For the past year, I’ve tried everything to become a morning person. Going to sleep two hours before my normal bedtime, hitting the gym right after waking up, turning my beloved iPhone off before heading to bed—seriously, every tip you’ve read, I’ve tried. And let me tell you, I’m still a night owl who rarely falls sleeps before 2 AM. But I’m no longer trying to change my habits. As writer Peter Economy says in this article, why fight nature if my most productive time starts when early birds go to sleep?
However, being a night owl has its downsides. Such as the fact I’m still expected to start working bright and early every day. The good news is that I have enough morning hacks up my sleeve that most people can’t tell I’ve only gotten four hours of sleep. In fact, some people would almost describe me as chipper.
If you want to learn how to survive the mornings , check out these research-backed tricks. While they won’t transform you into a morning person, they’ll definitely make being up before noon much more bearable.
1. Add This 90-Second Trick to Your Shower
Ever since I read this Entrepreneur article on using hot and cold hydrotherapy to become more energized, I’ve been ending my morning showers a little differently.
Here’s the trick, stolen from founder and CEO Phil Dumontet:
“Once you’ve finished your morning cleaning ritual, crank the nozzle as cold as it goes, and stand under the water for about 30 seconds. Feel free to gasp or scream if it helps (some say it does). After 30 seconds, turn the water up as hot as you can stand for another 30 seconds. This opens up the capillaries, increases blood flow, and provides an all-around sense of stimulation. Finally, cap it off with one more cycle of icy cold. Always end on cold.”
I know it sounds painful (and it sadly is). But having tested this trick for the past few months, I can say it truly makes you feel refreshed. Plus, Dumontet says that hot and cold hydrotherapy improves blood circulation, reduces stress, and builds a stronger immune system.
2. Exercise for 10 Minutes
When you wake up feeling tired, exercising is probably the last activity on your mind. But I’m not talking about an hour-long workout with sprints and weightlifting. I’m talking about a quick 10-minute routine that will raise your heart rate and increase your mental processing speed before walking out the door.
If you’re just starting to exercise after a way-too-long hiatus, try a 10-minute yoga workout for beginners. Or, if you’re up for a challenge, YouTube instructor Cassey Ho regularly posts short and motivating Pilates routines guaranteed to wake you up.
3. Chew Sugar-Free Gum
If you were one of those students who had to fight to stay alert in college lectures, you probably already know that chewing gum is one of the easiest ways to stay awake. According to Psychology Today, the act of chewing stimulates the trigeminal nerve and jaw muscles, and consequently arouses the brain.
And, while chewing gum containing sugar can increase your chances of developing cavities, chewing sugarless gum for 20 minutes can actually prevent tooth decay. With this trick, you won’t just be staying awake—you’ll be staying awake in a healthy way.
4. Apply Peppermint Oil
I’m sure you’re familiar with peppermint oil: We use it for headaches, for stomach pains, and sometimes for our rooms to smell nicer. But peppermint oil can also improve concentration and alertness when you’re feeling sleepy in the morning.
Young Living, the world leader in essential oils, recommends placing two drops of peppermint oil on your tongue and rubbing another drop under your nose when you’re in a state of drowsiness. If you don’t feel comfortable tasting the oil, I recommend rubbing a few drops on your temples. Just don’t apply so much that you smell like a candle in the office.
5. Eat Nutritious Snacks
Out of all these tricks, I rely most on eating to keep me awake. While I originally munched nonstop on gummy bears, I learned that the quick energy boosts never lasted long enough—especially considering how much sugar I was putting into my body.
Thankfully, there are tons of resources to help me (and you!) find the best options. My two favorite lists include this one from Greatist and this one from Fitness. Whatever snacks you choose, always try to have some on hand in the office so you can eat them when your eyelids start to droop.
Think of acupressure as acupuncture, but without the needles. Research has shown that, when stimulated, there are a number of pressure points in our bodies that increase alertness. In fact, this WebMD study was performed to help college and medical students stay awake in their classrooms.
The researchers found that students experienced significantly less fatigue when they applied pressure to stimulation points such as the back of the hands between the thumb and the forefinger, the top of the back of the neck, and the area below the knees. A simple massage with your thumb and index finger should do the trick. Take a look at the diagrams here for a better idea of where exactly these pressure points are located.
7. Have Conversations With People
You’re much more likely to doze off while sitting in front of your laptop than you are while chatting with a co-worker. Of course, this doesn’t mean starting small talk with someone every two minutes and annoying the heck out of them. No, I’m talking about physically leaving your desk and engaging in a conversation when you start to feel your body shutting down.
If you can, head to a funny co-worker first. Apart from stimulating our brains, laughter boosts our heart rates and increases our blood pressure. Besides, dozing off while talking to a living human is downright embarrassing—and we’re sure you’d keep alert just to stop that from happening.
To my fellow night owls: What are your secrets to surviving the morning? I’d love to hear about them on Twitter!