So it’s the second day of a 2-week experiment to wake up every day at 630AM. Despite getting to sleep at 10:30PM and falling asleep right away, I am feeling very groggy. So. Groggy.

Last night’s sleep cycle was weird…I woke up a couple times but didn’t remember anything until 4AM rolled around, when I became very wide awake. My brain was alert, thinking of things to do, while the rest of my body was saying, “C’mon, go back to sleep!” I tried focusing on my breathing, trying to get into the experience of just letting air in and out of my body. It hadn’t occured to me before that maybe meditation was simply about not thinking so darn much. I eventually fell asleep again after about an hour and a half, but when the alarm went off at 630AM it was very difficult to roll out of bed. The morning exercise regimen failed to wake me up, though it did get the blood flowing so I could make it to the coffee shop before 8AM and do the planning for the day.

It’s 930AM now, and I have my daily plan set before me. My mind, though, is unfocused and weary, and the reason I’m writing this blog post is to kickstart the mental process. Even now, I’m not quite alert, writing automatically with my head listing about 30 degrees to the right. I need some grogginess solutions!

I decided to see what Steve Pavlina had to say on the subject, as a reader had mentioned his site the other day. His article How to get up right away when your alarm goes off had a crazy-genius suggestion to practice getting up when you’re already awake…the idea is to condition yourself to do things when any alarm sounds, and by practicing this getting up becomes easier. I had a related thought recently about reducing my “lag time” between thought and action; Pavlina’s approach is very pragmatic and implementable. Bravo!

In the meantime, I’m still feeling groggy, but am slightly more alert, because my curiosity has become activated. I am feeling the urge to do some more investigation of this sleepiness topic. Which itself, I think, is a clue that I’m not actually sleepy, I’m just not that excited about doing the work today. Yesterday was all about starting a new habit, and that was exciting. Today is just day #2, and there’s work to be done. Nothing exciting or glamorous about that, so my mind already anticipating being bored and is playing tricks on me. Which I find very irritating.

So…I just need to get past that.

I’m going to go drink a cup of water, do some jumping jacks, and knock off a few of those “boring” tasks. I know that doing these tasks are necessary and interesting once I get them done. For example, by the end of the day I should be more conversant with Flash video and Version 2 components, which would be awesome. However, because I know I can do it, the intellectual challenge isn’t there.

I’m reminded of an observation I made Impulsive versus Methodical Action, regarding the drudgery of doing lab work:

Progress is made by keeping your head down and pushing, often without a promise of immediate reward, until it is done.

I have to clarify that “without a promise of immediate reward” actually means “deferred reward”. The impulsive side of me enjoys the quest for knowledge as it is happening, so the reward is immediate. The application of that knowledge through process takes time, and the reward is deferred. For people that enjoy the mechanical process side of things, the reward would be immediate. In my case, I have to be aware that my brain is going to try to distract me with more immediately-gratifying things. Like writing a blog post clarifying my thoughts, which in a way is helpful.

SUMMARY: Grogginess == Brain Tricking Me


  1. Abi 15 years ago

    David, I’m attending grad school full time and working full time, so my time management skills have been honed over the past several months.

    One of the biggest helps in the morning, more than any chemical, was the purchase and use of a shower radio. Yes, I still love my coffee, but the shower radio (with a clock) has been quite helpful in waking me up every weekday morning.

    Also, Steve Pavlina’s right. After a while of suffering early in the morning, I’m at the point where I actually wake up a few minutes before my alarm clock goes off.

  2. Wade Winningham 15 years ago

    As far as waking up goes, it usually takes 21 days to make something a habit so I’m sure you’re still going through an adjustment period.

    For sleeping, when I have too many things stirring around my head the best thing I found to do is to simply read a chapter or two of a book before going to sleep.  It focuses my mind to one thing so my head isn’t running a marathon as I’m trying to go to sleep. If that’s not an option I will sometimes practice some self-hypnosis techniques.  Focus intently on a small white dot in my mind and slowly make it larger until it encompasses everything then do the same with a black dot.

    There’s tons of suggestions, you just have to find what’s right for you.

  3. Mark 15 years ago

    To me, this is a post about Time. The clock matches daylight, yes, but it’s a man-made construct. It really is malleable. I got on a kick a while back thinking about the prospect of a 36-hour day. My reality was that people end up working 12-hour days these days, with commutes, and there’s too much traffic with everyone going in and coming out at the same time…and we all need some downtime.

    So every 36 hours you work a 12-hour shift. You get 24 hours to sleep and play or take care of personal responsibilities. Since 36 hours doesn’t match the rotation of the earth, every few days your “play time” will be in daylight, as will your work time, as will your sleep time. And since people’s work lives are staggered among the 3 3rds, at the change of shift you will only potentially have 2/3rds of the population on the roads, instead of 100%.

