Here’s your seven-day planner for great awakenings:
Monday: You need rewards. How about sex? It’s the heavy artillery of morning motivators and the only trump card that beats the second-most-compelling reward for a hard-working guy: sleeping forever.
“If the biggest reward in your morning is sleeping in, you’ll do it,” says Joseph Rock, Psy. D., a Cleveland psychologist. Poor wakers need to find a reward that can compete with the thrill of the pillow. “Do whatever you like, as long as it gets you going,” Rock says. “Have a meal you like for breakfast, have ‘sex with your wife.” Have sex with your wife over breakfast if that’s what it takes. Just make sure to schedule something every day that’ll motivate you to crawl out from under the comforter. Make one breakfast a week doughnut day (just one, Homer).
That new box of Peanut Butter Crunch you bought on Saturday? Wait until Monday to open it. If you’re a coffee hound, buy an automatic coffeemaker with a timer to lure your body out of bed and into the kitchen.
Or make the reward contingent on reaching a certain goal at work, says Michael Mercer, Ph.D., author of Spontaneous Optimism. “If all you have to look forward to is something general, such as working hard and not getting fired, it’s going to be hard to get out of bed,” says Mercer. Try something like this: If you make 10 sales calls by the end of the day, you get to shoot hoops with the guys that night. If you don’t make the 10 calls, you don’t go. So you’ll be excited about the prospect of playing basketball, and you’ll have a good reason to kick your butt out the door.
Tuesday: You need novelty. Ever have a relationship that started off with a nearly obsessive amount of sex and passion, only to have it deflate faster than a technology stock? Almost overnight, the wild thing becomes the same-old.
Routine can make it hard to climb into bed with a familiar lover. Why get up if your love life, your work routine, your clothes, your car, and the route you drive are dripping with sameness? Might as well sleep through it all. “When you keep doing the same thing, you fall into a rut or a comfort zone,” says Mercer. “Every day, before you go to sleep, figure out something exciting to do the next day.”
You don’t need to buy a new car to look forward to driving to work. Why not have your old one detailed? Or buy new music for the tape player? Even a new shirt and tie, or a laundered shirt and tie, can help. “In the old days, women suffering from depression were advised to buy a new hat,” says Michael J. Salamon, Ph.D., a New York psychologist. It’s not so much the hat, he says, as the new sense of confidence that comes with it. So go out and find a new woman with a new hat.
Wednesday: You need excitement and surprises. Your brain during sleep is like a customer-service number during the night shift: It never fully shuts down, but it’s very selective in what it chooses to deal with. “Mothers of newborn babies readily wake up when their babies cry,” says Roehrs, “but they may not wake up when a train or bus goes by.” While you’re sleeping, your brain is deciding what’s an important stimulus and what’s not. To psych your brain into wakefulness, you need to mimic the same rush you feel on the morning of a great road trip or a hot date. Here are some simple ideas:
* E-mail an old friend (or, better, an amiable ex) before you leave work the night before, so you can’t wait to check your incoming mail when you get to the office the next morning.
* Choose one morning when your hobby, not your job, will come first — an early hike, 30 minutes surfing the Web, a 15-minute dumbbell workout.
* Buy a CD after work, but don’t listen to it until your morning shower.
Thursday: You need to eliminate obstacles. Your rough mornings may have more to do with mental roadblocks than with a lack of physical arousal. “Sometimes, not wanting to get up in the morning is the symptom of a bigger issue,” says James Calhoun, Ph.D., of the University of Georgia in Athens. Maybe it’s a dreadful job or a dissolving relationship. Research shows that anxiety can cause people to linger beneath the bedclothes after they wake up.
If the morning dread stems from your long list of prework chores (ironing, walking the dog, packing your lunch, putting gas in the car, and don’t forget reading the McKenzie file), then launch a pre-emptive strike the night before. Take 20 minutes at the end of the workday to clear your desk and empty your in-box (the McKenzie file goes to Johnson), and nail your errands so you can start your workday clean.
Friday: You need recess. Why did it seem easier to wake up early when you were in fifth grade than it does now? Third-period kick-ball, that’s why. Even if the rest of the day consisted of diagramming sentences and reciting multiplication tables, there was always the allure of the big game.
Now you have to schedule your own big moments — and make sure they include other people. Interacting with others can be almost as exciting as the activity itself, says Salamon. Maybe a Friday-morning breakfast with the boys, or one day a week that your work group tries a new restaurant for lunch. If you have an hour for lunch, use it. Knowing that something fun is only 3 hours away — not 8 or 9 — makes the morning rise easier.
Saturday: You need climate control. You’d think that the weekend would be incentive enough to wake up, but with Friday night being, well, Friday night, you can probably use some extra nudging. Maybe it’s time to play around with your body temperature.
* Turn up the heat. A drop in temperature is a signal to your body that the time has come to hibernate, says Rosalind Cartwright, Ph.D., a sleep expert at Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Medical Center in Chicago. Warmth means it’s time to wake up and crawl out of the burrow. Fool your body by attaching a timer to an electric blanket so the temperature increases at about the time your alarm sounds. (Make sure the timer and blanket are current-compatible, and don’t forget to shut them off before you leave on vacation.)
Sunday: You need enlightenment. You’ve probably told your body that today’s the day it gets to sleep in. That might not be the best idea. If you awaken at 6 every morning during the week but switch to 10 on the weekends, in effect you’re setting your internal clock ahead 4 hours. For every hour you push it ahead, you’ll need one day of getting up at the usual time to reset your internal clock. With that scenario, it may take until the following Friday to return to your normal weekday sleep schedule, says Mark J. Chambers, Ph.D., of the Sleep Clinic of Nevada in Las Vegas. Giving up those 4 hours of sloth needn’t be a hardship. Try one of these tricks:
* Move your bed so you’re facing a window. Sunlight is a cue that tells your body it’s time to hunt that saber-tooth, says James Maas, Ph.D., author of Power Sleep and a professor of psychology at Cornell University. Raise your window shade halfway before you go to bed, to let in the morning light. About 30 minutes of light should be enough to rouse you.