the easiest way to be more productive in the mornings is to get up with your alarm—it will not only make sure your body knows what time to wake you up every day (thus setting your internal body clock), it will also prevent that awful, drowsy feeling. In order to try this out, I decided to spend five days waking up right with my alarm, in order to see if it made any change to the rest of my day.

Spoiler alert: It did.

Day 1

Since I stay up most nights until my eyes can’t stay open anymore, I knew the first step was getting a bedtime routine down pat. Jeff Sanders, sleep expert and author of The 5 A.M. Miracle: Dominate Your Day Before Breakfast, explains, “Pick a time (like 8 pm), when you will turn off all electronics, stop working for the day, and focus exclusively on getting yourself in bed with the lights out.”

I set that time to 9 pm, took a relaxing bath, and switched my lights off by 10 pm (absurdly early in my world). I made sure to set my alarm for 7 am—a good nine hours later—and tucked myself into bed. But falling asleep that early, especially since I wasn’t used to it, proved to be pretty hard. I ended up falling asleep closer to midnight, which meant I was a mess in the morning—think drowsy and cranky. But hey… at least I didn’t press snooze!

Day 2

Armed with my newfound knowledge that sleeping so early just wasn’t for me, I decided to sleep closer to my normal time, and just set my alarm for 15 minutes earlier. Sanders explains, “If you want to free up just 15 minutes of time each day to meditate, read, or check your email, wake up just 15 minutes earlier tomorrow and use those minutes for that activity.”

I still went through all my self-care rituals, but settled on a much more realistic bedtime of 11:30 pm, in order to make sure I wasn’t tossing and turning all night. And guess what? Those extra 15 minutes didn’t make much of a difference at all! It turns out I had slept so soundly and as close to my natural rhythm as I possibly could, which meant waking up earlier was far easier.

While I was still drowsy and cranky (hey, just not a morning person), I had no foggy feeling. I managed to get into my work zone that much quicker, and while I still enjoyed my morning coffee, I didn’t feel like I needed it to the extent that I couldn’t function without it.

Maybe we were on to something here...

Day 3

By day three, I was feeling a little ambitious, and wanted to try to do something in the morning with my newfound time.

Another tip to make sure you get out of bed without snoozing for hours on end? Find something motivating to get up for.

"It's a matter of committing the time and energy to figure out what works and doesn't work in terms of bedtime, diet, morning routine, etc. that makes the early morning alarm start to become easier. I think if we give ourselves something to look forward to, even if it's very simple, we can really change our whole outlook on the morning,” says New York SoulCycle instructor Matt Miller, who’s no stranger to teaching several early morning classes a week.

Since food is my one true love, I decided a really yummy breakfast would be motivating enough. Turns out I was a bit too ambitious, though—I didn’t have the energy to poach some eggs and make my fancy avocado toast in the morning, and so I just kind of sleep walked through my day feeling hungry and annoyed. However, those inertia feelings were still a thing of the past, and my bad mood was more because I didn’t hit the goals I had planned for myself upon waking.

Day 4

I decided my motivation for day four would be a really fancy coffee from a coffee shop I adore, but has ridiculous lines when it’s time for work. I woke up sans snooze really excited for this delicious cup, and lo and behold—no lines! I devoured my drink, turned on my laptop, and was seriously the most productive I ever remember being at 8 am in the morning.

Granted, some of that productivity definitely had to do with the caffeine, but I’d like to think having all that time in the morning to really get myself settled into my day helped, too.

Day 5

For my final day of the challenge, I decided to try something a little different. It’s been proven that being exposed to light automatically wakes you up, as it affects your circadian rhythm. So, I decided that upon my alarm ringing, I would head to the windows and make sure some sunlight came streaming in. This proved to be the most effective way to wake me up (also, fancy coffees every day would add up quickly), and I managed to be a lot less drowsy in the morning.

Final Takeaway

While I still rely on caffeine to wake up, I find that on the days I do press snooze (blame late nights and some serious stress), I’m much more irritable and grumpy. I sometimes get a headache, which never happens when I wake up right with my alarm, and I also sometimes find it harder to concentrate. While not pressing that button is definitely hard some days, I find it well worth it for the way I feel just an hour or so later, which I assume is thanks to my body using its crafty mechanisms to wake me up naturally.

Bottom line? Stop pressing that snooze button. It’ll change your life.

See more personal essays:
Read This If You're Doing Dry January
I Quit Social Media for a Week, and This Is Why I’ll Do It Again
I Quit TV for a Week, Here's What Happened

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Published on January 29, 2018 - 5:00am EST

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