10 ideas to help cope with the dark mornings - trust us, these will make school run a little more bearable (and #4 is a quick fix)

These tips and products will help you feel ready to tackle busy family mornings

A woman lying in bed with the dark with her hand on her forehead
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Looking for ways to cope with dark mornings? We've rounded up 10 ideas and eight helpful products to try before the next school run.

Nobody likes getting out of bed on a cold, dark morning. And if you've got the school run ahead of you, we totally get why you might be wondering how on earth you're going to wake yourself up and make yourself look less tired for the early morning journey to the school gates. But getting up and out so you breathe in the fresh air can be one of the easiest ways to beat the winter blues if only you knew how to cope with the dark mornings.

That's why we've put together this list of ideas to help you get a better quality night's sleep and make waking up on those dreary mornings that little bit more bearable. Plus, we've thrown in a few tricks on how to perk yourself up when you're at your groggiest, even before the sun has woken up itself.

10 ways to cope with dark mornings

1. Take rosemary oil

With the dark mornings getting more and more dreary by the day, having a natural alternative to reaching straight for the coffee is a great way feel more awake and ready for the day - and it's quicker than faffing about with the coffee machine when you need to get the kids out the door.

Rosemary oil not only smells lovely, but the natural product is a great way to reinvigorate the senses and perk you up. A 2021 study published in the journal Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice studied the effect of inhaling rosemary oil on shift working nurses, finding that the group of nurses who inhaled the rosemary oil experienced reduced drowsiness and increased alertness.

Try keeping some of it in a little bottle by your bed with some cotton wool to inhale from first thing in the morning, or use an electric diffuser to mist your room with the scent while you get ready. You could also dab a little on the insides of your wrists or on your neck so the fragrance will linger throughout the school run.


Neal's Yard Focus Aromatherapy Blend - £18 | Neal's Yard

This energising blend of stimulating rosemary, refreshing spearmint and uplifting orange helps sharpen your mind and brings clarity of thought, leaving you to tackle difficult tasks with renewed vigour and energy on a dreary winter morning.


Electric Aroma Diffuser - £45 | Oliver Bonas

Banish morning brain fuzz by filling your home with your favourite uplifting scents. With four different time settings, six colour light settings and a gorgeous sage green cover, this aroma diffuser is just the thing to wake up to on a dark winter morning.

2. Let some light into your life

As tempting as it is to stay buried under the covers in a dark little place where no one can find you, the quicker you get the lights on the quicker your body will know it's time to get up. Don't be tempted to just put the lights on dimly - this will only prolong your feelings of sleepiness - flood the room with light. As painful as it might seem, it will help you feel ready to tackle the task of getting the kids up and dressed.

In fact, a study published in the Sleep Health journal found that those who get their rays in the morning sleep better at night and feel less stressed and depressed than people who don't. 

But if you really struggle with opening the curtains, there are some clever night light products - or light therapy devices - you can buy that work on a timer and gradually get lighter and lighter until it's time to get up. It's also then not up to you to turn the light on - genius!

Lumie Bodyclock Spark 100  - RRP £99 | Amazon

Lumie Bodyclock Spark 100 - RRP £99 | Amazon

The gradually brightening light of the Lumie Bodyclock naturally brings you round from sleep, prompting your body to reduce the production of sleep hormones such as melatonin, while increasing the levels of hormones like cortisol that help you get up and go.

3. Wake up at the same time everyday

It might sound torturous, but waking up at the same time every day - and that includes weekends - is a great way to make the dark early morning wake-up calls that little bit less painful. It'll help you sleep better throughout the night too, so the benefits are two-fold.

This is because your circadian rhythm - aka your body clock - is dependent on clues from your environment. For example, light tells your body it's morning, and dark tells it that it's time to go to bed. If you consistently send your body cues as to what time is morning, over time your body will automatically know when to start and stop producing melatonin - the hormone that makes you sleepy.

This is supported by a study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism, which found that regularity in sleep patterns with consistent bedtimes and wake-up times are favourably associated with health.

4. Drink plenty of water

Is there nothing water can't do? Grogginess can be a symptom of dehydration, but there are other ways this magical fluid could help you cope with dark mornings too.

Drink a glass of cold water as soon as you get up to rehydrate and help you feel more alert. Even mild dehydration can be responsible for a bit of brain fog, which, let's face it, is usually at its most present in the mornings. In addition, it will stimulate your metabolism and help aid digestion, stopping you from feeling sluggish.

But another handy trick for using water to wake yourself up is a cold shower. This shock of cold water is sure to make you feel more alive, because it results in increased heart rate and oxygen intake. This helps to boost your alertness and circulation.

Admittedly, a cold shower on a dark and dreary morning doesn't sound ideal, and if you tend to save a full body wash until after you've got the kids to school, try washing your face with some cool water as soon as you wake up, or place your wrists under a running tap instead.

Stanley Quencher Flowstate Tumbler - £44.99 | John Lewis

Stanley Quencher Flowstate Tumbler - £44.99 | John Lewis

Stanley Quenchers have taken the world by storm: they fit in a car’s cup holder (despite their huge 1.2L volume) have a straw for easy drinking and a handle too. They come in a huge range of colours, but you'll have to be quick if you find the one you want in stock - these coveted tumblers are known for selling out quickly. 

