9 Things to Try When You Wake up Tired

Jennifer Geer

Give yourself a natural boost of energy in the morning.

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I can’t pinpoint exactly when it started happening. But I found myself waking up tired, even after a full night of sleep. I don’t know if it’s aging or a side effect of the years of sleep deprivation that motherhood brings, but I found I wasn’t feeling refreshed even when I had slept uninterrupted all night.

Fortunately, there are ways to help yourself feel energized in the mornings even if you are beginning your days already drained.

Here are nine hacks you can try to give yourself an energetic morning:

#1: Stop hitting snooze.

It may seem like you’re doing yourself a favor when you hit snooze and buy another few minutes of sleep, but it’s the exact opposite. When you spend the last 30 minutes of your sleep cycle hitting the snooze button every eight minutes, you end up getting fragmented sleep. Scientists say this is bad and leads to daytime sleepiness.

If you can’t let go of the idea of the snooze button, you can try this 90-minute hack. Sleep researchers suggest setting an alarm 90 minutes before you want to wake up and a second alarm exactly when you need to get up. The reason is, we sleep in 90-minute cycles.

The idea is to wake yourself up 90 minutes before you need to be up. And then, when it’s time to actually wake up, you will be nearing the end of your sleep cycle and will wake up feeling refreshed.

I have yet to try this hack as I can only imagine myself lying awake for 90 minutes feeling panicky about getting back to sleep. But it seems to work for some, and you may want to give it a try.

#2: Get early sunlight.

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Morning sunlight helps you sleep better at night. The reason being, sunlight increases levels of the hormone serotonin. Serotonin is critical to sleep. When you get sunlight first thing in the morning, you’re helping your circadian rhythm to operate naturally.

Research has shown exposure to sunlight is the most effective at improving your sleep when you do it right after waking up, preferably within an hour of getting out of bed.

If you just can’t get outside first thing in the morning, open up your blinds and sit by a sunny window. Or you can buy a light therapy box that mimics outdoor light for winter when it’s hard to get outside, or if you live in an area with many overcast days.

#3: Drink water first thing.

Even a mild case of dehydration causes fatigue. It’s a simple practice to drink a glass of water when you wake up to avoid any effects from dehydration. You can be mildly dehydrated without knowing it, and it’s even been found to affect cognitive performance.

#4: Exercise in the morning.

It may take some willpower to get moving, but once you do, you won’t regret it. If you move your exercise to the morning, rather than before bed, you will benefit in the following ways:

  • Improved energy
  • Increased alertness
  • Improved concentration
  • Improved mood

#5: Do some easy yoga stretches.

It doesn’t have to be vigorous exercise. Some light yoga stretches can get you feeling more awake. Research has shown that the breathing you do in yoga moves can lower blood pressure, reduce stress, and improve your mood.

Search “morning yoga stretches” on Google, and you will find numerous videos and tutorials to get you started.

#6: Use scents to fight grogginess.

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Aromatherapy is using scents to activate different parts of the brain. And though the research is limited and the benefits are mainly anecdotal, it may be worth a try.

I have a peppermint essential oil stick that is meant to be used for headaches. A little bit of that rubbed on my forehead truly does take away my feelings of foggy brain. Whether it’s a placebo effect or not, it does the job, and that’s all I care about.

Aromatherapy works by taking diluted essential oils and either applying a little to the skin, using in the bath, or a heated shower, or diffusing in the air.

For energizing scents try the following:

  • Peppermint/Spearmint
  • Orange
  • Lemon
  • Rosemary

There are many ways to use essential oils. An aroma spray is an easy way to disperse the scent. There are many you can buy, or you can go the DIY route and make your own.

#7: Eat some protein.

Eating foods high in protein has been found to increase dopamine levels. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is involved in motivation, enthusiasm, and attention.

Some healthy high protein breakfast foods include:

  • eggs
  • oats
  • Greek yogurt
  • nut butter
  • turkey bacon
  • protein powders
  • whole grains

#8: Try a cold shower.

Admittedly, I can’t handle this one. But there is research that suggests a cold shower can get be invigorating. One such study showed that a cold shower increased heart rate and blood flow. Other studies have linked cold showers to improved metabolism, increased endorphins, and improved immunity.

I have bad memories of tortuous ice baths I took during marathon training to avoid muscle pain, and I don’t feel ready to attempt this. However, everyone is different, and some people wind up loving their daily cold showers. If you can handle the frigid temps, give it a try.

#9: Practice good sleep habits.

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And finally, make sure you are getting enough sleep and that your sleep is restful. Of course, you will wake up feeling tired if you are sleep deprived. Our bodies go through sleep stages each night, and if any of those is interrupted, it can result in drowsiness the next day.

For the best chance at a good night of sleep, try the following tips from the Mayo Clinic:

  1. Follow a routine sleep schedule.
  2. Don’t go to sleep starving or after overeating.
  3. Keep your sleep area restful.
  4. Don’t take too many naps.
  5. Get plenty of exercise.
  6. Practice stress management.

If you experience chronic fatigue or frequent insomnia, check with your doctor. There can be underlying issues such as hormones, sleep disorders, or stress that contribute to a lack of sleep and leave you waking up tired.

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Jennifer covers lifestyle content and local news for the Chicago area. New articles published each weekday.

Chicago, IL
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