When you wake up in the morning, do you feel refreshed? Alert? Revitalized? If not, then according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, you’re among 50 to 70 million Americans who suffer from sleep deprivation. Sleep comprises four stages that each take 90 minutes to complete. During each sleep cycle, certain hormones, neurotransmitters, enzymes, and other chemicals work to carry out numerous activities: restore energy, repair tissue, promote growth, improve memory and learning, bolster immunity, and regulate hunger-satiety hormones. If you have trouble sleeping, implement these tips so you can finally say goodbye to feelings of grogginess in the morning. By following these tips, you’ll sharply reduce the stress associated with lack of sleep, and at the genetic level, less stress means less inflammation and more opportunity for the body to work at maximum capacity for health. Reducing stress through meditation, for instance, is a major lifestyle tool that I recommend in my book, The Gene Therapy Plan, which comes out on April 21. Sign up for my newsletter to learn ways in which you might win a free copy or attend one of my upcoming talks. In the meantime, sleep better to feel better.
1. Don’t hit that snooze button.
It’s tempting. The alarm rings, and your hand reflexively hits the snooze button. This is a no-no. Why? Because sleep occurs in those 90-minute stages. So while you continually press the snooze button in the hopes that another 10 minutes is all you need to feel refreshed, think again. All you’re actually doing is starting a new sleep cycle that your body won’t be able to finish. And you’ll end up feeling (and looking) worse for wear. If you’re a serial snooze button slammer (you know who you are), move your alarm clock out of reach. That way, you’ll have no choice but to get up and turn it off. Use that momentum to stay on your feet and start your day.
2. Take deep breaths.
For several hours, your body was in a slumber. Before you get back into the swing of things, take a few moments to breathe deeply. With every deep breath you take — three should do the trick — you’re nourishing the cells in your body with a powerful energy source: oxygen. Being aware of your breathing helps not only to awaken your senses but also to promote well-being.
3. Don’t curl up — stretch.
“Ugh! Is it time to wake up already?” When the alarm rings, all you want to do is curl up under the covers and fall back asleep. Resist the urge. The American Council on Exercise (ACE) suggests that you stimulate your entire body with stretching movements like standing upright and reaching your arms above your head. The ACE also offers these energizing moves for an invigorating start to your day. Consider going one step further by running, walking, or jogging in the morning to jump-start your day.
4. Turn on the lights.
Don’t stumble around in the dark when you get up in the morning. Instead, draw the curtains to let the sunlight in. If you wake up when it’s still dark outside, turn on the ceiling light in your room. Circadian rhythms influence our sleep-wake cycle by responding to light in our environment. So a burst of sunshine or a brightly lit room will tell your brain that it’s time to get up and go!
5. Get excited about the day.
Do you have a coworker that you don’t get along with? Perhaps you have a project at work with a looming deadline. These situations leave little to look forward to in the day ahead. To perk up in the morning, incorporate simple things in your day that you enjoy doing and that will make the day fun. When you face the day with joyful anticipation, it keeps you from rolling around in bed and dreading the day. Getting excited about your day helps to alleviate stress, which is good for your well-being and for a restful night.
6. Eat energy-boosting foods.
If you skip breakfast or eat carb-rich foods, you’ll have zero energy and your stomach will be growling well before lunchtime. Don’t start your day off that way. Eating wholesome foods for breakfast stimulates metabolism, revs up energy levels, and boosts concentration and alertness. Eat protein- and fiber-packed foods in the morning because they will keep you sated for a long time. Fruits like apples and nuts like almonds are packed with fiber. Add fiber-rich fruits and nuts to Greek yogurt or steel-cut oatmeal to fuel your cells with healthful nutrients. Eggs are also a good breakfast food; the yolk in eggs contains lutein, which is a potent antioxidant.
7. Enjoy a morning cup of joe.
Walk into any coffee shop, and you’ll see baristas preparing lattes, cappuccinos, or some exotically named caffeinated beverage for patrons waiting in long lines. Coffee is the morning beverage of choice for approximately 100 million Americans. And for good reason, the drink is not only a morning pick-me-up but also contains vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Studies also show that it does more than sharpen our focus and give us more energy; coffee also has been shown to reduce the risk of chronic conditions like heart disease and diabetes. But it’s important to drink coffee in moderation (1-2 cups daily) because too much caffeine has been shown to increase heart rate, cause jitteriness, and promote insomnia.
8. Get real about your schedule.
Are you rushing from place to place? How many times has your smartphone buzzed or your calendar popped up on your computer screen with another reminder? If you find that your schedule is so jam-packed that you don’t get enough sleep, it’s time to face the reality that you’re cramming too many things into your day — which means you’re cutting in on your sleep. Take a closer look at your schedule. Are there things that you can cut out or designate to others so that you can free up some of your time? Do this and you’ll be well on your way to getting quality zzzzs.
9. Turn your bedroom into an e-free zone.
Your bedroom should be a sanctuary for intimacy between you and your partner and for quality sleep. To accomplish this, get rid of all those electronics in your bedroom that keep you up into the late hours. Are you trying to finish a mystery novel? If you enjoy reading books on your tablet, find a space other than in your bed to read. Do you check emails or post updates on social media? That’s fine. But avoid doing these activities a couple of hours before you turn in and certainly not while you’re lying down in bed. The point is to create an ambiance of rest and relaxation by keeping electronics like a computer and TV out of your bedroom.