13 Effective Ways to Wake Up a Heavy Sleeper

Are you a deep sleeper? Know someone who is? Here are some effective methods for waking up.

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Heavy sleeper with alarm clock and dog

Do you sleep through the alarm or hit the snooze button a couple of times every day? You’re not alone; 57% of Americans have trouble waking up in the morning. A more recent study found that about 65 percent of the population wakes up tired and grumpy.

While early mornings are not everyone’s cup of tea, getting out of bed should not be a herculean task. Read on to learn some of the possible causes of heavy sleeping and tips on how to wake up a heavy sleeper, as well as some tips for waking up better if YOU are the heavy sleeper in question. 

Possible Causes of Heavy Sleeping

There are many reasons why most people struggle with waking up in the morning or feeling sleepy throughout the day. Some are due to lifestyle while others may be as a result of undiagnosed health conditions. Below are some of the most common reasons for being a heavy sleeper:

Sleep Disorders

One of the leading causes of heavy sleeping is sleep disorders. According to data on the subject, 50-70 million Americans suffer from some kind of sleep disorder.

Most of these conditions are characterized by excessive sleepiness. Let’s take a look at a couple of them in detail.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Obstructive Sleep Apnea or OSA is the most common type of sleep apnea. It is a condition wherein your throat muscles relax when you sleep, causing your airway to become blocked. This can manifest as snoring, but also creates events known as “apneas” where the sleeper will cease breathing before waking up gasping for air. Obstructive Sleep Apnea can lead to stroke, high blood pressure, and heart disease when untreated, and also impacts your daily life by keeping you less rested and with lower blood-oxygen levels than is ideal.


Narcolepsy is a sleep disorder causing overwhelming daytime drowsiness and sudden sleep attacks. Individuals with this condition struggle to wake up in the morning and stay awake during the day. It is estimated that 50 out of 100,000 people live with Narcolepsy.


Insomnia is one of the most common sleep disorders and affects 30% of people at some point in their life and is more likely to affect women; 10% of people report chronic insomnia. Insomnia is characterized by difficulties falling or staying asleep. People with insomnia don’t sleep immediately and have trouble waking up due to lack of enough sleep.

Drug Abuse

Consumption of drugs or alcohol, especially before you go to bed, may cause you to have difficulties waking up in the morning. There are many different ways that different substances interact with the body, and many drugs, both prescription and illegal, will often affect your sleep quality in nuanced ways.

While it may feel like it helps you sleep at times, alcohol will actually keep you in the lighter stages of sleep once the relaxing effect wears off, making you drowsy and tired when you wake up.

Mental Health Conditions

Mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety can cause you to sleep more. According to experts, 15% of depressed people will tend to oversleep. Depression affects the circadian rhythm interrupting the sleep cycle. Depressed people can also use sleep as a form of escape, leading to excessive sleeping.  

People struggling with anxiety may also experience challenges staying asleep, causing them to be more tired throughout the day and have more trouble waking up.

Tips on How to Wake Up a Deep Sleeper

There are many effective ways to wake up a heavy sleeper. Of course, not all methods are suitable for everyone, so it is best to try several of them to find one that works for you or your loved one.

With that being said, here are thirteen valuable tips on how to wake up a heavy sleeper.

1. Use a Musical Alarm Clock

According to a 2020 study, most people prefer being woken up by a musical alarm compared to a normal one. Music is known to reduce sleep inertia.

Sleep inertia is a form of protective mechanism that helps an individual maintain sleep when woken up abruptly.

It is characterized by feelings of drowsiness, grogginess, and disorientation right after you wake up. Sleep inertia normally lasts between 15 minutes to an hour but may last longer due to various factors like sleep disorders.

It may affect your cognitive alertness throughout the day when sleep inertia lasts for a long time.

Unlike a regular alarm clock that is loud, a musical one will wake you up gently, decreasing the feelings of grogginess and disorientation.

If you have an Android or iPhone, there are several alarm clock apps made for heavy sleepers that offer different alarm sounds, including music, that may help. Read our review of the Top 6 Best Alarm Clock Apps for Heavy Sleepers to find a free app to try!

2. Take Advantage of Light

Gradually letting in the natural light from outside into the bedroom is a great way to wake up a deep sleeper.

Light reduces melatonin, a hormone that helps you fall asleep. What’s more, it also increases the level of serotonin (a hormone that enables you to become alert and awake) in your blood.

One way to slowly let in natural light in your bedroom is using translucent curtains. You can also crack the blinds in the morning to slowly wake up your loved one.

You can also use wake-up lights programmed by an alarm clock to increase their brightness level gradually.

3. Have a Consistent Sleep Schedule

Having a sleep schedule means that you sleep and wake up at a specific time. Doing so, even on weekends, will enable your body to develop an internal clock, helping you sleep and wake up more easily.

