Last week I wrote about the importance of sleep, so what better way to follow it up than with a post about waking up?! Let’s face it, mornings suck. But there are things that you can do to make it… suck less. So take your hand off of the snooze button and listen up for some ways to make mornings less miserable!
If you read last week’s post you know that bright lights at bed time are not a great idea. So being the smart individual that you are, you know that bright lights in the morning are a great idea! This is because light works as a signal for our natural circadian rhythm. So when the sun is up so are we and visa versa. That may be obvious, but light, even artificial sunlight, makes a huge positive impact to our mornings. Getting enough morning light can significantly enhance cognitive performance (1). Like to work out in the am? Well getting enough light can improve your ability exercise and improve reaction time (2). This means if you have a long commute it may be worth you while to invest in an artificial day light lamp. And I bet you didn’t know that along with diet, exercise, and sleep that light plays a huge role in obesity prevention (3)!
Bright lights are great, but you can also make your mornings better by stimulating all of your senses. Hearing – Most of us wake up to the sound of an alarm clock. But using your sense of hearing can, and should, involve other sources of sound. One great way to wake yourself up and start the day off right is through the use of positive affirmation. This means you literally say out loud “I’m going to have a good day.” Taking time to do this, as well as spending time focusing on yourself, is a great way to get the feel good hormones flowing early in the day. Smell – Wake up and smell the roses? Pshh. More like wake up and smell the bacon! Utilizing your sense of smell in the morning is an easy way to wake yourself up and make a positive ritual out of your day. Whether it’s having your coffee or tea pre-set to start around the time you wake up, using an invigorating soap first thing in the morning, or enjoying some bacon to start your day, waking up to smells can create a happy environment to start the day. Touch – A warm and cozy bed can be hard to break free from. So like tearing off the band aid, the best thing to do when you wake up is to break free of your bed! Rip the sheets off and stand up… it’s that simple. Taste – We will be looking at breakfast in depth later on, but for now what you need to know is that you can not go wrong with water in the morning. This is because we are constantly losing water and becoming dehydrated throughout the night. This can lead to a decrease in our immune response, poor cognitive ability, and bad breath (4,5)!!!
Not So Bright Idea
Okay so here’s where things get tricky. Breakfast is a very controversial area in general, but there are a few things that we do know. For instance, being hungry can decrease your decision making ability and make you a grumpy pants that no one wants to deal with (AKA hangry) due to the ghrelin hormone (6). So eat breakfast or else you will be known as the grump of the office! But what if you’re not hungry in the mornings? Isn’t breakfast the most important meal of the day? Well the answer to that question is not so simple, but here’s a quote that I think is good food for thought “if there is little or no appetite for breakfast this meal can be safely missed by those who are well nourished, including children, because this will not adversely affect performance (body energy reserves can be readily mobilized to fuel muscle and brain activity), but will likely help reduce excessive energy intake.” (7). So this means that for some, skipping breakfast may not be a bad idea if you’re trying to lose weight. However, other studies show that you MUST eat breakfast to lose weight (8)! In reality, meals, and their timing, are largely driven by culture. Have you ever stopped to think about why there is such a thing as “breakfast foods?” It’s mostly due to marketing. So if you’re looking to lose weight or gain muscle, the best thing to do is experiment on yourself. Pick a breakfast ritual and try it out for a month and see where it takes you. Personally, I eat 3 whole eggs (reduces ghrelin), 3 egg whites, and a hand full of home fries every morning. I chose this meal because it has plenty of protein, fat, and carbohydrates which helps to decrease my overall appetite throughout the day and decreases ghrelin (9). But most importantly I LIKE IT! So find out what works for you and make sure it’s what you enjoy. Because like so many other things in the health and fitness world, consistency reigns supreme.
1. Gabel, V., Maire, M., Reichert, C. F., Chellappa, S. L., Schmidt, C., Hommes, V.. . Viola, A. U. (2015). Dawn simulation light impacts on different cognitive domains under sleep restriction. Behavioural Brain Research, 281, 258-266. doi:10.1016/j.bbr.2014.12.043
2. Thompson, A., Jones, H., Gregson, W., & Atkinson, G. (2014). Effects of dawn simulation on markers of sleep inertia and post-waking performance in humans. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 114(5), 1049-1056. doi:10.1007/s00421-014-2831-z
3. Partonen, T. (2014). Obesity = physical activity + dietary intake + sleep stages + light exposure. Annals of Medicine, 46(5), 245.
4. Hanstock, H. G., Diment, B. C., Bendell, K. H. F., Carswell, A., Fortes, M. B., Moore, J. P., & Walsh, N. P. (2014). Effect of exercise-induced dehydration and subsequent overnight fluid restriction on immunity at the ocular surface. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 46(5)
5. Thornton, S. N., & Trabalon, M. (2012). Dehydration during sleep affects cognitive performance. Sleep Medicine, 13(1), 118; author reply 118. doi:10.1016/j.sleep.2011.06.018
6. Rozita H Anderberg, Caroline Hansson, Maya Fenander, Jennifer E Richard, Suzanne L Dickson, Hans Nissbrandt, Filip Bergquist, Karolina P Skibicka. The Stomach-Derived Hormone Ghrelin Increases Impulsive Behavior. Neuropsychopharmacology, 2015; 41 (5): 1199 DOI: 10.1038/npp.2015.297
7. Peter J Rogers (2016). Breakfast: how important is it really?. Public Health Nutrition, 19, pp 1718-1719. doi:10.1017/S1368980015003705.
8. Astbury, N. M., Taylor, M. A., & Macdonald, I. A. (2011). Breakfast consumption affects appetite, energy intake, and the metabolic and endocrine responses to foods consumed later in the day in male habitual breakfast eaters. The Journal of Nutrition, 141(7), 1381-1389. doi:10.3945/jn.110.128645
9. Ratliff, J., Leite, J. O., de Ogburn, R., Puglisi, M. J., VanHeest, J., & Fernandez, M. L. (2010). Consuming eggs for breakfast influences plasma glucose and ghrelin, while reducing energy intake during the next 24 hours in adult men. Nutrition Research, 30(2), 96-103. doi:10.1016/j.nutres.2010.01.002