“Many people experience sleep inertia, which is when instead of feeling refreshed and ready to face the day when you wake, you feel like you’re not fully alert and you may be short-tempered and disorientated,” says Dr Anna Persaud. The likely culprit? A bad wake-up. “The best time to wake is when you’re in a lighter sleep, because waking suddenly from a deep sleep can trigger sleep inertia. Introducing a wake-up routine is a good way to correct this.” Read on to get your day off to its best possible start.
Ditch the screen before sleep
“Melatonin levels should naturally rise as we are preparing to sleep, but devices such as cell phones and computers interrupt this process,” warns Dr Persaud. “Avoid using them for at least an hour before trying to drift off.”
Change your morning alarm
“Jarring alarms are too aggressive and can make the transition from deep rest to high alert too shocking,” says Dr Persaud. Exposing yourself to stress, no matter how minor, first thing in the morning is never a good idea. Instead, set your alarm to play calming classical music or a sound that you find soothing.
Wake up to light
“Light eases our transition out of sleep,” explains Dr Persaud. “When light hits your retinas, your body produces the cortisol required to get you moving in the morning.” Light-up alarms are a great option when you can’t wake up to natural sunlight. “A light-up alarm clock builds in intensity so you start the process of waking before you actually properly wake up, giving you all the energy you need for the morning.”
The hormone cortisol is essential for morning energy but, according to Dr Persaud, too much of it can actually be detrimental. “The first hour after waking is the most important hour of your day,” she explains. “If you allow your cortisol to spike during that time it can result in stress and anxiety throughout the rest of your day.” Make the most of elevated morning cortisol by getting your workout in early, but choose something of medium or low intensity (such as yoga, cycling, jogging and some types of weight training) to ensure you’re not left with a surplus of cortisol in your system. Leave high-intensity workouts (HIIT, sprinting, spinning) for later in the day when cortisol levels are lower.
Scent yourself happy
Just as certain scents are known to help us unwind – namely chamomile, lavender and vertivert – others have been shown to invigorate both mind and body, making them ideal for sluggish mornings. “It has long been assumed that citrus fragrances are the most awakening, but MRI scans of the brain show that scents that are more herbal [such as peppermint and rosemary] help with cognition,” explains Dr Persaud.
Eat breakfast later
“Realistically, the body doesn’t need breakfast first thing, so if you’re someone who finds they’re not hungry until mid-morning, that’s absolutely fine. By 9am, your body is better able to use the sugars in food, so wait until you are actually hungry to eat,” advises Dr Persaud.
Let it out
And if there’s one thing Dr Persaud insists you must do as early as possible? “You must open your bowel within the first hour of waking,” she says, “as the chemicals produced when carrying around waste and gas can cause low-level anxiety.” Duly noted.
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