Find It Hard To Wake Up in the Morning? Try Stretching.

Every morning, first thing, to help myself wake up (it is 6:00 a.m., after all), I spend a minute or so stretching. This isn’t a rigorous or carefully designed set of stretches — more the kind of desultory stretches that we did in my seventh-grade P.E. class before running laps around the gym.

I touch my toes, I do some straddle stretches, I twist left and right, etc. I do this not for any scientifically based reason (in fact, from what I read, it seems that this kind of stretching may not always be a good idea), but because it helps me feel awake and energetic. This easy, simple habit makes me feel much more alert and comfortable in my body.

I pay particular attention to my neck, because I have a history of pulled muscles in my neck. I actually think to myself, “Wake up, neck!” as I turn my head from one side to the other, then move my head forward and back. Again, for very unscientific reasons. A friend told me that he’d heard (note: high probability of urban legend) that many people pull muscles as a result of suddenly reaching for their alarm clocks — that the abrupt movement, right out of sleep, was hard on muscles.

I thought about this, and I realized that when I’d pulled a muscle in my neck, it had always happened in the morning. For instance, my worst episode came when I pulled my neck first thing, as I was filling my electric kettle at breakfast. I looked down at the faucet, and I could feel the muscle riiiiiiiiiiiip. Of course, I realized, my seeing this morning pattern might just be an example of confirmation bias, but waking up my neck seemed like an easy idea that couldn’t hurt.

I stretch my whole body, though, just to feel more energetic and ready for my day. When I skip the stretching, I really notice the difference in my physical experience.

How about you? Do you have any strategies to help you feel awake and energetic in the morning? Or to avoid neck strain.

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  • Rachel

    I usually eat something very soon after waking up, even if it’s just a piece of fruit. Elevating my blood sugar helps me feel slightly more alert.

    • Any good suggestions for breakfast foods that make you more alert in the morning?

      • Rachel

        I usually eat a banana. It’s quick, nutritious, and easy to get down first thing in the morning.

  • Kay

    Yes! I love to do the in-bed 8-part stretch routine….before sleep as well as at wake-up!

  • Megan Gordon

    I used to try to do yoga first thing in the morning, but I found that I was too stiff, which kind of backs up what you are saying. A gentle morning stretch is probably a really good thing.

    • Try the slow breathing. I’ve found it to have the same effects as stretching, minus the stiffness 🙂

  • More4Brin

    I have recurring issues with my hips and and physiotherapist gave me some simple, easy stretches to do every morning. At first, I sort of pooh-poohed the idea that these quick stretches done daily would make any real difference on correcting my hip pain, but when I stopped doing them, I realized the hard way they really do help. I must be honest and say that I don’t do them every morning, but when I do, I find it really does make a noticeable difference on how my body feels throughout the day. (Plus, I get a mental Gold Star for being a Good Girl when I Do The Right Thing)

  • Gena@BakeAllTheThings!

    One of the best things I’ve done for myself over the last couple of years is institute a little stretching/yoga into my morning and bedtime routines. Heavenly!

  • Carmelo

    Similar to Kay, I do some things in bed before I even sit up. I pay particular attention to my shoulders and neck. Then after sitting up I rub my feet. Don’t know why for sure but stimulating the feet this way seems to affect my entire body. Try it!

  • Andrea

    I notice that most people are responding with physical things: stretching, exercises, yoga, etc. What wakes me up and makes me feel energetic is getting my brain going first thing. I have a small t.v. in my bedroom, and the first thing I actually do in the morning before I get out of bed is turn on the weather channel and watch until they run the local forecast. I think this works for me for the same reason that they tell you not to watch t.v. right before you try to go to sleep. The noise and light of the t.v. wakes me up, and listening to the weather report helps get me thinking about my day. The weather’s going to be warm, so I should wear something light… or, it’s going to rain today, I need to remember my umbrella. When I used to just get up right away, I felt fuzzy-headed until I was halfway through my morning cup of tea, but now by the time I reach the kitchen I’m ready to go.

    • Rachel

      This works for me, too. I catch up on the news and get the latest weather forecast.

  • Hey Gretchin, just stumbled onto your blog and could not agree more about the stretching in the morning. I also think taking some time for some deep breathing (meditation) also helps get you ready for the long day (…that and sometimes a cup of coffee!)

    Anyways, thanks for the post, we’ll be sure to keep coming back to learn, as we too are trying to help spread happiness. Take care!!

