It’s true that some people seem to wake up at the crack of dawn, bursting with energy, happiness and hunger, while the rest of us groggily open our eyes as the alarm sounds, feeling weak, tired and hard done by, and often hitting snooze until we’re already running late for the day. The good news? You can fix this! You might be more of a night owl than a morning lark, but by changing and adding some evening and morning habits and routines, and using food and exercise to your advantage, you can make your mornings brighter and happier…
The Science Of Night Owls And Morning Larks
There are a number of scientific studies conducted on night people and morning people, and the answer, to some extent, may lie in our genes. In a study of more than 89,000 people who submitted DNA to 23andMe through a spit sample, and filled out two online surveys, 75 per cent fell into the categories of either a night person or morning person. Researchers found 15 genetic variants linked to being a morning person, of which seven were near genes that are known to play a role in circadian rhythms. Some were also close to genes involved in sensing light from our eyes, suggesting that they may be related, telling the body when to be awake. Almost twice as many participants who identified as night people tended to suffer from insomnia than those who identified as morning people, and were about two-thirds more likely to suffer from sleep apnea.
According to the study, morning people were less likely to need more than eight hours of sleep, and they also tended to have a lower body mass index than those who identified as night people. However, the researchers were not able to confirm that one caused the other. What they did find was that the FTO gene, which has been linked to obesity, was more common in night people. Depression was also found to be more likely in participants who identified as night owls, however, there were no findings to suggest that one caused the other.
Despite genes potentially playing a key role in your natural preference of evenings or mornings, there are ways to assist your body and mind in winding down in the evening, getting a better night’s sleep, and waking up refreshed and happier in the morning…
It All Starts The Day Before
You can’t train your body and brain to wake up happy and refreshed early in the morning without first looking at your habits the previous day and evening. Without adequate restful sleep, your body cannot recover, recharge and heal. What you do during the day and throughout the evening, what you watch on television, and what you eat and drink all play a role in how you will wake up the next day. If, for example, you down a few glasses of wine along with a late-night heavy meal, or snack on sugary and processed foods before bed, you are not going to have a restful sleep. Your stomach should be empty when you go to bed, in order to give your body a rest, and to allow for a decent fast. It takes a lot of energy for the body’s metabolic and digestive systems to process food through the body, so if you go to bed full, even if you go to sleep, your body will still be working overtime. There are a number of daytime and evening routines and changes you can make to help you the next morning.
Having a good exercise routine and fitness level in general helps you sleep, and therefore helps you rise in the morning after a good night’s rest. Certain jobs, like busy, stressful office jobs, can be mentally exhausting, making you feel like you could fall into bed every evening. However, just because you are mentally tired, it doesn’t mean you are physically tired, and this can affect how you sleep at night. Restless legs, fidgeting and a busy mind can keep you awake long after you were hoping to drift off, which, of course, has a roll-on effect to the morning when the alarm sounds and you haven’t had enough hours of sleep.
The best time to exercise is in the morning, for many reasons – one of them being that late-night exercise can actually keep you awake instead of helping you sleep. However, if you can’t fit in a morning workout or power walk, try to plan it for at least four hours before bed. Anything from brisk walking, yoga or running to gym classes, home workouts or swimming are great options – whatever you enjoy doing to ensure you stick with it. And the best option is to have a few different exercise options to stop it from becoming a mundane task. For example, if you walk every morning and exercise in the afternoon, you could keep your walking routine as usual and switch between different gym classes, swimming, yoga, Pilates and cycling in the afternoon.
Changes to make: Instead of exercising late at night, make time in the morning or during the day to help you get an earlier night’s sleep, fueling you to wake up the next morning.
You’d be amazed at how much of an effect the food you eat and the beverages you consume have on your sleeping patterns, mood and energy in the morning. Everything from what you eat for breakfast through to your dinner and evening snacks plays a role in how you feel when you wake up each morning. Going to bed too full or too hungry can both stop you from sleeping, and can cause your body to work overtime when it should be resting and healing. Drugs like nicotine, caffeine and alcohol can all affect your sleep, health and energy levels in the morning. Nicotine and caffeine are both stimulating substances that can disrupt your sleep, stop you from falling asleep and lower the quality of your sleep. Alcohol may help you drift off to sleep initially, but it can cause a disrupted sleep later in the night, and can make you feel sluggish, unhappy or sick in the morning.
