What's the Best Way to Wake Up?

If you’re not one who wakens naturally with the sun, chipper, cheery, and ready to greet the day, you might think you have to resort to extreme measures to make sure you get out of bed on time. But starting your day with an annoying blast from your alarm clock isn’t your only option. Here are some different ideas on ways to wake up.

Sleep Well, Wake Well

"The best way to wake up is naturally with the sun after a restorative night of sleep," says Austin, TX-based Liesa Harte, MD, a board-certified family practice physician who specializes in functional medicine. "The worst way is with a jolting alarm before you are rested; that causes a huge surge in cortisol and adrenalin [two hormones produced by the body] that could even predispose you to blood sugar problems, heart attacks, and strokes." It also makes for a mighty unpleasant start to the day.

Sleep Hygiene

The key to waking up naturally is getting that restorative night’s sleep. Experts recommend avoiding caffeine, electronics, and other stimulants near bedtime, going to sleep and waking up at the same time each day, keeping your bedroom dark and cool and practicing soothing bedtime routines like meditation and yoga.

When you wake in the morning, avoid using the snooze button and get out of bed right away. Rehydrate (some water is a good idea), eat some breakfast, and get some exercise and you’re well on your way to having a great day.

Assisted Awakening

If you’ve tried all that and you still have trouble waking up in the morning, then an alarm clock might be your best bet. But that doesn’t mean you need one that uses harsh, annoying sounds to scare you out of bed. A variety of devices can wake you up without shock-inducing volume. For instance, several companies offer alarm clocks that simulate sunrise, gradually increasing in brightness until your bedroom is as light as day. Some include soothing sound options like music, bells, and wind chimes, while others include outdoor sounds like waves, chirping and wind. One even includes an aromatherapy option so you can greet your day with light, sound, and scents. Search online so you can get an idea of your options.

If the gentle approach isn’t enough to rouse you out of deep sleep, you might need a clever alarm clock that demands your full attention. One clock emits a noise that sounds like rocks in a blender. If just noise won’t do the trick for you, one clock on wheels jumps off your bedside table after you hit the snooze button and won’t stop blaring until you catch it. There’s a talking robotic clock that crows like a rooster, a bomb alarm clock you have to defuse and a few puzzle clock apps, including this one, that require an equation or other solution before quieting down.

As effective as those may be, obnoxious noises are probably among the worst ways to wake up in the morning. For a gentler wakeup call, there’s an app that wafts the scent of bacon through your iPhone when the alarm goes off, but we think Harte is on the right track: Protect your sleep; get the rest you need and wake up in the morning to your own body’s gentle rhythms. Drink a glass of cool water, do some light exercise and if need be, enjoy a cup of tea or coffee while you greet the day gently. Or you can try the alarm clock that brews a cup of coffee for you right at your bedside.

Liesa Harte, MD, reviewed this article.


Liesa Harte, MD, Functional Medicine. Founder, Elite Care.