Always wake up feeling groggy? There’s a solution to that.
Scientists believe they found a foolproof three-step formula to turn sluggishness into a refreshed morning feeling.
Though it’s only three factors, some might find it a little difficult, considering it involves exercise and avoiding sugar.
Researchers at the University of California believe the key to feeling renewed in the morning is a combination of strenuous exercise, seven to nine hours of sleep and a high-carb and low-sugar breakfast.
“We know there are people who always seem to be bright-eyed and busy-tailed when they first wake up,” author Professor Matthew Walker said. “But if you think you’re not like that, you tend to think, ‘Well I guess it’s just my genetic fate that I’m slow to wake up. There’s really nothing I can do about it,’ short of using stimulant chemical caffeine, which can harm sleep.
“But our findings offer a different and more optimistic message,” he continued.
The formula published in the journal Nature Communications was put together after analyzing hundreds of people.
While the research showed that strenuous exercise helped sleepyheads, the scientists couldn’t point out exactly why — but noted that it does wear a person out and is a known mood booster.
“It is well known that physical activity, in general, improves your alertness and also your mood level,” Dr. Raphael Vallat, study co-author and postdoctoral fellow, said.
The researchers found a high correlation between mood and levels of alertness, with those who were, on average, happier also were more alert.
“It may be that exercise-induced better sleep is part of the reason exercise the day before, by helping sleep that night, leads to superior alertness throughout the next day,” Vallat said.
While seven to nine hours of sleep is ideal, even just a little more can help. A lie-in — remaining in bed after waking up — can also help fight off that hazy feeling, according to Walker.
The recommended amount of sleep, and particularly good quality sleep, can rid the body of “sleep inertia” — impaired cognitive and sensory-motor performance after waking up. Getting enough sleep also helps clear the body of a chemical called adenosine, which makes us feel tired and builds up throughout the day.
Sleeping in later can also help with alertness.
“Considering that the majority of individuals in society are not getting enough sleep during the week, sleeping longer on a given day can help clear some of the adenosine sleepiness debt they are carrying,” Walker said.
Participants were also given different meals for breakfast, kept food diaries for two weeks, and wore watches to record physical activity, sleep quantity, quality, timing and regularity. They also self-recorded their levels of alertness from the moment they woke up and throughout the day,
All pre-prepared breakfasts were centered around a muffin and packaged with different nutrients. Some had just a muffin while others were paired with items such as chocolate milk, a protein shake or fiber bars. Some were also given a dose of glucose.
Participants were asked to fast for eight hours prior to eating breakfast and for three to four hours post-meal. They also wore a glucose monitor.
The researchers wanted to test the breakdown of breakfast meals high in sugar, protein and carbohydrates. A high-carb, low-sugar breakfast was discovered as the best meal to wake up feeling lively.
Breakfasts with a lot of sugar left participants feeling the worst since it can spike your blood sugar levels, negatively impacting the brain’s ability to return to waking consciousness.
“A breakfast rich in carbs can increase alertness, so long as your body is healthy and capable of efficiently disposing of the glucose from that meal, preventing a sustained spike in blood sugar that otherwise blunts your brain’s alertness,” Dr. Vallat said.
While most people assume feeling sleepy in the morning is nothing more than an annoying part of our lives, Walker shared that it actually “costs developed nations billions of dollars every year through loss of productivity, increased health care utilization, work absenteeism.”
He also said that grogginess in the morning can be deadly, resulting in car crashes and work-related incidents.
“As scientists, we must understand how to help society wake up better and help reduce the mortal cost to society’s current struggle to wake up effectively each day,” Walker said.
“How you wake up each day is very much under your own control, based on how you structure your life and your sleep.”