    -Sean (Community Manager at

  • I actually like to wake up and meditate a little before I get out of bed – the whole day seems to go much better, especially the mornings, when my blood sugar is still low.

    As for neck strain, I used to have AWFUL problems with that, since I have a really long reedy sort of neck. I solved that problem by buying a real Tempurpedic neck pillow (the curvy kind), extra thick, and I put that on TOP of a regular pillow. That seems to do the trick! Pricey, but they last forever, and they’re better than the knockoffs. I even take it on vacation, and have a little travel version too for airplanes. Awesome! 🙂

  • Meagan

    Most animals do stretches, its a natural instinct that we humans seem to ignore. My pet cats will stretch whenever they wake up – my husband has now started doing the same and noticed a huge improvement in his back pains.

    I really should try this myself! 🙂

    • jannine

      After I read your comment I started observing my dogs in the morning when they wake up and boy do they stretch! I am trying to copy them and stretch when I wake up, but I still forget, all I seem to be thinking is COFFEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!

    • Hehe, all cats do is sleep, stretch and eat 🙂

  • jkitty

    I reach over and scoop out some moisturizer and spend 7 minutes firmly and luxuriously massaging my feet. It feels great and it doesn’t take much concentration, so I can trick myself into sitting upright without actually having to “wake up.” By the end though, I have woken up — quite painlessly.

  • Carolyn Kay

    My cat “helps” me wake up by jumping on my chest and kneading. He never does it when I’m fast asleep, only when he apparently senses that I’m waking.

  • My Mom had a framed saying, “This is a day the Lord hath made. I will rejoice and be glad in it.” Even though I am not a particularly religious person, I like to repeat that phrase to myself after I open my eyes.

  • mycorner

    Great recommendation! Now that I’m 40 something, stretching in the morning is a must 🙂

  • Kathryn at Good Life Road

    Well confirmation bias or not…me too on the morning neck strain! The most important thing I have implemented to help from my neck ever hurting like it has in the past is not sleeping on my belly anymore. It was the hardest change to make but I think after thirty some years of spending eight hours a night with my neck cranked all the way to one side my body was just not having it anymore.

    On stretching; I totally agree it makes a huge difference and I do think there is a connection to how well our energy flows throughout our bodies and how limber and relaxed they are. Unproven theory as far as I know but backed up by thousands of years of personal human experience.

  • kp

    I’ve had chronic pain issues for over 10 years. Mornings are very difficult for me because my aches and pains are at their worst and it makes getting out of bed a real chore — definitely not a nice way to start the day! After doing a ton of research on the subject, I started meditating for a few minutes every morning — nothing too hard-core, just a few deep cleansing breaths and a mindful attempt to relax various body parts, one at a time. I find that this makes a huge difference in my morning as well as my general pain level. I used to mentally dread and resist getting up (the mere act of rising from bed was painful), but now I feel much more refreshed when I get out of bed.

    For those who don’t have chronic pain issues, I suspect this would still ease the tension that many feel in the morning, when we all tend to be rushing around and bracing ourselves for the day that lies ahead.

  • bunny

    before I leave the bathroom for my cup of coffee, the first thing I do is wipe my face with a makeup remover wipe – even if I have no traces of makeup on – because it helps wake me up. my favorite is neutrogena brand. thick, with a nice scent. they even make lavender for evening.

  • I’m really surprised no one said take a hot shower. I drink a glass of water and head to the shower. THEN, I stretch! Nothing wakes me up better. The warm water loosens my muscles so I can stretch better. The steam loosens the gunk on my face and in my sinuses. A vigorous towel off and I’m wide awake. If I don’t do this, I can be a sleep-walking zombie all day!

  • I have never thought of stretching after waking up, but it sounds like a good idea! Also, don’t forget to have a few bites in the morning!

  • I’ve found that light therapy also works. Either by a special lamp or by natural sunlight (if the sun is up and shining)…

    It’s supposedly inhibits the melatonin release which should help you wake up.

  • Zala

    I totally agree!
    I do sun salutations and they help me be more vibrant and energetic even when I
    have to get up for work at 4am. I’ve noticed that usually when I
    feel blah all day it is when I forget or am too lazy to stretch in the morning.

  • English girl

    I want to get into stretching everyday, now i read the link on Gretchens post was a bit confused

  • JoeyDean

    I have my iPod alarm set to play a great old Jimmy Durante song every morning. It’s called “You Gotta Start Off Each Day With A Song.”