Wake Me Up So I Can Go-Go!

Wake Me Up So I Can Go-Go!

Everyone wants to get the most out of each day, but some of us find it harder to get going than others. Do you resent that first alarm, press snooze and wake up feeling groggy and negative? Want to feel more energetic in the mornings? Then this article is for you! 

Around this time of year the clocks throw us forward by an hour - and many of us feel robbed! So let’s look at some changes we can all make to help us wake up feeling brighter, and less stressed about getting everything done.  We’ll examine how bedtime routines, sleep patterns and morning habits can help, because how we start our mornings can often have a huge knock-on effect on the next few hours.

Okay so some of us work later shifts, have early calls, dogs to walk, kids to take to school, or have little ones that can play havoc with our own sleep patterns and early morning priorities, but whatever timeframe we work to, on the whole, we all feel entitled to a good 7-8 hours sleep each night and would like to feel refreshed when we do wake up.

You may have noticed that there are some very successful achievers out there who seem to have found the secret - and they are catching our attention. So how do those celebrities, CEOs, or people who run their own start-ups manage to do it all - get enough sleep, juggle work and home lives, and still squeeze in the gym class, the hike, the social events and down time? Is part of their success linked to their winning at mornings? One thing we do know is that a routine filled with healthy habits has been scientifically proven to benefit your entire well-being.

Let’s have a look at a couple of people who seem to be getting it right:

Gwyneth Paltrow starts her day with meditation and a workout (dance on Wednesdays, at other times yoga, which she’s been practicing for 25 years, or cardio and muscular structure work). She then likes some sauna time and an outdoor shower, then she’ll follow with her beauty routine and a green smoothie or celery juice before heading to the Goop offices to deal with her emails over a cup of coffee. She does admit it’s easier now she doesn't have to drive her kids to school!  

Jane Fonda is a huge believer in exercising every day to keep strong and to benefit her mental health. She reportedly sleeps 8-9 hours every night, and even when she’s filming, she’ll wake up around 6am before it gets too hot outside, and then stroll for an hour or two when she can, before enjoying a breakfast of fresh fruit. At 84, she attributes being fit and healthy to getting enough rest, and eating a plant-based diet.

Surveys and reports about inspiring morning routines of successful people all point to waking up refreshed and able to achieve whatever your particular goals are each day. Experts say that almost anyone can become better at waking up, and if you’re usually a night owl it is possible to become an early bird simply by learning a few basic techniques.

E V E N I N G   R O U T I N E

Change 1: avoid stimulants. 

We sleep better if we avoid stimulants such as caffeine and alcohol, so a simple change you can make is to go decaffeinated after midday and leave alcohol to special occasions rather than every night. In time, you’ll likely not miss it at all and will feel healthier, sleep better and drop a few pounds!

Change 2: have a regular bedtime and waking up time.

A regular bedtime is a habit we all need to establish (those of us with kids already know this!) and we should stick to a set time each day, whether it’s a weekend or not. Our sleep-wake cycle (or circadian rhythm) is regulated by a hormone called melatonin that is released by the pineal gland in the brain - and is produced in response to darkness. Production of melatonin peaks before midnight, and helps us wind down and prepare for bed. So getting to bed (and sleep!) before midnight is key to a good night’s sleep. Simply put, if you want to wake up earlier you need to start going to bed earlier. 

Change 3: avoid exposure to blue light before bedtime.

Spend the last hour leading up to sleep time avoiding blue light (which can be emitted from phone, laptop and tv screens) or your body will still think it’s daytime and it won’t know to release melatonin - this leads to an inconsistent sleep-wake cycle.  It’s also a good idea to avoid thinking about work or tasks. It’s no good if your mind or body are still in a state of heightened alertness, so write your to-do list for the next day earlier in the evening and then put that to one side.

If you find it hard to eliminate your exposure to blue light at night straight away, do it gradually over four weeks, starting with 15 minutes before sleep for the first week, 30 the next and so on until you switch off all your screens an hour before you go to sleep. Use that hour to read by lamplight, have a candle-lit bath, listen to soothing music or do breathing exercises - activities which help you wind down. Texting friends and scrolling through social feeds will only stimulate you and prolong the time it takes to fall asleep.

A dark bedroom will help trigger melatonin production too, so consider having black-out blinds if you struggle to drop off.

S L E E P   T I M E:

Sleep is important for so many things including brain performance, mood and health.  There are four stages of sleep: N1, N2 and N3 lead to progressively deeper sleep, then REM (rapid eye movement) is the stage when we’re most likely to dream. Each stage has a different purpose, and we move through a sleep cycle (made up of all these stages) five or six times a night, with each cycle lasting around 90 minutes. So if we have a disturbed night’s sleep, or are restless, then we are not going to get through as many cycles as we should, and that leaves us feeling groggy and still tired when it’s time for us to wake up. 


Change 4: Try going to bed 15 minutes earlier until you’re able to wake up before your alarm.

Tempting as it might be, the expert advice is NOT to press that snooze button. The best thing for morning alertness is to turn off your alarm and get up as soon as you can. Alarms jar you awake while you’re in a sleep cycle, leaving you groggy for much of the morning and your body needs more time to recover. 

Change 5: Try to get outside first thing and get moving, with natural sunlight in your eyes for at least 20 minutes and do this as early as possible.

Have you heard of sun gazing? One of the best things you can do when you wake up is look at natural sunlight, as this tells your brain it’s daytime, and helps with waking up and feeling alert. You can read more about the benefits, including absorption of vitamin D, eye health and regulating your circadian rhythm, in our post about sun gazing.

There are some mornings, however, when even a good sleep doesn't help - and it takes a little longer to feel alert. This is called sleep inertia - we experience temporary disorientation and often we’re lacking in motivation, cognitive capacity, and low mood when we wake up. But it’s actually just an expected part of going from sleep to awake. 

So, if we want to power through this - what helps? 

P O S I T I V E   S T E P S

Change 6: Plan for the Three Cs: Cold Water, Caffeine, and a Class.

There are many ways you can transform sleep inertia into energy. Morning meditation can help, as can splashing cold water on your face or taking a quick cold plunge or shower

But the most effective? A good old cup of coffee! It might sound a bit obvious, but it really does work and caffeine has been proven to shorten sleep inertia, enhance performance, and make us feel more alert, by blocking the sleep receptors in your brain. If you don’t like coffee but still want 70% of that caffeine then green tea or matcha make great alternatives.

An additional morning booster is a glass of fresh OJ. Studies show that healthy adults drinking one glass in the morning (over a period of 8 weeks) had significantly higher levels of cognitive ability throughout the day than those who didn’t drink any. This is attributed to the high level of the flavonoids that are found in orange juice. These are phytochemicals that help reduce inflammation and improve blood flow to the brain, particularly the hippocampus, where learning and memory are processed.

A morning workout class will not only wake you up but has been proven to improve the circadian rhythm and promote earlier sleep cycles. If you can’t make a class, spend 30 minutes at home moving to your favorite music, or take a brisk walk around your neighborhood or park, and make this a regular thing.

Change 7: Eat well in the mornings.

Reward yourself after your workout with an energy-boosting breakfast. Choose something packed with nutrition to give you the energy your body needs to stay full and your brain needs to stay focused throughout your day. From overnight oats to omelets, avocados to cottage cheese and berry breakfast bowls - plan this into your grocery shop and you’ll soon love this part of your new routine!

Seven small steps. Seven huge improvements!