Get up and at ‘em, even on darker mornings, with these research-approved tips
Morning people are so smug. You can’t read a business book without a millionaire CEO like Starbucks’ Howard Schulz or Disney’s Bob Iger celebrating the importance of their 4.30am wake-up calls. In reality, despite every best intention, most of us are very well acquainted with the snooze button on our alarm.
That needn’t be the case, however. Here are some smart ways to hack your circadian rhythm and wake up feeling energised and primed to seize the day.
A light idea
Your body is naturally sensitive and awakened by light. So it is no surprise that when your Marimba ring tone shocks you out of sleep that you’re groggy and less than enthusiastic about pulling back the covers. Your workaround is faking it to make it. It may be dark outside, but there is a new class of alarm clock that uses light to wake you up gradually. Wake-up lights by Philips (£125, amazon.co.uk) glow brighter over a period of 30 minutes, just like a sunrise. This triggers the release of hormones gradually and helps you to wake up feeling alert.
Time it right
There are several stages of sleep, ranging from Stage 0, which is where you’re resting with eyes closed but fully conscious, through to Stage 5, which is REM sleep where you’re dreaming and consolidating memories. In adults, cycling through these stages takes around 90 minutes and you’ll repeat that process throughout the night. The key to waking up and feeling ready for action is to time your rise for one of the earlier, lighter stages. Jerking yourself awake from the deep stages 4 and 5 will leave you groggy. Aside from light lamps, there are also “smart alarms” that claim to track this for you, waking you at the optimal point within your chosen timeframe. The app Sleep Cycle is leading the way.
Less is more
David Osborn, co-author of the self-help book Miracle Morning Millionaires, and self-proclaimed morning person is a major proponent of intermittent fasting as a quick route A.M productivity. You may have heard of fasting – restricting your food intake to just 8 hours a day (between 10am and 6pm, for example) – as a route to weight loss, but the theory suggests it could have eye-opening benefits as well. Going 16 hours without food overnight, the brain increases production of two compounds: brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). The first enhances cognition and the second induces calm; both work together to prime your mind for focus first thing in the morning.
Rise and grind
Lace up your trainers and get after it. The more you grit your teeth through morning workouts, the easier they’ll get and the more the benefits of early sweat sessions will crossover into every aspect of your life. In a study of 100 fit people, researchers from Arizona State University found that early workouts shifted people’s body clocks earlier. It conditions your body to be alert for action earlier in the day, so you will wake up energised and carry that energy from the gym floor into the working day.
A head start
Equally, there are calmer ways to create new morning regimens that awaken your potential. In addition to fasting, Osborn also prescribes a morning meditation session in his book. It can be tough to get into, but via apps like Calm and Headspace, the practice has never been more accessible – and it works. FMRI studies show that meditation can increase blood flow to parts of the brain that are associated with attention and decision-making. Carry that new focus into your home office and you’ll make more of every hour spent WFH.