When the alarm goes off, do you:
A. Spring immediately out of bed, shouting, “It’s going to be a great day!”
B. Moan, hit the snooze button and then pull the sheets over your head.
If your answer is A, then good for you. In the more likely event that your answer is B, don’t worry, help is on the way. Here are suggestions on how to quickly shake off the morning blahs and greet the day more refreshed.
1. Go to sleep the right way
The best way to wake up refreshed is to get a good night’s sleep. This means:
- No caffeine after lunch since caffeine can be a stimulant and keep you awake. And only one glass of wine at dinner. Too much wine can knock you out, then cause you to wake up during the night.
- Make sure your room is cool. “The drop off in temperature is a natural cue for your body to fall asleep,” W. Christopher Winter, medical director at the Martha Jefferson Sleep Center in Charlottesville, Va.
- Don’t exercise near bedtime. It will just rouse your body.
- Stay off the computer — and away from any lit screen — an hour before bed. The light makes your brain think it’s day time.
2. Always get up at the same time — even on the weekends
“Regardless of how well you slept or when you went to sleep, always get up at a set wake-up time,” recommends Winter.
Our circadian rhythm, the biological process that drives your sleep-wake cycle, needs consistency in order to work correctly. Not everyone needs eight hours — some need more, some can get by on less.
If you stick to a set wake up time, your body will start telling you when to go to bed in order to achieve your optimal amount of rest. The overall routine will help you get the healthy sleep you need to replenish your energy stores, which means you won’t wake up as bedraggled.
3. Don’t hit the snooze button
Set your alarm for when you must get up and stick to that wake-up time. Hitting snooze over and over just leads to fragmented, fitful sleeping and you’ll wake up more tired.
If you can’t trust yourself, move your alarm to a place you can’t reach it.
4. Drink water when you first get up
You lose a lot of fluid when you sleep and breathe at night, and dehydration can make you feel sluggish and sleepy.
Rehydrating can go a long way in making you feel more alert. You don’t have to chug, just quench your thirst.
5. Seek out light
According to the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, light is the main cue influencing circadian rhythms, turning on or turning off genes that control your internal clock.
Roll up your shades as soon as you’re awake. If you can’t get natural light in your bedroom, consider a lightbox or alarm that slowly gets brighter, simulating dawn.
Don’t want to get that fancy? Just flip on a regular light as soon as you get up.
6. Try yoga breathing
An Oxford University study found that pranayama or yoga breathing “had a markedly invigorating effect on perceptions of both mental and physical energy and increased high positive mood.”
The most common form is called Three Part Breath or Dirgha Breath. You can do it lying in bed: Inhale deeply through your nose, filling up belly your belly first. Expand your belly like a balloon. Continue to inhale, expanding ribs like gills on a fish.
When you are completely full, empty yourself slowly but completely, exhaling through your nose. Do six to 10 rounds.
7. Exercise every morning
“The best time is right when you wake up. It gets your body used to revving up in the morning. If you can stay to a routine, it’s amazing what it will do to your energy and attitude,” says Winter.
Your routine doesn’t have to be rigorous. In fact, gentle yoga, qigong or tai chi routines have been shown to be very effective in getting the body and brain started for the day. (You can find videos to follow by searching on Youtube.)
Twenty minutes is optimal, but an intense five can do the trick particularly in a bright, stimulating environment.
8. Eat a high-protein breakfast
“Protein in the morning gets converted into dopamine, which energizes you,” said Dr. Winter.
Yes to meat, poultry, seafood, beans, peas, eggs, processed soy products, nuts, and seeds. Go easy on carbs (breads and cereals) and processed foods with lots of added sugar that will make you feel dull and sluggish.