Energy-boosting ideas to help turn you into a morning person

The sound of the alarm clock cuts through your sleep like a knife, and with a groan you drag yourself out of bed and set sluggishly about your morning routine.

Sound familiar? It should if you're like many Americans, about a quarter of whom say they don't feel rested after a night's sleep.

"You should flow into the day, and you should be able to ease out of the day," says Gene Turney, chief sleep technologist for St. Thomas Hospital's Sleep Disorders Center in Nashville, Tenn. "But most people are working long hours so they jump right into the day, soar through it and collapse out of it."

Waking up refreshed starts with getting good shut-eye the night before.

"If you wake up to an alarm, you haven't gotten enough sleep," says Marcia Stein of the National Sleep Foundation. "If you've gotten enough sleep, you will wake up naturally."

Here are some things you can do on both sides of sleep to make the morning easier:

Exercise early. A workout will help you sleep more deeply, but not if you do it too close to bedtime. Stop exercising three to four hours before you turn in, Turney recommends.

Eat early, too. The same goes for dinner. Clean your plate at least four hours before lights out.

Don't drink yourself to sleep. You may think the relaxing effects of alcohol help you fade into slumber, but it actually fragments your sleep and robs you of that well-rested feeling. Stop sipping in the early afternoon, Turney says.

Don't drink yourself awake. A little caffeine in the morning is sometimes needed, but don't suck down sodas all day long. "Caffeine has a half-life of three to seven hours," Turney says, meaning cut the coffee off in the early afternoon as well.

There's nothing like the jolt of the buzzer to start you off on the wrong foot. Some gentler methods (set a last-ditch alarm as backup if it makes you more comfortable):

Get a CD player with a timer and pop in a piece that starts out softly and builds in intensity. Try Wagner's opera "Das Rheingold," recommends Mike George, author of "1,001 Ways to Relax" (Chronicle, $9.95).

Keep the curtains open and let the sunlight wake you gradually.

If your bedroom doesn't get enough sunlight, set your lights to a timer.

Soak up the sun. Getting ready in a dim room will only prolong the grogginess. Expose yourself to light as quickly as possible. "Get to the light right away," Turney says.

Stimulate your senses — all five of them. Keep a mental checklist and make sure each one gets woken up, from the sound of the morning radio to the feel of the towel against your skin to the taste of orange juice flooding your buds, George suggests.

Sing in the shower. Muster up some energy and belt out a tune until you can feel the vibrations in your chest, George says.

Get some air. Throw open a window and take a few quick breaths to clear out the cobwebs, regardless of what the weather is like.