Unless you’re a morning person, waking up each day can be a challenge. Getting through the day can be so hard, and your bed is so soft.
And there’s a scientific reason for this: “Circadian rhythms are longer than a 24-hour day, so our sleep clock pushes us later,” Rebecca Scott, Ph.D. of NYU Langone’s Comprehensive Epilepsy Center—Sleep Center told Reader’s Digest.
This means that your body’s transition into and out of sleep is more like a dimmer switch than one you can just flick on or off. In other words, it takes us a little while to fall asleep, and the same is true for waking up.
Given that most of us could use some help with that daily transition to being awake, here are a few simple tricks to wake yourself up naturally, quickly, and without spending more money.
Make your coffee bitter
When you feel like your coffee isn’t giving you the jolt you need, try reducing the amount of milk and sugar that you put in it. When every sip is more bitter than what you’re used to, you might just feel more awake while drinking it.
Grab a few minutes of direct sunlight
It doesn’t matter if you’ve got a corner office that gets sun all day, light passing through windows just isn’t the same as the real deal. Step outside and let your skin grab some untouched sunlight, soak up some Vitamin D, breathe some fresh air and let your ears feel the openness of an unmuffled, non-office world.
Pull your hair
This one sounds bad but it really isn’t; slowly and gently tug at your hair to get blood flowing to your head in a new and refreshing way. It’s not as drastic as most of the other tips here, but if you’re just feeling the beginning tinges of sleepiness, it can help.
Splash cold water on your face
This one’s an oldie but a goodie, and it actually does work. Just don’t go overboard and come out of the office bathroom looking like you fell in. To really make this trick work to the fullest, step outside and let the fresh air hit your wet face.
Use your computer as an alarm clock
The basic idea is to make you actually pay attention to your alarm, instead of just going back to sleep. This way, your “alarm clock” is sitting across the room, so you have to get out of bed. It cost you hundreds of dollars—so you won’t slap it, and it forces you to actually use hand-eye coordination to look at the screen while using the mouse to stop the alarm.
Take a meme break
Sound juvenile? It might be, but laughter can help wake up a sleepy person better than almost anything but sheer terror.
Pop a strong mint
The stronger the better, because the effervescent effects do a great job of waking you up. If you’re on the verge of narcolepsy, consider getting a menthol stick—they’re so strong that they help actors fake tears.
Massage your hands
The area between your palm and your wrist is a fairly sensitive one. It’s also far enough away from the super-relaxing massage spots, like your neck or back, so giving it a minute-long deep rub can give you all the good feelings, while not putting you to sleep in the process.
Interact with a complete stranger
This is one that nobody ever thinks about until after it’s already happened by accident. If you’re feeling dead on your feet, mention something about the weather to someone nearby. Acting tired is no big deal in front of friends, but our bodies tend to wake up pretty quickly to avoid any sort of social awkwardness.
Play fast-tempo music
This one may seem obvious, or even cheesy, but if you’ve got the ability to listen to music where you happen to be falling asleep—take it! Play music you love, but absolutely keep it upbeat and fast.
Stretch your back, neck and legs
Don’t just sit up straight and yawn, but get out of your chair and stretch like you’re about to go running. Touch your toes! The point is to really stretch so that the blood gets flowing again throughout your entire body.
Take off some layers
It may seem like common sense, but we tend to forget the most basic things when our heads are cloudy with sleepiness. If you’ve got even one extra layer of clothing on and you’re feeling sleepy, taking it off might give enough of a chill factor to shake things up and stave off drowsiness.
Flip your head upside-down
With feet a bit more than shoulder-width apart, bend down as far as you can go and look back between your legs. The massive rush of blood to the head can be a big pick-me-up, just be sure you don’t come back up too quickly, or dizziness replaces clarity.
Bite a lemon!
Whether you like the sour fruit or not, you can’t deny the zesty slap to the face that it can provide in a time of need.
And if all else fails, you can always pull a George.
This story was originally published on 5/20/11 and was updated on 6/7/19.