According to James Maas, PhD, author of Power Sleep and a Cornell University sleep expert, an unsupportive pillow can put your spine out of line and cause neck and cervical pain. "Sleeping on a dead pillow can disrupt you so much," he says. "You can sleep all night and still feel terrible come morning." Maas recommends putting your pillow to the test: Fold it in half and let go. If it bounces back to its original shape, it's in fine shape. But if it doesn't, he says, "You've got a dead pillow. Get rid of it and replace it." He recommends a hypoallergenic Insuloft Down Fill pillow ($100 to $150) and Primaloft Hypoallergenic Luxury Down Alternative Pillow ($40 to $60).
Let the Light In
Morning sunlight programs your brain to perk up. Even when your eyes are closed, the light that passes through your lids signals your internal clock to trigger waking neurons in the brain. If you sleep in a darkened room, think about purchasing a dawn simulator, a device that gradually brightens a light source at a preprogrammed time. You can hook it up to any incandescent lamp, but according to Sewitch, "for a lamp next to your bed to make a difference, it's got to shine directly at your head as you're waking." (She uses a track system of three 50-watt flood bulbs.) Dawn simulators sell for $120 to $160 and lamp-clock combinations for $100 to $200, from such companies as SunBox and Light Therapy Products. Sewitch recommends setting a device to create a dawn that breaks a half hour before you have to get up and grows to maximum brightness by the time your alarm goes off.
Lower the Thermostat
Anyone who's nodded off in a warm office knows how toasty temperatures promote drowsiness. A cooler environment can have the opposite effect. Martin Moore-Ede, MD, president and CEO of the corporate consulting firm Circadian Technologies and author of The Twenty-Four Hour Society, suggests turning your thermostat to the mid-60s before you turn in. "That gives you warm conditions to fall asleep in, but cool conditions for your really deep sleep," he says. "By morning you'll have the ideal environment in which to awaken." If 60-something sounds too chilly, bear in mind that you can compensate with blankets; just leave your head uncovered. "Sleeping under the bedcovers means your head is the only place where significant heat loss can occur," says Moore-Ede. "If this capability is lost, the body may heat up to the point where sleep is disrupted."
Reset Your Internal Clock
Getting up earlier may seem like a less than attractive option to someone who doesn't want to get out of bed at all, but according to Moore-Ede, it's a strategy worth exploring. Here's why: Your sleep is accomplished in a series of five stages that you cycle through four or five times a night: stage 1, a very light sleep; stage 2, a still light but deeper state; stages 3 and 4, the really deep phases; and finally, a lighter stage called REM, or rapid eye movement. If you're struggling to achieve consciousness when that alarm goes off, you might be interrupting stage 3 or 4, the toughest time to get going. "By getting up 30 minutes earlier," says Moore-Ede, "you may catch yourself during a lighter stage, from which you'll awaken more readily."
You'll also have an extra half hour in the morning, so you may want to experiment. As we cycle through sleep stages, the deep phases become shorter and the light ones become longer toward morning. By moving up your bedtime and by setting your alarm clock back a little, you might be awakened from a lighter stage of sleep. The strategy won't eliminate the sleep inertia, but like these other techniques, it will lessen the grogginess and make getting out of bed that much easier.
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