Wake Up Like a Pro
Did you hit the snooze this morning? Reach for the coffee? Skip breakfast? If this were "How to Wake Up 101," you'd fail. But don't let that keep you up at night. Sleep patterns and, on the flip side, waking up habits are "highly trainable, for good or for bad," says Michael Grandner, a psychiatry instructor at the University of Pennsylvania who studies sleep, its health effects and the factors that influence how we do it. Here's how to conquer seven common mistakes and wake up like a pro. Image: Getty
Mistake #1: You get ready in the dark.
Rise and shine! No, really. Taking in a hefty dose of sunshine first thing in the morning can help you wake up "because your body's internal clock is sensitive to light and darkness," says Natalie Dautovich, the National Sleep Foundation's environmental scholar. She recommends opening the curtains or eating breakfast on a sunny porch. "Exercising outside could also be an exhilarating way to cue your brain that it's time to start the day," she says. Image: Getty
Mistake #2: You succumb to the "sleep inertia" trap.
Some call it "the snooze button." Grandner calls it "the sleep inertia trap." Either way, the message is the same: You snooze, you lose. Hitting the snooze will only make it worse. Post-snooze sleep isn't high quality and leaves you feeling more tired not to mention, rushed. Instead, set your alarm later. Better yet, get a full night's sleep and avert the need to use an alarm altogether. You'll feel most alert if you wake up without an electronic aid. Image: Getty
Mistake #3: Your motto is "coffee first."
A.M. coffee cravers also overestimate the power of caffeine. The stimulant works partly by blocking the effects of adenosine, a brain chemical that mirrors the natural drive to sleep over the day, Grandner says. Since the chemical is in short supply in the morning, you're better off saving your cup of Joe until you get to work or later, when your body has built up enough adenosine for the caffeine to work its magic. Image: Getty
Mistake #4: You skip breakfast.
After getting a good night's rest, you'll need to fuel your body properly to ensure productivity throughout the day. Have a meal with plenty of fibre and protein, such as whole-grain toast with peanut butter or oatmeal with a hard-boiled egg. And be wary of breakfasts high in unsaturated fat, magnesium and potassium, which promote sleep. A bonus? Breakfast might also help you lose weight. Image: Getty
Mistake #5: You don't wind down the night before.
Working, cleaning or even watching TV up until the minute you crash means that lights out is "your mind's first chance to wind down without any distractions. That can cause you to misjudge how long you're actually sleeping and wake up groggy. You have to give yourself enough time in order to use your sleep to your maximum benefit. Image: Getty
Mistake #6: You don't sleep long or well enough.
People starve themselves of sleep all the time. Getting quality sleep is just as important. The National Sleep Foundation suggests avoiding daytime naps and evening doses of caffeine, alcohol and heavy food. It's also important to stick to a consistent bedtime, even on the weekends. Image: Getty
Mistake #7: You don't seek help.
If you're sleeping long, deep hours, and still frequently waking up tired, that's a clue that something is happening during your sleep that is keeping it shallow. The most common culprits are chronic pain and sleep apnoea, a breathing disorder that affects more than 18 million Americans, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Scheduling an appointment with a sleep specialist can help diagnose and treat such conditions and help you wake up feeling alive. Image: Getty