If you’re going to try and get out of bed at 5:30am every morning, I recommend taking the gentle approach with your alarm. Choose a sound that slowly masturbates your slumbering brain awake, not one that violently rips you out of unconsciousness like an emergency cesarean.
This seems counter-intuitive, especially for those of us that count getting up in the morning as one of life’s great tribulations. But after experimenting over the course of the past year, I’ve discovered that going easy on myself at this vulnerable time of day is much more effective in achieving the end goal of early rising than any masochistic approach.
When I first resolved to get up by 6am each morning, this determination was part of an even grander scheme to run three miles before work every day. Previously not one to stir before 7:30 if I could help it, I decided I must take the most aggressive stance possible with my alarm: I would make it very loud, I would put it outside the bedroom, and I would make the alarm itself a rousing song that could not help but get me moving with enthusiasm for the morning. I was convinced that in a matter of weeks I would be in half-marathon condition.
Instead, I developed a burning hatred for Blondie’s “Call Me” and an ability to leap up, shut off an alarm in another room, and return to bed in less time time than it took the Russian lover to roll over onto his other side.
When the Russian lover started commuting to New York each morning, we were briefly cohabitors of the same cruel schedule out of sheer necessity; however, after he started spending his weeks there I needed to find another means of early morning motivation. I blamed Blondie for my initial failures and decided that I would try waking myself with the soothing sound of Vivaldi: Spring, allegro.
If you want to be startled awake every morning, this allegro is one way to do it.
What I finally realized is that being shocked out of sleep triggered a fight or flight response, and so invariably I would just lash out at the off button and then drift back to sleep. The alarm was an adversary to do battle with each morning in my struggle to stay in bed, not a signal that it was time for me to get up and go about the day’s business.
So I went around the Four Seasons and what eventually worked for me was Autumn II, Adagio Molto. Even Autumn Largo was entirely too much auditory bombardment, and I reflexively shut that movement off every day without stirring. But the adagio was compatible with my morning self, gently pulling me out of dreams and offering reassurance: A daylight lullaby.
Instead of reaching for the snooze button in a panic upon waking, I found myself lazily stretching along with the cats and listening to the slow strains for a few moments. And rather than falling right back to sleep, I was able to get to my feet, switch off the music, and start the day.
So while I’m still no marathon runner in the making, I can make it to 6am pilates. It turns out that taking the alarm out of my alarm was the key to becoming — if not a morning person — at least a person capable of getting up in the morning.