By Samantha Whitaker
Today’s ‘fast lane’ approach to living means that too many of us are working hard, playing hard and simply not getting enough kip – which is why it can often be hard to get out of bed in the morning… Here are six ways to help you wake up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed:
Get enough hours
We sleep in 90-minute cycles. For around 45 minutes, we descend into a deep, restorative sleep, before we return to a shallow sleep, followed by REM (rapid eye movement), when you dream and when your body is naturally primed to wake up. If you can plan your sleep in multiples of 90 minutes (6, 7.5 or 9 hours, for example) then you’ll wake up towards the end of a sleep cycle refreshed and ready to go. If, however, your alarm clock jolts you out of a deep-sleep phase, you’ll find it difficult to wake up and feel groggy and disturbed. You’ll probably hit snooze until you’ve completed the sleep cycle, and if you don’t complete it, you’ll feel sluggish all day. Most research points towards 7.5 as the optimum amount of sleep for good health.
Create a sleep sanctuary
Anxiety, noise, discomfort and trips to the bathroom can also stop you entering the deep-sleep phase – so make sure your sleeping environment is comfortable, cool, dark, quiet and free from distractions. And keep a pad and pen handy to jot down, at 3am, that thing you suddenly remember you forgot to do.
One step further is to invest in a wake-up light (for example, the Lumie Bodyclock), which imitates sunrise by gradually lighting up the room over 30 minutes. As the light enters your eyelids, it induces the release of cortisol and encourages the body into the lighter sleep phase ready to wake up naturally when the light is at its full brightness.
Don’t eat late
Try not to eat a large meal too close to bedtime, or drink too much fluid, to avoid nighttime disruptions. It goes without saying that caffeine will disrupt sleep, but did you know the effects of caffeine can last up to eight hours? Keep caffeinated drinks for the morning, when you need the boost. Also, although alcohol might seem like a good idea to help you relax, it can disrupt your sleep cycle and cause you to go straight into deep sleep. As the effects wear off, you’re likely to wake up feeling exhausted after just one or two cycles (rather than the usual six or seven). In the morning, when you are awake, try to get up straight away before you can rationalise another five minutes. A cool glass of water on an empty stomach will get your metabolism going, and then fuel your body with a decent breakfast.
Supercharge your body
Lara Just, a nutrition consultant at www.yourfoodanalyst.com, says: ‘Studies have linked magnesium deficiency with chronic fatigue syndrome, as well as insufficient levels of potassium and B vitamins. CoQ10, lipoic acid, vitamin C and certain key amino acids are also important.’ Stock up on these to help you get going in the morning and to keep your energy levels up through the day. And you don’t need to invest in a stack of supplements: ‘A simple way to provide more of these nutrients is to eat a varied ‘living’ diet of vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils fish, eggs and lean meats, with fewer refined sugars, grains and processed foods,’ says Lara. Optimum energy levels rely on the gut functioning properly, so if you constantly feel sluggish it might be a good idea to seek advice from a qualified nutritional therapist.
Exercise is a great way to beat insomnia. If you’re physically tired you’re more likely to experience a deeper sleep cycle as your body repairs its muscle tissues. However, strenuous exercise too close to bedtime is disruptive as it increases adrenaline and raises your core temperature. Morning is the best time to work out as you’ll start the day on a natural high, kick-start your metabolism and it gives you a good reason to get up. And in the evening, stick to a brisk walk, a gentle swim or some relaxing yoga.