Getting up in the morning when it’s still dark outside can be really difficult. At this time of year however, we are left with little choice. The current sunrise time in the UK is 7.16am, but if it’s a wet weather day, which is most days right now, it doesn’t ever really get properly light until much later than that. Which means most mornings we’re faced with having to get up when it’s still dark outside. And it is tough!
Most of us have commitments on weekdays that mean we can’t indulge in lie ins. The kids need to get to school, the dog needs a walk, and we need to get to work – these jobs aren’t going to get done by themselves. So, we have to force ourselves awake, prising open our eyelids and begrudgingly stepping one foot at a time out of bed. We literally look like the walking dead. Surely there must be an easier and much nicer way of getting up in the morning when it’s still dark outside than this?
In this article, we’re going to provide you with some handy tips to help you deal with the dark mornings and to hopefully make getting out of bed a whole lot easier. Let’s take a look:
Get Yourself A Daylight Clock
Daylight is the key factor when it comes to waking up naturally. Our circadian rhythms are programmed such that we feel awake when it’s light and we feel sleepy when it gets dark. Hence why we find it so much easier to get up earlier in the summer months than we do during the darker winter ones.
Whilst we can’t control the light levels outside of the house, we can at least control them within the bedroom. Daylight alarm clocks (also called sunrise alarms and wake up lights) are alarm clocks that mimic natural light levels. They can be set so that the sun rises in your room ahead of when you want to wake up, meaning you can wake up in a much more natural way. Instead of an alarm sounding, which let’s face it is never a nice way to start the morning, daylight alarm clocks slowly light up, gradually increasing in brightness, until the room is lit up as though it is daytime. And even though our eyes are shut when we are asleep, we are able to detect light, and our bodies start to wake up.
You will feel much fresher and more energised waking up naturally in this manner. And despite it still being dark outside, if you’ve woken up gradually to the rising daylight that’s being emitted from your alarm clock you will feel much more inclined to want to get out of your cosy bed and crack on with your day.
Limit Evening Light Exposure
Equally as important to being woken with light, is to ensure you fall asleep in darkness. Regulated light exposure is essential for establishing a good sleep routine. Ideally, your bedroom should be completely dark when you switch off the lights and prepare yourself for sleep. Which isn’t always as easy as it sounds. Streetlights, car headlights, lights from electrical devices, and charging points all allow light to creep into your room and this makes it much more difficult to get to sleep and indeed to stay asleep.
To help you get a better night’s sleep and to therefore increase your chances of waking up naturally early in the morning irrespective of whether it’s still dark outside, you may need to make some changes in your bedroom. If light comes into your room from outside sources consider investing in a pair of blackout curtains or a blackout blind to help keep the light out. A cheaper alternative is blackout film that statically sticks to the window and can be removed and reapplied each day.
You should also think about whether you need certain electrical devices in your room overnight, or if you do, whether they can be switched off and put away until the morning. Likewise, charge phones, laptops etc. in a different room, or try to charge them earlier in the day.
Create A Routine And Stick To It
Routine is everything when it comes to sleep. And if you’re getting plenty of good quality sleep there should be no reason why you can’t get up in the morning when it’s still dark outside.
Aim to go to bed at the same time each night, no matter whether it’s a weekday or the weekend. Once your body establishes a set pattern of knowing when it is time for sleep it will also learn when it is time to wake. When the clocks change it may throw your routine out of whack slightly, so adjust accordingly and it should soon settle down again. Obviously, there will the odd late night here and there, but if that’s the case make sure you go to bed earlier the following night so that you can get back into your routine as quickly as possible.
Consistency is key when it comes to sleep and if you can establish some good pre-sleep habits your brain and body will come to associate these habits with knowing that it is now time to sleep. Things like having a relaxing bath before getting into bed, reading a few pages of a book, doing some deep breathing exercises, or even spraying a lavender essential oil spray on your pillow should all help you to feel sleepy.
Up Your Vitamin D Levels
Whilst we are able to get some of the Vitamin D we need from food, we cannot get it from food alone. But why is this important? Well, growing research shows that Vitamin D assists in sleep regulation and so when we don’t get enough there is an increased chance that we will suffer from sleep difficulties such as insomnia, disrupted sleep, and shorter sleep duration. And if there’s all this lot going on, we’re definitely going to find it harder to get up in the morning when it’s still dark outside.
Humans make Vitamin D naturally when they are exposed to the UV rays of the sun and so the problem during the wintertime is that daylight levels are significantly reduced and we therefore can’t make as much Vitamin D as we need. We can top up our Vitamin D levels from eating food such as oily fish, red meat, egg yolks, and fortified foods like breakfast cereals. But it is not enough. To help raise your Vitamin levels during the winter, consider adding a Vitamin D supplement to your diet and get outdoors during daylight hours as much as possible (at least once every day).
Say No To The Snooze Button
The alarm’s gone off, it’s dark outside, your bed is lovely and toasty and warm, of course you’re going to hit that snooze button. Just a few more minutes won’t harm, right? But before you know it you’ve hit the snooze button five more times, and now you’re really going to have to rush to get ready and out of the house on time.
The snooze button is all well and good, but you can’t put off the inevitable, you are going to have to get up at some point, so why prolong the agony. There are two types of people in the world: those that get up at the first alarm and those that press the snooze button. If you fall into the latter category, you also probably find it harder getting up in the morning when it’s still dark. This is going to take some serious willpower, but if you want to wake up naturally you are going to have to give up snoozing!
Here are a few things you can do to help:
- Set your alarm for a later time
- Position your alarm clock across the other side of the room so that you have to get out of bed to switch it off
- Force yourself to sit up as soon as you hear the alarm
- Switch on a light as soon as the first alarm goes off
- Buy an alarm clock that doesn’t have a snooze button.
It is far better to have a solid night of uninterrupted sleep than to wake too early and end it with a series of short naps. Developing a better sleep routine will not only give you improved quality of sleep, but it will also gradually help you get up more easily on those darker mornings.
Making small lifestyle changes and stepping away from any bad habits we may have formed can have a huge impact on not only how easy we find getting up in the morning when it’s dark outside, but also on our overall sleep quality in general. The winter months can be tough. Light levels are low and the urge to hibernate is high. But as we said at the start of this article, life must continue as normal, and so we must learn to adapt to these seasonal changes. Hopefully the advice we have given you here will help you to develop a sleep routine that will make getting up on those darker mornings more appealing.