Large quantities of sugar should be avoided as much as possible during the evening, especially in things like candy and sodas. Instead, opt for light healthy meals and herbal teas. You should try to consume dinner at least a few hours before bed, making it as healthy and natural as possible. There are plenty of quick, easy and healthy recipe options to choose from.
Changes to make: Eat dinner early and make it relatively light, healthy and natural. Avoid too much sugar, alcohol, caffeine and nicotine in the evenings.
In The Morning…
Now that we’ve covered the general necessities and important points for the day and evening before, we can move on to the morning of. When it comes to dragging yourself out of bed, you want something, or several things to motivate you. The thought of getting up, rushing around and somehow getting yourself out the door for a job that you’re not too passionate about doesn’t sound that appealing – especially in the winter months when you know it’s going to be dark and cold. There are simple ways, however, to entice yourself to get excited about rising in the mornings. By planning enjoyable routines or rituals, or even having something like a breakfast to get excited about, you will have a positive reason, or reasons, to get out of bed.
Those people you know who leap out of bed itching to start the day, who you call ‘morning people’, often aren’t actually using willpower. They’re using habits, which eliminate the need for self-control and decision-making. If you’ve already decided what you will eat for dinner, what time you will go to bed, what time you will turn the lights out, what time you will wake up, and what you will do in the morning, then there are no decisions left to be made until after your morning routine – well after you’ve risen from the bed. So, if you make the decision to eat that early healthy dinner and go to bed with the alarm set for eight or nine hours later, all you need to do is decide what your morning habits will be. Here are a few options to try, and you can get into a routine of following all of these morning rituals, or pick and choose the ones that work for you…
Coconut Oil Pulling
This may sound extremely strange and unappealing, but bear with me! While this seems like an unpleasant, and pretty annoying, task to have to wake up to, after doing it a couple of times, it might actually help get you out of bed. That’s because doing certain things that you know are good for you actually raises your self-esteem and makes you feel happier. Coconut oil pulling has a range of incredible health benefits, from cleaning and whitening your teeth to ridding your body of toxins that make their way to your mouth as you sleep. And with something as simple and easily achievable as coconut oil pulling, you will have a feeling of accomplishment and self-care first thing in the morning, before the day has even really started!
Drink Warm Lemon Water
This is another enjoyable, relaxing morning ritual that also comes with its fair share of health benefits, from kick-starting your metabolism and hydrating the body after sleep, to aiding weight loss and strengthening your immune system. But not only that, it is a habit that you will quickly slip into and look forward to, because of how great it makes you feel – fresh, hydrated detoxed and ready for food. Once you get used to this morning routine, it will be something you look forward to every day, and, like oil pulling, it is so easy. You simply boil the kettle, squeeze some lemon juice into a mug along with a slice of the lemon, add the boiled water, and let it cook for about 10 minutes, so that it’s just warm, not hot. Then just relax (sit outside if the weather is nice for some fresh air!) and sip the lemon water.
Stretch, Meditate Or Walk (Or Do All Three!)
All of these options are so addictive and so enjoyable in the morning. And if the weather allows, they are best enjoyed outside. That, of course, goes without saying for the walking! You could move onto this routine either before or after your lemon water. If you love walking, then that is a fantastic treat to enjoy every morning – whether it’s just a stroll in nature or a brisk heart-pumping power walk. Alternatively, on very cold mornings, or if you’re not a huge fan of walking, you could enjoy some gentle yoga stretches or a short sequence, waking up and stretching your muscles, opening your heart and building up energy in your body. You could also add a 10, 15, or 20-minute meditation or relaxation session in the morning to really improve your mood, sense of calm and ability to take on the day.
Breakfast To Get Excited About
Whether it’s a healthy breakfast burrito, a poached egg with avocado and sourdough, porridge with fruit, or a delicious smoothie packed full of powerful ingredients, like oats, matcha, yogurt, chia seeds, frozen bananas, fruit and coconut water, if your breakfast is exciting, it will give you something to look forward to in the morning. The best way to put this plan into action is to have it prepared the night before. Have your pot ready on the stove with water and vinegar in it to turn on and poach your egg in the morning. Or make sure you have all the ingredients for your throw-together smoothie. Freeze pieces of banana, so that when you do feel like a smoothie, everything is ready to go. Breakfast should be quick and simple to make, but that definitely doesn’t mean it needs to be boring! Check out these exciting breakfast ideas and recipes to get you started.