13 Surefire Ways to Wake Yourself Up

13 Surefire Ways to Wake Yourself Up

Ask yourself an honest question: Do you know how to wake yourself up on mornings when you really don’t want to? What about in the middle of the afternoon when your energy levels are on empty and you’re starting to doze off? Have you tried all the typical tips to no avail? Hopefully, I can help. I’m pretty darn good at getting up early these days, even if I do say so myself. 🙂

Sure, there is the occasional morning where I can’t seem to wake myself up no matter how many things I did right the night before, but I have some tricks up my sleeve to bounce back before the morning gets away from me or before an afternoon slump drains the life out of me. In this blog post, I’m going to share 13 surefire ways to wake yourself up. Chances are, one or more of them will work for you. Furthermore, one or more of them will probably be completely new to you or are something you’ve never associated with waking yourself up.

You might want to pinch yourself first to make sure you’re awake enough to read this… that’s way #1 to wake yourself up. Just kidding, it’s not… 

Although, you know, pinching yourself could actually work. 😉

Anyhoo… Let’s get to it, shall we? 

pay attention to wake yourself up

1 – Attention (AKA Practice Mindfulness)

I don’t know about you, but one of the biggest reasons I get sleepy isn’t because I’m tired or lacking sleep. Oftentimes, my productivity starts to take a dive during the day because I’m bored, daydreaming myself into a state of trance, or even just flat out mentally exhausted. From what, you might be asking? It’s from my thoughts and attention constantly being diverted from one thing to another.

It can be very difficult to focus on one thing that I’m trying to accomplish, enjoy, figure out, etc. in the present moment before moving on to the next thing. I always seem to be mentally jumping ahead to what might be next.

What’s even more exhausting is that the thing that might be next isn’t always what is actually next, so I waste a ton of mental energy on assumptions and false alarms. 

Wrestling with metaphorical demons in your head is exhausting as well. Negative thoughts always drain your physcial energy and must be purged from your mind as much as humanly possible so you don’t needlessly run yourself into the ground.

Once I realized that I am wasting physical energy by focusing on the wrong things (the wrong thoughts, the wrong focal point…), I have made it my mission to focus my full attention only on what is going on right now. Whatever is going on later will be addressed and attended to later. Whatever happened yesterday is something I can no longer do anything about, so it needs to be forgotten. Any chatter or thoughts that are irrelevant to the current moment are swept to the side.

Sweeping that chatter aside is not easy, I’ll have you know! If you’ve dealt with this struggle yourself or have been a student of Eckhart Tolle’s teachings about being in the present moment, this is sure to resonate with you. 

Right this very second, I’m writing this blog post after a long day at work, which is completely unrelated to this blog, and not thinking about anything else other than this blog post. It’s difficult to hold my attention on this post because so much happened today (I had a weekly meeting, blah blah blah…), but because I’ve had so much practice with being mindful and focusing on the present, I’m doing it fairly easily.

As a result, I feel awake, clear-headed, and energetic when in all honesty, I should be exhausted from a long day. I’m not exhausted, though. I feel a-ok. I’m in a state of flow, which is one of the many perks of being present in the moment and devoting all my attention to this moment.

Focusing your attention on the present moment, no matter what it is, is the most powerful way to wake yourself up. That’s why I made it #1 on my list of how to wake yourself up.

When you find yourself getting sleepy, see if it’s because your thoughts and attention are wandering away from the present. If so, bring your attention to right here, right now – not to regrets about yesterday or anxiety about tomorrow.

Deliberately choosing to focus on something that is in your present consciousness (even if it’s something mundane like a steaming cup of tea) wakes up your senses and gets you in touch with reality, making you ready to react to or interact with whatever is happening in your environment.

stop multitasking to wake yourself up

2 – Stop Multi-Tasking

If you have a lot to get done and are looking for a tried and true way to wake yourself up, do this: Stop multi-tasking. Multi-tasking only adds to your feeling of tiredness because it makes you feel overwhelmed and flustered knowing that you are juggling so much, yet never giving any single thing your best effort.

Doesn’t your work, school, kids, parents, friends – and life as a whole deserve your best effort? If your answer is yes, then stop dinking around by putting in only a little effort here and there. Stop multi-tasking and you’ll find that you instantly have a solid way to wake yourself up in a world of multi-tasking zombies running on hamster wheels!

This one sort of piggybacks off #1 for the following reason: Once you find yourself focusing on the present moment, you’ll only really be able to do one thing at a time. Multi-tasking for complex tasks will become a thing of the past.

Just because multi-tasking makes it feel like you’re getting more done doesn’t mean that you actually are. Even if you are (by some miracle) getting more done by juggling ten things at once, the quality of your work undoubtedly suffers. All the scrambling around, focusing and re-focusing, remembering and forgetting, then remembering again that the average multi-tasker does only contribute to your exhaustion.

It is far better to do more complex things the right way: One at a time, with an intense focus on only that thing until it is successfully complete. A lot of times, focusing on a single task before moving on to the next one even allows you to get everything done faster overall because there is no switching back and forth in your head or trying to remember where you left off while leaving the current task unfinished.

