Is every morning a battle with the snooze button? Luckily, nobody is doomed for a lifetime of foggy mornings. We’ve got seven caffeine-free ways to make mornings less bleary.
We’ve all been there: the alarm goes off and all we want to do is snuggle deeper under the covers. But what if every morning didn’t have to be a battle with the snooze button? We’ve got seven caffeine-free ways to make mornings less bleary.
Morning larks versus night owls
Why are some of us night owls while others simply can’t wait to spring out of bed in the morning? Some of our differences can be chalked up to genes—variations in factors such as body temperature, heart rate, and hormone levels that determine our 24-hour rhythms.
But personal and environmental factors also come into play. For example, while evening-time preference peaks during adolescence, fondness for mornings increases with age—especially from age 50 on.
Being a night owl can work perfectly well for some. However, for the rest of us, a world that favours mornings doesn’t always allow us to linger under the covers. Luckily, we’ve got seven simple ways to boost your morning routine.
1. Assess your current mornings
Ask yourself how you would like to feel in the morning. More energized? More productive? Calmer? Next, reflect on what might be getting in the way. Is it reaching for your phone as soon as you open your eyes? Finally, imagine what activities might foster your desired morning state: perhaps it’s swapping Facetime for a morning jog or journalling for 10 minutes with a cup of tea.
Write down your morning goals and share them with a partner or friend to increase your chances of transforming them into reality.
2. Have something to look forward to
Once you’ve determined your goals, it’s time to make them appealing! For example, plan a new route or playlist for that morning jog, or buy your favourite tea to savour while you journal.
Take a few minutes to write down three things you’re grateful for before going to bed each night. Research suggests that practising gratitude can increase well-being and positive emotions, making it easier to focus on the things we have to look forward to when we awake. Furthermore, practising gratitude may improve sleep quality and duration, making mornings even less hazy!
3. Prep for success
You may be thinking that mornings are hectic enough without trying to add something new or different to the mix. This is where a little planning goes a long way. For example, figure out that timer on your coffee maker or set out all the gear you need for that morning jog the night before, leaving less room for morning error.
If you have kids, get them involved in morning prep: have them pack their bags for school and set out their outfits before bed to help mornings run a little smoother.
Although exercise at any time of day is beneficial, studies have shown that starting our day with a bit of a sweat has additional potential benefits. These include lowering blood pressure and helping us sleep more deeply at night.
Take your morning movement outdoors to soak up some natural light, which may enhance mood, alertness, and overall sleep quality by regulating the sleep/wake cycle.
5. Fuel up
Although we’ve all heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, it often becomes a mundane—or even overlooked—part of the morning shuffle. Planning a nutritious and delicious breakfast can add new life to your morning, and it can help stabilize blood glucose levels throughout the day.
Try our Apple Pie Baked Oatmeal recipe (page 88) for a delicious—and nutritious—start to your day. Bonus: the recipe can be made ahead in a big batch, then stored for a quick reheat on harried mornings.
6. Healthy sleep habits
The best way to feel more energized in the morning is to improve overall sleep quality and duration. Making a habit out of getting good sleep will also improve your overall health—and your overall disposition.
For a more peaceful slumber, the US-based National Sleep Foundation suggests
- avoiding caffeine, alcohol, and certain types of food (for example, rich, spicy, or fried) close to bedtime
- limiting daytime naps to 30 minutes
- creating a bedtime routine and going to bed and getting up at approximately the same time every day
- making your bedroom a sleep haven (think quiet, cool, and comfortable!)
7. Head for the woods
Researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder found that a weeklong camping trip with exposure to nothing but natural light (that’s right, no flashlights or cellphones) did wonders for the sleep cycle. After seven days, participants’ bodies started releasing melatonin (the “sleep” hormone) around sunset and stopped releasing melatonin around sunrise. This was, on average, two hours earlier than normal. Campers also started going to bed and getting up at the same time—despite having different sleep schedules at home.
Although heading for the great outdoors isn’t an everyday fix, the take-home message from the Colorado study is to get more morning sunlight and less exposure to artificial light in the evening—for example, heading outside for a walk at the crack of dawn and powering down electronics at least an hour before bed.