Medically reviewed by
Dacelin St Martin, MD
Triple board-certified in Sleep Medicine,
Internal Medicine, and Pediatrics.
Have you ever woken up feeling like the very act of getting out of bed would be a monumental task? Perhaps something is weighing on your mind? Maybe a disturbing dream had something to do with this, or waking up way too early and then having a tough time getting back to sleep?
Whatever the reason, waking up grumpy is no way to start your day. Yet, for many people, this is a frequent reality.
Fortunately, there are 5 easy steps we can take to give us a better chance of waking up on the right side of the bed and even becoming a more positive person in general. Keep reading to learn all about them.
1) Positive Thoughts
It’s often said that how you go to sleep is how you will wake up. So if that’s in a negative frame of mind, take heart; you’re not alone. It’s human nature to focus on the negative, as there’s a natural sense of urgency surrounding negative thoughts.
This state is called conditioned arousal, where we focus on the stressor that keeps us stressed into sleep time, and usually, this only resolves when the stressor is no longer present.
This explanation is partly why insomnia treatments such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I) are so successful.
Try this exercise if you find yourself in bed ruminating on the negative: scan the day from when you woke up to the moment you are in right now and try to find as many positive experiences (no matter how small) you had that day. Recall these experiences for a few seconds and then look for more positives – even if it’s something like a great meal you had that day or something nice a coworker said. Then, try to find some more positives for that day and keep doing this until you start to feel the weight of sleep come over you. Anything goes, as long as it’s positive.
Being truly grateful for what you already have is not just a trend that has recently been elevated in the public eye. It’s a scientifically proven method for improving mood and sleep.
So, to use gratitude to wake up in a more positive frame of mind, try writing down a list of things you are grateful for just before bedtime. And focus on the things you are writing.
If you just go through the motions, it won’t work as well. By giving your brain a shot of genuine gratitude before bed, you have a far better chance of waking up the following day more refreshed and with a less ‘cluttered’ head.
3) Optimism Goes a Long Way
Ok, not everyone is a natural optimist. Life isn’t like that. But you can train yourself to be more optimistic every day – especially if you want to wake up ready to take on the world!
An optimistic outlook on life has been shown to correlate very positively with quality sleep which is the critical ingredient in waking up refreshed. In a recent 5-year study on the relationship between positive outlooks and sleep, a higher optimism score resulted in 78 percent higher odds of self-reporting excellent sleep quality.
Some of the topics we discussed already, such as gratitude, writing down thoughts, and focusing on positives vs. negatives, can go a long way in fostering a more optimistic outlook.
The same is true about meditation. However, as you wake up, you can try a more straightforward method tomorrow morning. Say, “Today is going to be a great day,” or something more specifically tailored to your situation, such as “I am going to ace that job interview today.”
Although this may sound like false positivity, it is an exercise for the mind to become more optimistic. Do this every morning; eventually, you will rewire your brain to not default to negative thoughts.
4) How to Alarm Without Getting Alarmed
Avoiding waking up grumpy is much easier when the very thing that wakes you up – your alarm clock – is more conducive to setting up a good day than starting out with frayed nerves. The thing with alarm clocks is that if they sound too pleasant, they would have the opposite effect than what is intended. However, a jarring, annoying sound may wake you up quickly, but it won’t do much to provide the foundation for a more positive waking experience.
Try setting your alarm to something more pleasant, yet enough to wake you up. You could also try the ultimate in gentle wake-ups: a sunrise clock. These clocks mimic the sunrise with gradually brighter light that starts about half an hour before your scheduled wake-up time, providing a natural and gentle way of easing out of sleep.
5) Hygiene is Not Just for Your Body
Hygiene for sleep? Absolutely! And it perfectly rounds out this list of steps for a more positive waking experience. You see, when it comes to waking up on the right side of the bed, nothing beats a solid night of sleep.
To set yourself up for a great night (barring any sleep disorders), practice good sleep hygiene every day by taking control of your sleep behaviors and environments:
- Have a consistent sleep-wake schedule
- Avoid stimulating electronics such as smartphones or tablets right before bed
- Avoid smoking, alcohol, and caffeine before bedtime
- No greasy, spicy, or otherwise heavy dinners, as the digestive requirements for these will keep you awake
- Comfortable bedding like mattresses, pillows, and blankets go a long way to help ease you into sleep
- Get regular, daily exercise (the CDC recommends 150 minutes of moderate exercise such as walking or riding a bicycle as a minimum)
What’s the Takeaway?
Getting out of bed in the morning should be a smooth experience. There is already enough negativity in the world. On the other hand, life doesn’t need to be perfect to wake up feeling positive, either. It takes a conscious effort to create and nurture a positive attitude. This new regimen is possible with a few gradual changes and will have you waking up on the right side of the bed more often.
- Vargas, I., Nguyen, A. M., Haeffel, G. J., & Drake, C. L. (2020). A negative cognitive style is associated with greater insomnia and depression symptoms: The mediating role of sleep reactivity. Journal of affective disorders reports, 1, 100010. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jadr.2020.100010
- Wood, A. M., Joseph, S., Lloyd, J., & Atkins, S. (2009). Gratitude influences sleep through the mechanism of pre-sleep cognitions. Journal of psychosomatic research, 66(1), 43–48. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpsychores.2008.09.002
- Hernandez, R., Vu, T. T., Kershaw, K. N., Boehm, J. K., Kubzansky, L. D., Carnethon, M., Trudel-Fitzgerald, C., Knutson, K. L., Colangelo, L. A., & Liu, K. (2020). The Association of Optimism with Sleep Duration and Quality: Findings from the Coronary Artery Risk and Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) Study. Behavioral medicine (Washington, D.C.), 46(2), 100–111. https://doi.org/10.1080/08964289.2019.1575179