Sure, sometimes multi-tasking is okay or even beneficial if your job calls for doing a lot of easy tasks that can be batched or paired, or that on their own don’t require your full attention. For example, listening to an audiobook and doing the dishes is multi-tasking, but neither is interfering with the other, so that multi-tasking pair is great. Or if you work in a warehouse putting labels on boxes and pulling products, then listening to music with earbuds will not interfere with your job and is perfectly fine.

In general, though, I wish workplaces would stop idolizing and glamorizing extreme multi-tasking like it’s somehow synonymous with a good work ethic. Personally, I respect someone who can knock out one solid task at a time and slowly cross off all the daily to-do tasks much more than I can someone who starts ten things and finishes nothing.

As a side note: Have you ever noticed that the “one at a time” person almost always has more stable energy and pleasant moods than the typical neurotic multi-tasker? 

Heck, just writing about all this multi-tasking is making me run a marathon in my head and is seriously making me tired. I’ll leave it here since I’m sure you get the point by now. Stop. Multi-tasking.

work in pomodoros to wake yourself up

3 – Break Up Work Into Pomodoros

Sometimes work can be downright stressful that just the thought of it makes you want to take a nap. The to-do list never ends, it seems – especially if you have small children or work a demanding job.

Working in highly focused 25-minute blocks may or may not work with little kids (mealtime, playtime, etc), but it most certainly will work to wake you up for school or job-related tasks, and for larger chores at home (like organizing the garage) that need to be broken up into multiple 25-minute increments

What is the Pomodoro Technique?

Breaking up larger, overwhelming tasks into manageable 25-minute sessions of intense focus will wake yourself up. Each 25-minute session is known as a Pomodoro, which is a time management technique developed by Francesco Cirillo.

Choose 1 thing to focus on for the duration of 1 Pomodoro, put away all distractions (phone, email, TV, other people, etc) while working on that thing, knock it out during that 25-minutes (or make acceptable progress on it, at least) – then take a 5-minute break. After 4 Pomodoros are complete, take a longer break of 30 minutes or so. Then if you have more work to do still, repeat the process and start at Pomodoro #1 again. Repeat until you’re finished with your work.

Why Do Pomodoros Wake You Up?

Knowing that all you have to do during each 25-minute session is get that one thing done (not everything all at once), a Pomodoro automatically wakes yourself up because you can relax and focus on it. You are essentially reducing that feeling of impending doom that stacked up, unfinished tasks tend to cause. When you see that you are getting things done throughout the day, your energy levels will be more steady because you’re not freaked out; you know that you have a viable plan to get all your work done and that you aren’t expected to do more than you can handle.

get moving to wake yourself up

4 – Get Moving (Outside if Possible)

Anytime you find yourself sleepy, whether it’s first thing in the morning upon waking or in the middle of the day, taking a few minutes to walk, jog, or otherwise move around, stand on your head, whatever it is… is going to wake you up.

The human body is meant to move around – not sit at a desk all day or sit in a car while stuck in traffic for hours every day. We thrive with movement, so if you’re healthy enough to go outside and move around, be sure to do that – especially when you need to wake yourself up. Sometimes the worst thing you can do when you’re tired is automatically go back to sleep (except at bedtime, of course!)

First thing in the morning and right after lunch are two perfect times to get outside and take a walk. Commit to this practice every day that the weather cooperates, and in a week’s time you will notice a positive difference in your energy levels.

citrus aromatherapy or food to wake yourself up

5 – Citrus

Citrus will energize you and provide you with a naturally refreshing (and delicious!) way to wake yourself up by boosting your body’s production of serotonin –  the “feel good” hormone.

It doesn’t matter how you ingest your citrus. Just ingest it somehow. Eat citrus fruits. Rub citrus-infused essential oil onto your skin. This set from Amazon is my absolute fav when it comes to value. You can’t beat the price! Use citrus-scented soap or body wash. Drink water with freshly squeezed citrus. Or all of the above! 

fresh mint or essential oil will wake yourself up

6 – Peppermint

The lovely menthol element of classic mint or peppermint aroma wakes up your brain’s hippocampus, promoting immediate optimal mental clarity and memory boosting capabilities.

Eating mint in a salad, eating a candy cane or candy mint, drinking peppermint tea or even simply smelling freshly cut mint are all great ways to wake yourself up. Another effective way to enjoy having menthol light up your hippocampus is to apply peppermint essential oil under your nose, on both wrists, and on your neck like perfume or cologne. 

