Are you still half asleep until you’ve finished your morning coffee? Many people feel tired even after getting out of bed and starting their day. Morning tiredness (as well as late-afternoon burnout) is often caused by insufficient or low quality sleep.
Did you know that the time you wake up has just as big of an effect on your daytime energy level as the time you go to sleep? A wide variety of factors help you stay alert and focused throughout the day, from pre-sleep eating habits to your wake-up time.
In this article, we’ll share simple and effective changes that you can make to your morning routine to feel more energetic, focused and productive during the daytime.
During the working week, almost everyone sets their alarm clock for the exact same time each morning. However, we tend to find reasons to stay in bed, from hitting the ‘snooze’ button to resting for an extra couple of minutes under the covers.
Here’s a little secret of sleep optimisation: it’s much more important to wake up at the same time every morning than it is to go to sleep at the exact same time every night.
Think about it: you don’t use up the same amount of energy every day. Some days are rushed and frantic, while others are slow-paced and relaxing. Getting the same number of hours every night, therefore, isn’t always that important.
What is important is training your body to feel alert, energetic and ready to act at the same time every morning. You might not expend the same amount of energy every day, but for most people, work does start at the same time every morning.
Train your body to feel awake and energetic at the right time by getting out of bed at the exact same time – within a minute – every day. If your alarm clock is set for 8 am, make sure you’re out of bed and standing within a minute of it sounding.
Sound tough? It is, at least for the first few days. However, after a week of forcing yourself out of bed at the exact same time every morning, you’ll start to wake up a few minutes before your alarm clock sounds naturally.
This is your body’s circadian rhythm at work. Just like you should act on your body’s melatonin release in the evening by going to bed, you should make the most of your natural alertness that a consistent wake-up time can produce.
One of the most common causes of early morning tiredness is poor nutrition. Your breakfast might be packed with nutrients and complex carbs, but what about the food you ate before going to bed?
If you eat dinner at 7 pm and breakfast at 7 am, your body is resting for 12 hours without any source of nutrients. While your first few hours of sleep might be fine, your body is starved of energy by the time you wake up the next morning.
It takes your body anywhere from 20 minutes to several hours to break down and digest your breakfast. Give yourself the nutrients you need for smoother mornings by consuming a slow-burning meal before you go to sleep the night before.
Carbohydrates are the fastest acting energy source, making cereals and bread ideal for breakfast. For long-acting energy that lasts overnight, the best options are fats – like you’d find in the classic warm glass of milk – and protein.
Good pre-bed foods include avocados, cottage cheese and warm milk. Avoid sweets and simple carbohydrates like white bread, as well as chocolate, which can include trace amounts of caffeine.
Keep your pre-sleep meal light and simple, since overeating before bed can make you feel bloated and uncomfortable. A light snack that fits in the palm of your hand is a good choice – larger meals can cause gastro-oesophageal reflux if eaten too close to your bedtime.
As soon as you get out bed, pull back the curtains and fill your bedroom with natural sunlight. Exposure to sunlight tells your body to stop producing melatonin and start gearing up for the day.
Switching on the light in your bedroom might simulate sunlight, but it doesn’t have the same effect. Swiss researcher Mirjam Muench believes that exposure to natural sunlight encourages steady production of cortisol, a vital hormone for keeping our energy levels steady throughout the day.
Exercising also plays a major role in helping you sleep deeply and feel more energy during the daytime. Research from Psychological Bulletin indicates that people who exercise feel less fatigued and more energetic upon waking and throughout the day.