5. Silence the snorer in your life

If you've any hope of waking up refreshed on a dark cold morning, then you'll want to make sure you have the best night's sleep possible. While you might not be able to control your kids coming into your room in the small hours with complaints of feeling sick or nightmares, you could try and silence another family member - you're snoring partner.

There are a number of ways you can try to prevent snoring, and a change in sleeping position is one of them. A 2022 study showed that sleeping at an incline helped to reduce snoring and improve sleep, so ask your partner if they can try sleeping while propped up by a couple of extra pillows.

It's also a good idea to avoid alcohol before bed, or you could try using nasal strips to increase nasal airflow and help reduce snoring.


Sleepeze Remedies x60 Nasal Strips - £14.99 | Amazon

Nasal strips are adhesive strips placed on the nose to widen nostrils and increase airflow as a way of reducing snoring. They're a safe alternative to nasal decongestants and can help when suffering with obstructed breathing from colds or flu too. This two months supply should keep you sleeping peacefully until spring arrives!

6. Eat a high protein breakfast

What could possibly be better at getting you out of bed than a delicious breakfast? OK, so you might have to make it yourself, but even so, a hearty breakfast is great for perking you up in the morning.

Try some of our high protein breakfast ideas or some of these foods that give you energy to start your day right. There are a number of benefits to giving some of these recipes a go, including keeping you fuller for longer, boosting your metabolism and helping to build and repair tissue.

We get that you might not have bags of time to whip up something fancy when you've got to get your kids up, dressed and out the door in time for school, so try something easy like porridge with peanut butter and banana, or prep for breakfast the night before with these raw protein balls, these protein flapjacks or our banana, chocolate and quinoa overnight oats.


Bio&Me Cocoa & Hazelnut Protein Gut-Loving Granola - £3.95 | Holland & Barrett

Start your day with a good portion of protein while looking after your gut microbiome with this science-backed granola. It includes 10 plant-based foods and each serving has 9g of protein. Not a chocolate fan? Try the berry flavour or the nuts and seeds version instead.

7. Don't let your pet disturb your sleep

It's not just the kids and the snoring partner that may be disturbing your sleep - how many of us that own dogs and cats end up being woken up by the rascals in the night? Make sure you always let your furry friends out to do their business before you head up to bed.

Trust us, if you don't you'll regret it when they start scratching on your bedroom door at 3am.

8. Get some Vitamin D

During the winter months when we see less sunlight, we get a lot less vitamin D. Something as simple as taking a supplement when you wake up in the mornings can help improve your mood and perk you up, as numerous studies suggest that vitamin D deficiency is linked to depression.

Vitamin D deficiency is also associated with sleep disorders, so giving yourself a boost should help you get a better quality of sleep at night, too.

Foods that are high in vitamin D:

  • Oily fish - such as salmon, sardines, herring and mackerel
  • Red meat
  • Liver
  • Egg yolks
  • Fortified foods - such as some fat spreads and breakfast cereals

Vitamin D 240 Tablets - £10.99 | Holland & Barrett

Vitamin D is one of the body’s most important vitamins and Holland & Barrett Vitamin D3 contributes towards the maintenance of normal bones, muscle function and the immune system. Government advice is that everyone should consider taking a daily vitamin D supplement, especially during the autumn and winter.

9. Change your bedtime

In preparation for waking up in the dark, try and get to bed that little bit earlier, so you can sneak in some extra shut eye and feel more refreshed when you wake up. We realise that, as a parent, you don't always have control over your own bedtime, but even going to bed just 10 or 15 minutes earlier can make a difference.

Try to move your bedtime slightly earlier each week, so you gradually tune your body into an earlier bedtime routine. Known as bedtime fading, this technique can work for babies and kids too. To try it, start gradually making their bedtime 10 minutes earlier every few days.

10. Make sure to maintain your body temperature

Our temperature drops while we sleep, so you'll be especially prone to feeling a chill in bed during the winter months when the weather is cold outside. There's nothing worse than drawing your knees up and shivering because you're too cold in bed, so if this sounds like you, it's time you took control of your body temperature.

Invest in a winter duvet, which is thicker and warmer than a standard one. Try warming your bed up before you get into it too, so you're not giving yourself a shock of cold when you settle down. You could use a hot water bottle or electric blanket to do this.


Silentnight Comfort Control Washable Electric Blanket - £33.99 | Amazon

Keep warm during colder nights with this underblanket. It has three heat settings so you can choose the right temperature for you, and it's covered in fleecy fabric for maximum cosiness. There's single, double, king or super king sizes to choose from and it's machine washable too.

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Ellie Hutchings
Family News Editor

Ellie is GoodtoKnow’s Family News Editor and covers all the latest trends in the parenting world - from relationship advice and baby names to wellbeing and self-care ideas for busy mums. Ellie is also an NCTJ-qualified journalist and has a distinction in MA Magazine Journalism from Nottingham Trent University and a first-class degree in Journalism from Cardiff University. Previously, Ellie has worked with BBC Good Food, The Big Issue, and the Nottingham Post, as well as freelancing as an arts and entertainment writer alongside her studies. When she’s not got her nose in a book, you’ll probably find Ellie jogging around her local park, indulging in an insta-worthy restaurant, or watching Netflix’s newest true crime documentary.