The internet is full of advice that makes me feel like a bad person. For example, to ensure you leave your bed in the morning, experts recommend putting your alarm clock across the room, in a different room, or, I don’t know, on Mars. It makes sense, but come hell, high water, or unmissable work meeting, I will still hit snooze and get right back under the covers for just ten more minutes. And I’ll do this half a dozen times.
Sure, most people hate waking up. But I really, really hate it. As soon as my husband nudges me in the morning I start scheming about how to come down with a flu mild enough that it won’t suck too badly, but gross enough to keep me in bed for at least 15 more hours. I’m a freelance writer who works from home, and while I love setting my own schedule, it means I no longer have bosses or co-workers to keep me accountable for being at my desk by 9 a.m. At least twice, after a few sips of my coffee, I’ve promptly fallen back asleep on my couch.
In an effort to become, if not a morning person, at least a getting-out-of-bed-and-staying-there type of person, I spent seven days trying the most unconventional wake-up tips I found on the internet.
Day 1: “Don’t Jump Out of Bed Immediately” (Medium)
I really eased into this experiment with a tidbit gleaned from a Medium post. Per the article’s instructions, I set my usual alarm clock next to the bed and put my cell phone alarm on the windowsill, several feet away. The idea was for the initial alarm to rouse me from slumber, with permission to lounge for 15 more minutes until the second alarm.
Yeah, no. I slept straight through Alarm One. When Alarm Two went off I mumbled, “What?” to my husband, who patiently explained that this was my signal to rise. I rolled over, intent on canceling life for the day, when I heard the grinding jackhammering outside my window. Ah, New York City’s most effective alarm clock.
This tip is nice in theory, designed to gently wake you without requiring you to jump up at 6 a.m. like you’re answering to a drill sergeant. But if I’m in bed in the morning, I’m sleeping, and no two-alarm system is going to change that.
Day 2: “Make Your Bed” (Bustle)
My parents were coming over for lunch on this day, so I decided this was my moment to indulge my nostalgia and try something I basically haven’t done since I lived with them: make my bed. According to Bustle, this is supposed to give you a sense of “accomplishment.” It also functionally closes the lid on sleep for the day, kind of like sealing a bag of chips so you stop snacking on them when you’re no longer hungry.
I decided if I was going to make my bed first thing in the morning I might as well strip it down to the bare bones, then build it back up from scratch, fresh sheets and all. It certainly woke me up, if only because my muscles are about 75% weaker first thing in the morning and putting a clean fitted sheet on the mattress felt like attending hot yoga with a hangover. I am embarrassed to admit I was a little bit winded by the time I smoothed the comforter up over the pillows. But! I kept my eyes open!
Day 3: “Pull Your Hair” (Lifehacker)
Lifehacker suggests that you “slowly and gently tug at your hair to get blood flowing to your head in a new and refreshing way” when you’re feeling sleepy. As someone who’s fallen asleep on my couch twice mid-coffee, desperate times call for desperate measures. I found enough information about massage and acupressure as tools for wakefulness to convince me this was worth trying — the execution is different, but the root (heh) concept is mostly the same.
I could see this working in a pinch if you’re, say, dozing off in the middle of class. But this was no match for my iron eyelids first thing in the morning. Eventually I gave up yanking on my hair follicles and splashed some water on my face instead.
Day 4: “Grab A Few Minutes Of Direct Sunlight” (Lifehacker)
As a city-dweller, the fire escape is my fastest route to daylight. When my final alarm chimed at 7:30 a.m. on Tuesday, I groaned, rolled into the nearest sweatshirt I could find, and crawled through my bedroom window.
Unlike the previous piece of advice, this one is mentioned all over the internet and is more about absorbing some sweet, sweet Vitamin D than it is about shocking your body to life with cold weather. But it’s New York in December, so the two went hand-in-hand for me. According to Lifehacker, the most important thing is that you get real sunlight exposure. Sitting by a light-soaked window or a sun-simulating lamp won’t cut it.