    My point is that if 6:30AM doesn’t make sense or feel right (it certainly doesn’t for me, though it has some benefits), you can shape things for yourself. You would end up out of synch with society, but perhaps better in synch with your own clock!

  4. Neil 15 years ago

    I can understand why people would link productivity to waking up early, but it mystifies me as to why people would ignore their bodies and try to break through the tiredness barrier (usually with caffeine, adrenaline and cortisonal increases – none of which are at all healthy). Sleep isn’t just rest – it is a state of being!

    Have a look at Counting Sheep:

  5. bill 15 years ago

    Hey David,

    I am by no means suggesting you do this, or anyone, but it’s a very interesting read on altering sleep habits.

    Myself, when i get up at 6:30 for the gym, just get up and walk out the damn door, there is no trick, and yeah, it’s groggy, but 20 minutes on the eliptical machine fixes that.

  6. Ian Muir 15 years ago

    Here are somethings that help me wake up in the morning when I’m feeling groggy.

    <li>DDR – Its impossible to stay sleepy while playing and its more engaing than jumping jacks.</li>
    <li> – A few laughs usually gets my brain working.</li>
    <li>Sing along with music, even if it sounds awful.</li>

  7. Joan 15 years ago

    I’ve trained the cat, or the cat’s trained me to get up and feed it. First he purrs, then he paws, then he nips. I’m usually awake before the nipping.
    I’m not sure how I would retrain it to wake me up an hour earlier, short of putting the timer on the light an hour earlier, so he wakes up with the light, and then starts purring.

  8. Greg Williams 15 years ago

    I have an elliptical machine at home and I find that I wake up much faster by using it first thing in the morning, even mornings where I didn’t get enough sleep the night before.

  9. Terry 15 years ago

    I’d say the difficulty is just that you’re in the beginning stage of creating a habit.  I wake at 6:30 six days a week, but what luxury to retire at 10:30 pm!  Midnight is more the habit for me.  Hang in there!

  10. Jamin 15 years ago

    Tiredness is painful. Have you tried a midday power nap? Sometimes I ‘pretend’ to sleep for about 15 minutes in the early afternoon and it really helps. Your body and brain will get used to the new rhythm soon. Keep going!

  11. Leo 15 years ago

    Interesting post, David. I usually wake up at 4:30 or 5 a.m. every day, and the mornings are my favorite time of day. Check out my post on How I Became an Early Riser and My Morning Routine.

  12. danie 15 years ago

    When you wake up at 4:30 get up at 4:30. You won’t miss the sleep. Great time for Yoga. Fresh brain.
    If you are afraid of being tired later. Schedule a 30 minute power nap later in the day. It takes self disipline but the reward is great.

  13. Jon Glass 15 years ago

    As a time-zone traveler myself, I’m well-experienced in what you are experiencing. Actually, since we all live through Daylight Savings time changes, we are all familiar with the grogginess you are experiencing. However, and I know you know this, you can take strength that it will soon be passed (or is that past?), and your new routine will be just fine with you. You could also call what you are experiencing “jet lag” but without the jet, and without the extreme shift in time zones. ;-) However, through experience, I’ve learned that that the worst shifts for me are the smaller ones of only an hour. And I find it worse going forward in time, like you are doing. However, sticking with it, you will see the light at the end of the tunnel, and like someone else mentioned, you will begin anticipating your alarm, and may no longer need it at some point. ;-) However, if you stick with it, you will have a new habit. However, I’ve also learned that such habits require diligence. It’s a lot easier to sleep later than to get up earlier. ;-)


  14. GrahamC 15 years ago

    Sunray 1000 bodyclock – that has been wonderful for me. It’s not done much for my girlfriend though. :)

    Waking up or being woken up by a slowly brightening light is a far more ‘natural’ start to the day for me than an aggressive beeping noise (immediate adrenal surge which drops away)

    By and large i’m awake before the alarm goes off these days.

  15. CarlenLea 15 years ago

    It’s going to take a while for earlier mornings to feel normal.  BTW—I just saw this and totally thought of you:

    Seems like a fabulous organizational tool!

  16. Alexander 15 years ago

    Hi Dave,

    I’m the guy who pointed you to the post of Steve Pavlina. Even if I’ve read the suggestion of Steve to train the wakeup-process during daytime, I’ve never done it. Instead I still use this technique: when the alarm goes off you never have to think if it is right waking up at that time (or something else), you have to focus immediately at the firts ACTION you’ve to do and then get up IMMEDIATELY and DO it. For me the very first thing is going every morning in the kitchen, drink some water and preparing my cereals, then I go to the bathroom. In this way you are already done:
    1) you are awake
    2) you are up
    3) you’ve already done something !
    It’s a great start !!!