4. Drink Water Before Going to Bed

Typically, your body produces a hormone that minimizes your kidney’s function at night, allowing you to sleep for up to 8 hours without going to the bathroom. Drinking water before bed may help to override this natural process, but there’s certainly an ideal amount of water to drink before bed that you’ll have to experiment a bit to figure out what works for you.

Basically, the goal is to drink enough water that you’re just uncomfortable enough in the morning that you have to get out of bed for a bathroom trip, but not so much water that you have to wake up multiple times in the night to use the restroom. The latter will likely cause more grogginess and make it even harder for you to wake up in the morning.

5. Avoid Using Your Phone When You’re In Bed

We’re almost all guilty of this: we switch off the lights, hop into bed, and then reach for our phones. While it might be a way to unwind, using your cellphone before falling asleep can affect the quality of your sleep.

For starters, the blue light from your phone restricts the production of melatonin in your body, making it difficult for you to sleep and wake up the next day. Also, responding to texts, checking social media, or doing any other activities on your phone will keep your brain engaged, making it challenging for you to fall asleep.

6. Get Yourself a Wake Up Buddy

Do you live with someone who wakes up more quickly than you? It might be a good idea to ask them to be your wake-up buddy. This means that they will wake you up in the morning and check on you several times to ensure that you are fully awake, though you’ll still have to find the will to scrape yourself out of bed in the morning despite your buddy’s best efforts.

7. Try Stimulating the Mind

Another way to wake up a heavy sleeper is to stimulate their mind early in the morning.

Watching an episode of your favorite show, reading a chapter of a book, or doing a brain-teaser like sudoku or a crossword puzzle is a good way to engage your mind and keep it from falling back asleep.

8. The Distant-Alarm Technique

Simply put, the sleeper’s alarm clock should be placed 10-15 feet out of reach, but not so far away that it won’t be able to rouse them. This will force the heavy sleeper out of bed in the morning to disable the alarm instead of allowing them to conveniently hit the snooze button nearby.

9. Get Enough Sleep

Perhaps the main reason why you have trouble waking up is that you’re not getting enough sleep. Doing so not only helps you wake up easily but also improves your mental and physical health.

Experts recommend at least 7 hours for adults and even more for children. Getting enough sleep increases alertness making it easier to wake up.

10. Exercise Before You Sleep

Exercising before going to bed doesn’t sound like the ideal thing to do, but engaging in light exercise such as yoga will increase your heart rate, creating biological processes in your brain that will help you sleep better and wake up easily.

Introducing a regular exercise routine in your life can also have a great impact on your overall mood, bodily functions, and sleep quality, as established in this 2012 meta-analysis.

11. Have a Cup of Coffee

Experiencing trouble being alert when you wake up? Have some coffee.

Coffee contains caffeine that is known to block adenosine, a chemical that makes you feel sleepy, helping you feel awake and alert.

12. Eat More Healthily

Your diet also plays a significant role in the quality of your sleep. For starters, eating too much sugar may keep you awake at night. When you eat sugar, your blood sugar levels increase, causing your pancreas to produce insulin, a hormone that turns sugar into energy.

Your body cells will then utilize this fuel, giving you too much energy that you don’t need at night. Sugar also uses up the magnesium in your body required for sleep.

Magnesium activates the parasympathetic nervous system, responsible for making you feel calm and relaxed. It also regulates melatonin, which guides your sleep-wake cycle. What’s more, it also binds the gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors, responsible for reducing your nervous system’s activity.

Eating food with too much salt can also affect your sleep. It increases your blood pressure and urine retention, leading to interruptions throughout the night.

13. Have Breakfast

This may sound like a simple remedy, but it is a very effective way to wake you up. Having breakfast, especially high-protein foods, gives that energy boost you need to become fully alert and ready to face the day.

Final Thoughts

A good night’s sleep allows you to rest well and be ready for the next day. It is also good for your brain, boosts mood, and impacts your health. Lack of sufficient sleep is linked to obesity, heart disease, and even stroke.

However, waking up should not be an uphill task. If you struggle to keep your eyes open after waking up, there are many things you could try, such as stimulating your mind, waking up with a musical alarm clock, placing your alarm clock farther away from you, or starting the day with a cup of coffee.

If, despite your best efforts, you still struggle to get a good night’s sleep or wake up when you need to, it may be time to consult your healthcare provider and get tested for a sleeping disorder.

Nate Devore
Nate Devore
For over 15 years Nate has been obsessed with solving his own personal and difficult health challenges related to sleep, energy, and fatigue. As one of our sleep experts at sleeping.com, Nate is passionate about helping you get the best night’s sleep possible.

Medical Disclaimer: The content on this page should not be taken as medical advice or used as a recommendation for any specific treatment. Always consult your doctor before making any decisions.

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