We all need a little help to wake up in the morning – for some it’s the offensive ‘bleep bleep’ of an alarm clock, for others a mug of black coffee or the unmistakable sound of Radio 4’s John Humphrys tearing apart a hapless politician.
It is estimated that 62 per cent of Britons need between 15 minutes and an hour after waking before they feel human.
But why is this? Here, with the help of leading sleep experts, we reveal why you may be finding it so hard to wake up – and the simple changes that can make your mornings less hellish.
WHY YOU’RE HIDING UNDER THE DUVET
If you woke up this morning feeling groggy, dozy and desperate for another hour of sleep, there are two things going wrong, explains independent sleep expert Dr Neil Stanley.
‘First, you’re probably sleep deprived – you haven’t had the right amount for you individually – but also, your body’s natural rhythm is out of synch.
‘The body loves rhythm and predictability. Most tiredness happens because we are very bad at sticking to regular bedtimes – going to bed and getting up at the same time every day.’
The body has an extremely accurate natural clock, he adds – and in the hour before waking it starts preparing.
‘It’s a bit like when you turn on the computer and it clicks and whirs before the screen comes on,’ he says.
‘Sleep becomes lighter, body temperature starts rising, and hormones are released such as cortisol, the stress hormone, which gives you energy and “get up and go”.
‘But if your body doesn’t have rhythm, it doesn’t know when you’re waking up and so it doesn’t prepare like this. The alarm goes off and your body’s not ready, and that’s why you feel so exhausted.’
But, he adds, it’s easy to re-jig your bodyclock.
‘If you set your alarm for the same time every day – even weekends and holidays – in a matter of weeks your body will accurately be able to tell the time.
‘That’s why you sometimes wake up five minutes before your alarm. Your body knows you don’t like the sound of your alarm and so it does the job for you.’
Studies show that a surprising one in five of us wakes up relying on our natural bodyclock.
WHATEVER YOU DO, DON’T DROP OFF AGAIN
Many people swear by hitting the snooze button when the alarm goes off in the morning – giving them an extra ten or 20 minutes to recoup sleep before they really have to get up. But experts say this is the worst thing you can do.
It all goes back to the body’s need for a special pre-waking hour, when it prepares for morning.
‘During its preparation hour, sleep gets lighter, so that it’s easier for you to wake up,’ says Dr Stanley.
‘If you hit the snooze button you may go back into deep sleep and you’re not supposed to wake from deep sleep – you’re supposed to pass to the lighter preparation stage first, then open your eyes. So snoozing creates a huge shock to the body and it makes you feel awful.
‘If you wake up feeling worse, you’ll only be tempted to hit snooze again and then you’re in for a vicious cycle.’
Dr Stanley says it’s far better just to set your alarm for when you have to get up.
‘Ideally, as soon as you can bear it, pull back the curtains and let the sunlight into the room. It kick-starts your internal clock and tells the body it’s daytime.’
WAKING UP CAN BE MURDER
The change from being asleep to being awake is a stressful transition for the body, says Leon Kreitzman, author of the book Seasons Of Life.
‘When you’re asleep at night, all sorts of things are happening – your body temperature starts to fall, for example, and your blood pressure goes down.
‘When you get up, you stand upright and you’re much more active, so your heart, and everything else, just has to work that little bit harder.