    About your grogginess, it’s a little bit surprising that you feel so already at the second day, normally that feeling comes after approx a week. Anyway the most important things are that:
    1) you don’t have to give up
    2) stay focused
    3) keep a journal
    4) expect to succeed

    I’ve applied Steve Pavlina’s 30 day trial more then once now and in order to achieve the above mentioned 4 points I’ve (guess what) created my own worksheet, inspired by (guess who) a guy who has made several worksheets which I love and use. His name is Dave Seah :-))))

    Read more and download it from here:

    Ottantaventi blog

  17. Dave Seah 15 years ago

    Abi: Shower radio as wake up tool…that’s a neat idea! I’ll look for one.

    Wade: Yup, certainly an adjustment period. My 2-week trial is probably more like a 2-week assessment period. It’s Thursday as I write this, and it definitely doesn’t feel settled in.

    Mark: That’s an excellent point…2005-2006 was actually the experiment to shape the day to my actual sleeping patterns. I’ve tried just establishing the natural sleeping cycle (it seemed to be about 32 hours in my case), various forms of shorter sleeping schedules, napping strategies, and so forth. I’ve come to this to see how it works out; I’ve never worked in a company that required being there at 9AM, nor have I ever really been in sync with society’s time. Lately I’ve come to realize that I want to be in synch, because I’m more of a social animal than I’ve previously thought.

    Neil: It’s human nature to try to fix things with tools, and it’s especially prevalent in Western societies. We have the belief that we can conquer nature, and we’ve also forgotten how to listen to it, so I’m not surprised that we’re like this :-) I had an interesting insight this morning that working past the sleepy point is doable, but it starts creating fatigue which you do end up paying for. So I’m learning :-)

    Ian: DDR…a great idea! I would need to move the system into a room with a harder floor. The voice singing thing is a good idea too…getting things expressed both physically and mentally seems to help connect with the world.

    Joan: My cats are not very well trained…sometimes one of them will come in the room and start making a fuss about being hungry, but they are easily convinced to fall asleep.

    Greg: That’s a neat idea. Maybe I should join a gym instead of going to the coffee shop. It might actually be cheaper than having a daily fancy coffee!

    Terry: As it turned out, 1030 didn’t work! I’ve been playing around with different times, and have starting to believe that there’s a magic point of sleepiness just prior to becoming genuinely fatigued that signals when to sleep. Tonight I will try listening to it. The idea actually comes from that Harvest Moon game I’ve been playing, which implements its tiredness feature in this way.

    Jamin: I did end up taking a nap that day, and it made all the difference. Good thing, too, because I had to drive a lot in the evening.

    Leo: Thanks for the links! It’s good to know that there are a bunch of people who are doing the same thing. I’m finding I am enjoying the morning a lot also.

    Bill: I’ve thought of trying that (I’ve done bi-phasic), but I’m not quite ready for that :-)

  18. Dave Seah 15 years ago

    danie: Yoga is something I might be brave enough to try sometime. Thanks for the nap suggestion! Is it important to actually schedule the nap?

    Jon: That’s a neat analogy to make, comparing this to jet lag. It’s also true that I’m training myself to be more dilligent and methodical…I hadn’t quite realized it until you mentioned that. I’ve decided to commit to early waking on the weekends too…THAT will be something :-)

    Graham: Unfortunately my bedroom doesn’t get much morning light. This morning I did try sitting next to a big window facing the sun, to see if that helped wake me up. When it warms up I’ll try sitting outside.

    Carlen: The Knock Knock stuff is pretty neat, thanks for the link! I’d seen a few of their things before.

    Alexander: I’m working on establishing that early morning routine of getting up and immediately exercising, showering, getting dressed, and hitting the coffee shop. And sweet forms, dude! That’s a great idea you’ve got :-)

  19. Keeran 15 years ago

    I feel like I’m slowly awakening to whatever led you on this quest Dave – this is something I’m going to try after my holiday next week (just 3 days away from work!).

    Also, after reading a few of Malcom Gladwells books, and now half way through ‘The Now Habit’, a lot of what you have been writing about time management is starting to make sense.

    Loving your work man :)


  20. Jono 14 years ago

    Best thing I have found for fighting the dreaded grogg = melatonin tablets. Melatonin is a natural chemical in the body, when we get older the levels drop, which is why old people sleep so little and why kids sleep like their dead.

    I have tended to be a night owl my whole life (preferring to work till the wee hours and wake up late) but having kids and work responsibilities really kills the night owl. Tried changing my habits but felt groggy for hours in the morning – and then…. melatonin came to save my day.
    I take one tablet a night and sleep beautifully, waking up feeling refreshed and ready for the day.

    Note – make sure you get 8 hrs of sleep, and only take them at night.
    Available at most health stores.