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Sleep Expert Shares Tips on How to Hack Your Sleep Routine to Maximise Your Morning

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In a recent interview with Grazia to celebrate International Women’s Day, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s wife, Akshata Murty, confessed that she isn’t a morning person and doesn’t like making the bed.

With over 350 Google searches a month around “how to become a morning person”, Dr Sophie Bostock, Sleep Expert at Bensons for Beds, explains that while some people are genetically disposed to staying up late, a few small changes to your daily routine can actually help shift your sleep clock to become an early riser.

Dr Bostock says: “Most teenagers and young adults have a delayed body clock, which means their bodies are actually programmed to wake them up after 9am and they don’t start to feel sleepy until after midnight.  In other words, they are natural night owls and around one in five of us maintains this pattern throughout our lives.

“If you want to transition your internal clock so that you wake up earlier in the morning, I’d recommend that you do it gradually. Our body clocks can only shift by a maximum of an hour every 24 hours. Start by getting up 20-30 minutes earlier each day, until you reach your target. It’s really important to get exposure to bright natural light in the first hour of the day, to help signal the brain that it’s time to wake up, and to dim the lights at least an hour before your chosen bedtime.”

The Prime Minister goes on to say that his wife doesn’t like making the bed, with his wife admitting that she prefers to just “be done with [getting up] and move on.”

Dr Bostock remarks: “Some authors have suggested that making the bed in the morning is a small habit that can give you a sense of achievement, and build confidence for tackling more challenging tasks throughout the day, which could, in turn, increase your productivity.

“A neat and tidy bedroom can create a sense of calm and control, which may help to reduce feelings of overwhelm, and improve focus for tasks later in the day. A messy bedroom might interfere with feeling calm and relaxed before sleep, but some people have a greater tolerance for untidy surroundings than others.”

Murty also confesses in the interview that she used to eat in bed while at university but has now given up that habit, thanks to her husband. Dr Bostock cautions against late night eating but advises that it isn’t just the morning preparations that help to energise you but also your night-time routine before going to bed, which will set you up for success in the morning.

Dr Bostock explains:“The secret to a good morning routine is the preparation you do the night before. Ideally, avoid eating heavy meals for at least two hours before trying to sleep. Our circadian rhythms, which influence our sleep patterns, also control our metabolism. We have evolved to eat during daylight hours, which is when our bodies can more easily digest and metabolise food.

“When we eat late at night, we have higher insulin resistance, and it’s harder for our bodies to store sugar, so we can end up with higher blood glucose. Food is also one of the cues that sends messages to your master clock telling you its daytime, so eating late at night can reinforce night owl tendencies.”

Dr Bostock shares her tips to help reset your body clock and embrace early mornings:

  1. Shift wake up times gradually – moving your wake-up time by 30 to 60 minutes each day
  2. Use natural light to help you get out of bed – a master clock in the brain is sensitive to natural day light, especially first thing in the morning
  3. Get moving in the morning – exercise in the morning will signal your body clock that it’s time to be alert
  4. Eat breakfast – food is another time giver, or zeitgeber, that puts your clocks on their daytime setting, so eat breakfast within an hour or two of waking up if you can
  5. Switch off bright overhead lights before bed, use dimmer switches, lamps or candles instead
  6. Avoid vigorous exercise immediately before bed
  7. Finish your evening meal at least 2 hours before getting into bed
  8. Make a plan for screen time, and keep tech out of the bedroom – consuming information on phones or laptops can make you feel more alert, and interfere with falling asleep – it often also delays bedtime
  9. Avoid long lie-ins – the more days a week you wake up at the same time, the more your body learns to anticipate wake up time with a natural boost of cortisol, helping you wake up naturally

Dr Bostock goes on to say that to shortcut these steps, research shows you can also just go camping for a few days away from artificial lights, which will help to sync your body clock with the natural light-dark cycle of the sun, and wake you soon after dawn.”

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