How to Get up in the Morning

…by somebody who can’t get up in the morning.


One of the many negative side-effects of over-sleeping.

By Aidan Higgins, Editor

If you’re anything like me – well, first of all, I’m sorry everything turned out this way. Second of all, you are probably well-acquainted with the psychological turmoil involved with trying to get out of bed every morning. You may have moderate-to-severe PTSD that is triggered by the sound of Apple’s “Radar” alarm, a sound that was engineered by the devil himself in the fiery depths of Hell. You may find yourself clenching your teeth and tightening your hand into a white-knuckled fist every time you hear one of those godless, self-proclaimed “morning people” touting their evolutionary superiority over you. When you are not forced to abide by the cruel schedule that your school or daytime job yields, you likely fall asleep later and later every night until you realize that you have become nocturnal and that your only hope of reconquering your sleep schedule is continuing to fall asleep later every night until you complete a full 24-hour cycle and arrive at an acceptable bedtime; and when school or work does wave its overarching authority over your schedule, you likely feel desolate and bereft because you can see that this world is not made for somebody like you.

If you sympathize with these sentiments, I pity you sincerely, and as much as I would like to tell you that your saddening state is resolvable, it’s not. There is something refreshingly noble about accepting your lot in life and making the best of the two or three rotten lemons that life gave you; though you will never be able to produce a full cup of lemonade, with hard work, you might be able to fill a shot glass with sour lemon juice and wash away your woes for a few fleeting seconds. Don’t misconstrue: I am not suggesting that you turn to alcohol to forget that you drew the short stick in life; rather, I am suggesting that you keep your chin up and do as much as you can with what little you have. That being said, here are 6 different ways for night people to maximize their ability to wake up in the morning, tested and reviewed.

1. The Human Pavlov Dog Experiment

Pavlovian conditioning is the process by which learning occurs because of a subject’s instinctive responses, as opposed to its willful actions. The original Pavlovian conditioning experiment was conducted in the 1890s by Russian physiologist Ivan Pavlov; he found that if dogs came to associate a certain sound or sight with food, they would begin to salivate at the sight/sound of the associated action/object before their feeder even opened a food package or gave them food. Theoretically, this same process could be used to condition humans to instinctually want to move when they hear a certain sound. If you set three alarms throughout the day and one in the morning when you wake up, use the same distinctive alarm sound for each alarm, and instantly do 10-15 pushups or jumping-jacks every time you hear the sound (even when you wake up), you should eventually condition your body to want to move every time it hears that sound. The benefits of successfully implementing this process are obvious: if your body wants to move every time it hears its morning alarm, waking up in the morning would be so much easier.

The Human Pavlov Dog Experiment is not all sunshine and rainbows, however. Over the roughly 1-month period in which I practiced Human Pavlov-ing, I used the “Duck” alarm, which I figured was the most distinctive sound available, as my movement trigger. The main drawback of this was that it was horribly inconvenient. The success of this experiment is contingent upon the discipline of the subject; your body will only develop the desired movement instinct if you move every single time the alarm sounds, without fail, for an extended period of time. Thus, you can imagine the confusion of an unsuspecting member of the administration when I scrambled to tell her that I was trying to trick my body like a dog after she found me outside her office doing push-ups with a cacophony of quacks playing at full-volume from my iPhone. You can also imagine my embarrassment when I had to run off the field during a lecture from my coach in the middle of a soccer scrimmage because I forgot to turn off my duck alarm and left my phone in my bag. The unfortunate reality is that the Pavlov Dog Experiment is far more convenient for dogs than it is for humans, who have to obey a strict social code that forbids doing push-ups to duck noises in public. My verdict: too inconvenient

2. Sleep Cycle Alarm Clock (from App Store)

The Sleep Cycle Alarm Clock supposedly uses sound analysis to identify sleep states and your phone’s built-in microphone to track your movement during sleep. By identifying which sleep phase you are in, it can wake you up during one of the lighter phases so that the switch from “asleep” to “awake” is shorter and easier. This would be great if it worked, but it doesn’t. The first few days I used the app, I woke up easily and thought, “Wow! This app is amazing!” But after a few days, the novelty wore off and I realized that my increased wake-up ability was not due to the app’s technical genius but to the placebo effect. My verdict: ineffective

3. Working Out in the Morning

This is one of the few methods with which I saw substantial progress in my ability to wake up. I need to leave for school around 7:15-7:30 every morning, so I needed to wake up around 6:15-6:30 to make time for working out. Because I was more active during the two months over which this method was implemented, I was happier, healthier, and saw an increase in sleep quality. After a few weeks, I even came to enjoy working out and was motivated to get out of bed every day and maintain those obtained gains. I even came to enjoy it so much that I started to eat healthier and more frequently, which struck great contrast to my usual daily ration of a bagel, two slices of pizza, and cheerios. The whole scheme eventually fell apart when I was assigned 5 assessments over two days and stopped working out to make time for studying…and I just never started again. My verdict: super effective, but difficult for a student

4. Using Favorite Song as Alarm

Using your favorite song as your alarm is effective only for a few days, much like the Sleep Cycle Alarm Clock. Unless you have the motivation to change your alarm every day, you will eventually develop the undesired ability to sleep through your chosen soundtrack. I remember one specific instance when I was late for school because my alarm song sounded and I comprehended it into my dream. I even heard it and thought, “Wow, I like that song,” but it never occurred to me that it was my alarm. Imagine how difficult it was to explain this to Mrs. Braychak when she asked why I needed a late pass. My verdict: ineffective

5. Putting Your Alarm Across Your Room

I’m sure many of you have at least considered this option. The inexperienced mind assumes that if you put your alarm on the other side of your room, you will have to get out of bed to turn it off, so you will have no choice but to get up. This is wrong, of course. I’ve found that one’s motivation to sleep is far stronger than his or her motivation to wake up. When I tried this technique, I usually just crawled back to my bed after I turned off the alarm or fell asleep on the floor where my alarm was placed. My verdict: very ineffective

6. Alarmy (from the App Store)

Alarmy is an alarm app with an arsenal of alarms so shrill that even the most persistent sleepers cannot learn to ignore them. It is the buff older brother of Apple’s “Clock” app who spent 7 years in a Central American prison and follows a strict diet of Damascus steel and over-sleepers’ souls. Alarmy eliminates the threat of faulty or quiet alarms so that sleepers can rest assured (pun intended) knowing that they will be woken up at their desired time; however, experienced sleepers know that waking up isn’t even half the battle. My verdict: will wake you up…but that’s it


As you’ve likely realized by this point, I haven’t discovered the secret to getting up in the morning. Unfortunately, the real answer to the question that we’re all asking is probably something cheap like “getting a decent quality and quality of sleep,” and for many students and workers, that seems impossible…but everything seems impossible until it is done. The reality is that none of us deep-sleepers will ever get as much sleep as we need and deserve until we make the significant life-style changes to accommodate our mental/bodily needs. Mom can’t wake us up forever (thanks mom).