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How to make it easier to wake up in the morning when it’s dark outside

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Megan Murray
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8 tips for getting out of bed when it’s still dark outside to see you through the winter months.

Waking up in winter can be tough. Opening your eyes to a room that’s still dark, poking a foot out of the duvet to be met with winter’s chill and nudging the curtain back only to see a grey sky is all enough to have you curling back up under the covers

But more than just finding a gloomy morning uninspiring, waking up while it’s still dark can physically feel a lot harder, too. If you suffer from a foggy head and struggle to open your eyes first thing, then read on. 

You see, there are a few ways you can help coax your head out from under the pillow, though. We’ve consulted sleep experts across the UK to ask what tips, tricks and lifestyle changes we should be trying to make waking up while it’s still dark outside that little bit easier.

From boosting your natural sugar levels with an apple at the beginning of the day, trying a SAD lamp and setting your alarm for one minute earlier every morning, there’s a lot you can do to make your transition from night to day smoother.

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  • Keep your body clock on a regular rhythm

    Dr Kat Lederle, head of sleep health at Somnia, stresses that it’s important to establish a regular light-dark exposure pattern throughout winter to keep your body clock on a regular rhythm.

    According to Lederle there are two easy ways of pulling this off. “First, you need to establish regular going to bed and waking up times, and stick to them seven days a week. You can make these slightly more indulgent than in summer, though, as we often need a little more sleep during the winter so allow yourself that time.”

    She continues: “Make the mornings bright by going outside, standing by the window or using a light box. Equally, keep the lights low in the evening and ask yourself ‘Do I really need to search for this piece of news or handbag on the internet right now?’ to avoid playing with your phone in bed.”

  • Get a SAD lamp

    Hope Bastine, psychologist and resident expert at sleep tech firm SIMBA says that getting your fill of sunshine in the day is an important part of switching off at night.

    She recommends changing your schedule to try and get some exposure to daylight, whether that means taking a walk outside or supplementing with a SAD lamp to give you a boost.

    “A high Gus SAD lamp for those dark hard morning rises can work wonders. Light therapy lamps have been shown to help people who struggle with the winter blues as it’s an effective means of stopping the secretion of melatonin, which in turn can assist in reducing tiredness and feeling low,” says Bastine.

    But for those of us on a real budget, you can actually tune into the light by following it around your home if you’re working from a home office.

    Bastine continues: “While we’re not all blessed with lots of options if you can feasibly follow the sun by moving around the house during the day, sitting by a window or in places with more natural light, it will help keep your levels topped up. Or, if you have a bright and airy cafe nearby break up the day with a brisk walk and decamp for an hour or two.”

  • Be mindful of when you eat and what you eat

    Lederle advises taking better notice of your eating habits if you’re finding it hard to open your eyes in the morning. This is because having a regular eating rhythm helps to keep your body healthy and support good sleep.

    She says: “Keep your eating window to max 12 hours (less is better), which means waiting for breakfast for an hour or so and having dinner at least three or four hours before you go to bed.”

    “Also, avoid ‘pick me up’ foods as they can contain a lot of sugar and are generally calorie-dense. A healthy balanced diet will look different for different people, but reducing the number of processed foods while increasing the fibre content can be helpful for your metabolic health and sleep.”

  • Eat apples for breakfast

    Stephanie Taylor, Managing Director of online health and wellbeing retailer StressNoMore says that one particular snack could help your mornings become easier.

    She says: “An apple a day doesn’t just keep the doctor away. They also contain around 13g of natural sugar and according to studies, this has a similar effect on the body as coffee.

    “Natural glucose from the apple is slowly digested, which makes you feel more awake. Not only this but unlike caffeine, there are no jolts or energy slumps once it has been eaten.”

  • Don't overheat at night

    Bastine says it’s important not to get too toasty at night, as this can throw your body off when it comes to waking up.

    “Overheating is one of the biggest barriers to restorative and quality sleep,” she says.

    “In June this year, a government study concluded that sleep problems are growing because energy-efficient homes are too warm at night.

    “As well as turning your heating down (or ideally off) at night in the bedroom, I recommend Simba’s range of temperature-regulating Hybrid duvets and pillows which have been engineered to take the heat out of getting to sleep.

    “The technology was inspired by the spacesuits worn by astronauts: so if you start to become too hot, it’s semi-conducting minerals draw heat away from the body. And if your temperature drops, it’ll warm you up - helping you stay comfortable all night.

    “It’s clever phase-change technology also means that it’s a duvet for all seasons – so it eliminates having to invest and store winter and summer options.”

  • Try a wake-up light

    Noone likes being shocked awake by a blaring alarm clock and Taylor says that easing yourself awake could be the secret to getting out of bed in the morning.

    “Consider buying a wake-up light to help ease that morning struggle, especially during the darker winter months. They give out gentle light which simulates the sun rising, so your body’s wake-up hormones reach their optimum level by the time your alarm sounds,” she explains. 

    “Many of these lamps also come with soft sounds to help you wake up, like bird song, as well as sunset settings to get you falling asleep quicker and get quality rest by boosting your levels of the sleep hormone melatonin.”

  • Plan something each day that you look forward to

    Try this mind game to trick yourself into looking forward to waking up. Lederle thinks that filling your day with a sense of “meaning and fulfilment” can boost your motivation and will your body to wake up easier.

  • Get up one minute earlier

    Taylor also recommends trying this nifty trick which involves setting your alarm back by one minute each day, slowly letting your body adjust to an earlier wake-up time.

    “If you’ve found a time where it feels easiest to wake but you want to make it earlier, start by setting your alarm back by one extra minute each day,” she says.

    “It will take longer for you to save a significant amount of time in the mornings, but by slowly lowering your alarm time, it will make it easier for your body to adjust.”

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Megan Murray

Megan Murray is a digital journalist for stylist.co.uk, who enjoys writing about London happenings, beautiful places, delicious morsels and generally spreading sparkle wherever she can.