Other Scents Can Help You Wake Yourself Up As Well…

I’d also like to mention that other pleasing, aromatic scents can work just as well as mint at waking you up. The scent of tea tree oil, freshly baked cookies, cinnamon, coffee, jasmine tea, bacon, maple syrup, or any scent you find to be powerful and pleasing. Many scents can all invigorate your senses and surprisingly energize you, so it’s a great idea to experiment with different scents you know you like and find out which one(s) work best at transforming you into an alert state.

use electronics to wake yourself up

7 – Brighten Electronic Screens

Usually, we’re told to put away our electronics or dim the screens, but that is only necessary when it’s close to bedtime and you want to promote sleepiness. If you want to wake yourself up, brighten those screens to the max! The blue light emitted from electronic devices will wake you up stat.

cold hot cold shower to wake yourself up

8 – Take a Cold-Hot-Cold Shower

Here’s the deal: Cold showers wake you up, but who wants to take a cold shower? Pretty much no one, right? Unless you’re a masochist…

Facts are still facts, however. Cold showers do wake you up, so why not make a compromise when you’re feeling sleepy? What I mean is why not do your normal washing and shampooing routine at your normal warm-ish water temperature, then follow it up with a 90-second cold-hot-cold sequence? Each leg of the sequence should last 30 seconds and be as extreme as you can handle.

Here’s how the cold-hot-cold sequence should go: Run the water as cold as you can possibly handle for 30 seconds, then run the water as hot as you can handle (without burning yourself) for another 30 seconds, followed by a final 30 seconds of running the water as cold as you can stand. Then shut off the water, get out of the shower, and dry off. 

Yeah. That’ll wake you up.

And it’s less disturbing than a purely ice cold shower.

laugh to wake yourself up

9 – Laugh

Why so serious? If you’re bored or sleepy (or both), maybe you’re overdue for a good laugh. Getting your laugh on gets the endorphins flowing and allows you to quickly wake yourself up. Find someone to laugh with or go online and find a funny video. All it takes is a couple minutes of a laugh fest to get you wide awake for a few hours.

scream to wake yourself up

10 – Scream

If you’re frustrated about something and also need to wake yourself up, screaming can help. If you’re alone, shamelessly scream loud and proud out in the open. Scream silently into a pillow if you need to be quiet or don’t want others to come running to your rescue (or getting in your business.)

Seriously, try it. You’ll feel like a brand new, awakened person. I believe a good scream is highly underrated.

11 – Light Therapy

This one is a biggie. I love light therapy. The great thing about light therapy is that anyone can benefit from it. It is especially beneficial if you live in an area that has little daily sunlight or if it’s the time of year where there is little daily sunlight.

It is not an exaggeration to say that light therapy can change your life. It can finally get you wide awake as well as help beat the winter blues.

I have a natural tendency to be groggy and slow to wake up. First thing in the morning is always when I’ve needed the most help to wake myself up. Maybe you’re the same way?

I’m much better about it now since my body pretty much wakes itself up these days, but it wasn’t always that way. I’ve had to go through some strict bedtime scheduling and light therapy to get where I am today.

After waking up at 5:30am, I used to sit in front of my light lamp, which works great and I still use it sometimes at work (here on Amazon if you’re interested), but I couldn’t get up and do other things around the house while I sat there. So, I moved it to my office for a mid-day energy boost and started looking for another option

Even though I live in an area that is sunny pretty much year round, I still benefit from light therapy due to my current lifestyle. My job keeps me stuck at my desk during the sunny hours. I usually don’t get much of a lunch outside the office due to the typical office chaos. As a result, I keep my light lamp (this one on Amazon) at my desk and turn it on when I need to wake myself up. This comes in handy in the mid-afternoon around 3:00pm. 

Enter Light Therapy Glasses

What I do with light therapy first thing in the morning has changed since moving the light lamp to work. I picked up a pair of light therapy glasses because I realized that I could keep my sleep cycles and mornings on track as part of my normal morning routine. Instead of being locked to a chair in front of a light box, I can walk around the house to get on with my day (perhaps do some stretching, meditation, music listening, tea sipping, etc) while wearing the glasses for 20 to 30 minutes. This pair of light therapy glasses available on Amazon if you click here, is phenomenal. They make me look like a weirdo with space glasses, but who cares? All I care is that they work. They are worth every penny, I can assure you.

The other popular light therapy glasses – click here to see on Amazon – seem to be really good, too, but I couldn’t use them long enough to be sure. I found them to be too large and were falling off my face, so I had to return them. If you have a larger head, give them a shot.

12 – Stick Your Head in the Freezer

Don’t worry, you won’t freeze to death. Only do this for a few seconds (maybe 30?) and you’ll be fresh as a daisy, ready to dive into anything. This is similar to the logic behind the cold-hot-cold shower. Shocking your system always works! You can even do this at work or school if you have access to a kitchen or break room with a freezer.

13 – Do a Quick Cardio Session

By quick, I mean no more than 3 minutes. Even 1 minute of intense movement will do the trick sometimes. Yes, do this even if you already worked out today if you find yourself nodding off at work or school. Quick cardio movements wake you up, plain and simple. Some of my favorite moves for this: jump roping, high-knees, mountain climbers, jump squats, burpees… 

So there you have it: 13 surefire ways to wake yourself up! Let me know in the comments if you’ve tried any of these and how they worked for you.

I'm the owner of WhyGetUpEarly.com and an enthusiastic early riser. Let's discuss why that is... and maybe I can make you a believer in magical mornings as well!

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