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How to wake up earlier—with minimal misery

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Photo: Stocksy/Thais Ramos Varela

For so many people, there’s nothing more satisfying than sleeping in. You get up when your body wants. You can ease into your morning. You don’t have massive under-eye circles. It’s all pretty awesome.

Waking up early, on the other hand, is the pits. Only a few magic unicorns are truly jazzed about rising before the sun does, and yet too often life demands it. Work and school start early, plus that dreaded 6 a.m. HIIT class may be the only one that fits in your schedule all week.

To a certain extent, becoming an A+ early bird is beyond your control. “The ability to wake up early is determined by your genetics. It’s not something you should be forcing,” says sleep expert and clinical psychologist Michael Breus, who’s got a nifty quiz to figure out your type. (And yes, that was permission to embrace your late-riser if you can pull it off.)

But if you do have to get up early—or are determined to make this the year that you GSD before noon—there’s a way to do it without too much pain.

Originally posted January 8, 2017. Updated May 2, 2017.

Here’s your step-to-step guide to becoming a morning person.

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1. Set a bedtime based on 90-minute sleep cycles

Sleep generally runs in 90-minute cycles—and the goal is to wake up at the end of one. “You’ll be in a lighter stage of sleep at that point, which is easier to rouse yourself from,” Breus says. Most people are best served by getting either six hours or seven-and-a-half hours a night, he says, not eight (you’ll be in the middle of a new cycle). So, if you know you work best with seven-and-a-half hours of zzz’s and you need to be up at 6:30 a.m., it’s lights-out at 11.

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2. Move your alarm clock across the room

If your alarm is right next to your bed—or on your wrist—it’s so easy to hit snooze. Forcing yourself to physically get out of bed may be a simple trick, but it’s an effective one. Another option? Enlist a wake-up buddy, i.e., a person who will call you and hold you accountable, Breus says. It’s kind of like having a screaming toddler who forces you out of bed, even if you’re not a parent.

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3. Have water right away

When the alarm goes off at 5 a.m., your first inclination might be to sprint for a cup of coffee. Don’t. “Your body breathes out one liter of water a night and you need to replace that first,” Breus says. Hydrating right away will help give you the energy to avoid crawling back under the covers. (For bonus points, squeeze a bit of lemon in it like a true wellness all-star.)

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4. Find the light

Sunlight helps turn off your “melatonin faucet,” Breus says, which in turn helps you avoid that groggy, I-seriously-don’t-want-to-be-awake-right-now feeling. Stand by the window for a few minutes if it’s light out (bonus points for drinking water at the same time!) or use a light box.

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5. Throw a shower party

Breus recommends a cool—not cold—shower to get the blood flowing. And blast the guilty-pleasure Bieber tunes. “Saving your workout music for your workout isn’t necessarily the best idea,” Breus says. The overall goal is to start off in a good mood, so you’re more likely to give the whole getting-up-early thing a go again the next day.

Looking for more how-tos? Here’s how to pop a pesky pimple, or become an awesome conversationalist in seven easy steps.