I’m not going to lie — I think this mostly worked because I felt like I was submerged in ice water as soon as I stepped outside. But my eyes snapped open the second the air hit me and, even though I barely lasted a minute out there, I was wide awake for good. I even had trouble falling asleep that night. I guess cold air and direct sunlight are the functional equivalent of 10 shots of espresso to the face.
Day 5: “Start Your Day with Joy” (Medium)
This Medium tip revolves around what I like to call the The Christmas Morning Principle: It’s easier to hop out of bed when there’s a pile of presents (or, you know, a latte) waiting for you on the other side.
One of the nice things about working from home is that getting ready in the traditional sense has become a treat. Most days I don’t bother with makeup and I do my “morning” skincare at around 12 p.m. So, on Day Five, I decided to fully pamper myself. I headed straight to the bathroom to apply three layers of cold goo to my visage. Then, armed with a hot cup of coffee, I sat down at my vanity to do a full-face of makeup using my favorite products. I applied most of it with my fingers, which means my makeup routine doubled as a blood-circulating facial massage. Invigorating!
Spending some quality time up close and personal with my pores meant that not only did I look well-rested when I sat down to start working, I felt well-rested, too. (Truly.)
Day 6: “Plan Your Mornings with Excruciating Detail” (Medium)
My mornings are mostly the same: hit snooze from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 a.m., drag myself from the clutches of my mattress and doze on the couch while my husband tries increasingly dramatic tactics to keep me alert. Eventually I open my laptop and start typing. Still, thanks to Medium, on the evening of Day 5 I typed out my plan for Day 6 in bite-sized chunks.
Doing this the night before is crucial. The whole point is to eliminate the decision-making that trips us up in the morning when we don’t have a defined routine. Mine looked like this:
Make coffee (3 minutes)
Use the bathroom (1 minute — they did say excruciating detail)
Skincare (3 minutes)
Brush teeth (2 minutes)
Pour coffee (1 minute)
Drink coffee + read (20 minutes)
Get dressed (2 minutes)
Open laptop and start typing (until lunchtime)
Overall I wouldn’t say I felt different having a written-out plan for when to pee, but it did keep me on track and allowed me to have exactly one thing in common with Benjamin Franklin.
Day 7: “Bite a lemon!” (Lifehacker)
Lemon water in the morning is A Thing, backed by sometimes-awake celebrities like Jennifer Aniston and Hilary Duff. Sinking your teeth into a lemon like it’s an apple is slightly less of a thing. But consuming lemon in any form has myriad health benefits — according to Psychology Today, the scent alone is enough to improve “cognitive performance” — and I figured my chronic sleepiness could benefit from some very direct contact.
The night before I tried to Seamless a single lemon to my apartment. Not just the lemon, I’m not a total monster, more like as a side with my dinner. (In my defense, I had period cramps.) Alas, no restaurant in my area offered citrus as an add-on to nachos or whatever, so I sucked it up and trekked to the grocery store.
Biting a lemon before 9 a.m. is an exquisite form of torture. Do I recommended it? No. Did it immediately electrify every cell in my body? Hell yes. When I was done I squeezed the rest of the juice into my water and felt that much more like a sitcom actress who rose to fame in the ‘90s.
My biggest takeaway from the Week of Waking Up is that I should do something as soon as my alarm goes off. Going forward, I’ll create a routine that combines a few of the most useful tips like making my bed (at least when I feel really tired), getting some sun/freezing cold air as soon as possible, and starting the day with something I can look forward to, like doing my makeup. Tempting as it is to move straight from one soft, blanketed surface to another while remaining in denial that it is, in fact, morning, this habit sabotages any effort to actually energize my body. Which seems kind of obvious, sure. But sometimes you need a bite of citrus fruit to show you what your heart knew all along.
What are your favorite tips for waking up easier in the morning?
Erin Mayer is a writer and editor living in New York.
Collage by Louisiana Mei Gelpi.