If you’re dragging right now, don’t be so quick to blame last night.
While poor sleep is one of the biggest reasons many of us feel exhausted, there are actually several other culprits – and some of them start before you even leave your house.
But that’s a good thing, because you’re totally in control of these morning habits. Here’s how to overcome them so you feel alert all day.
1. You spend an extra 20 minutes in bed on your phone
For once, it’s not your phone that’s to blame – it’s spending the extra time in bed that’s the problem.
“The bed is meant for one main thing: sleeping,” says Raj Dasgupta, MD, a fellow of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. “If you stay in bed, then it gives your mind the feeling that it’s time to sleep and not start your day.”
Even worse, he says, is if you fall back asleep. If your “just 10 more minutes” turns into an hour, then you’re waking up from REM sleep instead of the lighter stages of sleep that you would’ve woken up from had you gotten out of bed the first time.
Waking up from that deeper sleep can actually make you even more tired throughout the day than someone who got less shut-eye but woke up from a lighter stage of sleep.
Bottom line: When you wake up, get up.
2. You’re glued to your Fitbit
Fitbits and other fitness trackers are great at motivating you to get in a few (or a few thousand) more daily steps, but if you’re also using it to track your sleep, you might actually feel more tired, says Dr Dasgupta.
It’s not that the Fitbit can’t help you sleep better, he says, it’s that most people wake up, take a look at their crappy sleep score, and immediately start stressing out.
“You think ‘I’m going to have a bad day’ and ‘Anything that doesn’t go right today has to be because of my sleep,’” he says.
That not only makes you stress, sucking the energy out of you before you even brush your teeth, but it also puts you in the mindset that you should be tired – even if you actually aren’t.
3. You don’t rehydrate
There’s a reason you wake up with stinky morning breath: dehydration.
As you sleep, your body continues to soak up the water you drank during the day. That means you’re going (ideally) about 8 hours without replenishing your water supply. If you don’t rehydrate, then your energy levels will wane.
Research from the University of Connecticut’s Human Performance Laboratory shows that even mild dehydration makes you tired and irritable.
Get drinking before you even head out the door. Kate Zeratsky, RDN at the Mayo Clinic, suggests 250ml of liquid, whether it’s coffee, water or tea.
4. You shower at night
A hot, steamy shower can relax your muscles, wash away stress, and… put you to sleep, right?
Actually, according to Dr Dasgupta, it does the opposite. While it might seem counterintuitive to take a warm, relaxing shower to wake up, it works.
As you fall deeper into sleep, your core body temperature drops to somewhere around 15°C.
So “taking a hot shower at night is kind of like exercising at night,” Dr Dasgupta says. “It’s not a good idea because it increases your core body temperature, so it takes longer to cool down and get to sleep.”
On the other hand, he says, taking a warm shower in the morning can boost your body temperature from frigid sleeping conditions to warm, energised and fully awake.
That said, preliminary studies suggest that cold showers can improve mood in people with depression and winter swimming (for the brave) can reduce fatigue.
So while the jury’s still out on the ideal temperature for feeling energised, one thing’s for sure: You should take a morning shower. Adjust the hot and cold knobs to see what temperature perks you up the most.
5. You exercise after work
It’s hard to drag your butt out of bed and into workout clothes, but your morning walk, run or gym time will make you feel more energised as the day goes on.
Exercise of any kind floods your body with feel-good endorphins while simultaneously delivering oxygen and nutrients to your tissues, according to the Mayo Clinic. Extra oxygen to your tissues means your heart and lungs will work better and give you more energy throughout your day.
Don’t have the time for an hour-long (or even 20-minute) workout? A quick walk around the block or 10 minutes of stretching can help you wake up.
Read more: 5 body weight exercises you should be doing
6. You’re spending too much time inside
Blue light helps you wake up because it decreases your levels of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin. And the best place to get it from is the sun.
That’s because the sun also emits vitamin D, which is crucial for keeping up your energy levels. Research shows that people who have a vitamin D deficiency are more likely to have chronic fatigue syndrome and correcting the deficiency boosts their energy levels back to normal.
While Zeratsky says going out in the sun is better for a quick energy boost, taking a vitamin D supplement will also help you feel more awake if you’re low on the nutrient.
It won’t give you an instant boost, but it will help regulate your energy levels over time.
Read more: 4 backyard items you can use to workout
7. Your radio is on the wrong station
If you regularly hit the gym, chances are you don’t slog away on the treadmill without music – heart-racing, get-you-going music.
Try the same technique to power through your mornings. Research shows music between 120 and 145 beats per minute is best to motivate you to run faster or, you know, get out of bed.
Don’t know what that sounds like? Try songs like Pharrell’s “Happy” or Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It”.
This article was originally published on www.mh.co.za
Image credits: iStock