If you feel groggy and irritable first thing in the morning, there’s a scientific reason why. It’s called sleep inertia, which is basically “a transitional period of grogginess” that affects you right after you wake up. This feeling can last anywhere from five to 20 minutes, but it sometimes stretches on longer. It might feel more pronounced on specific days – remember that scene in Office Space when Peter Gibbons’ annoyingly perky co-worker tells him he must have a case of the Mondays?

Sleep inertia can be a challenge for night owls like me, and I already see at least one of my kids following in my footsteps. Add in the fact that the days are getting shorter and it’s often cold, dark, and windy when we roll out of bed, and some mornings I feel like I’m walking around on eggshells, waiting for someone to have a meltdown.

But mornings don’t have to be slow torture. Whether you’re a night owl or an early bird, here are a few strategies that I’ve found helpful this season.

Music. A little music that’s upbeat but not obnoxiously fast or loud always helps lighten the mood around our breakfast table. My kids especially like movie soundtracks, so right now we’re listening to the songs from Small Foot. Channing Tatum’s rendition of the intro song “Perfection” is irresistibly danceable.

No rushing. When I feel rushed, my kids immediately pick up on it. Then they start to panic about missing the bus and receiving a dreaded tardy slip from the principal, and the morning just spirals downward from there. So as much as I love sleeping in, I’m willing to kick off the covers a few minutes early if it makes for a calmer morning. That means we all set our alarm clocks to allow for plenty of time to feel fully awake, get dressed, get the lunches ready, and enjoy a semi-leisurely breakfast (including coffee for the grown-ups!).

Give each other space. The best strategy for morning grumpiness? Don’t try to fix it! My oldest daughter and I both take after my mom – if we notice someone else is upset, we feel compelled to intervene and figure out what’s wrong. But when the cause is simple morning crankiness, this well-intentioned response ultimately annoys the person further. By contrast, I’ve noticed that if I react minimally to my kids’ morning grumpiness, it dissipates much faster than if I’d gotten involved.

Do you have any tried and true strategies for battling morning crankiness?

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