Regular, healthy sleep is key to your overall well-being, but the choices you make after climbing out of bed are equally important. You can set the tone for your day by establishing a daily routine that includes drinking water, eating breakfast and getting your body moving after you wake up. Let's look at the best morning habits to develop to start your day on the right track.
Health care professionals have long known the factors that contribute to a healthy lifestyle. A pioneering study in the 1960s determined the habits that promote good health and longevity:
Additional research later found people who regularly practiced all six of these healthy behaviors lived up to 11 years longer than those who followed fewer than six.
However, many people find it challenging to change behavior even when they know what the stakes are. Given a choice, we often pick the easiest, fastest or most enjoyable option instead of focusing on the long-term benefits of a lifestyle change.
Health care providers find that only about 50% of patients are successful at making lifestyle changes long-term. It takes time to establish a routine so that habits are automatic and require little effort or thought.
According to a study in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, it takes an average of 66 days to establish a healthy habit such as a dietary change. Creating an exercise habit takes about 1.5 times longer. The good news is, you don't have to be perfect. Missing one day didn't have lasting effects on the time it takes to establish a routine.
You may find your mornings already pushed to the limit, but a few tweaks can get your healthy lifestyle on track. Some changes are easy to implement, such as having a glass of water, while others take commitment. It's also important to create a morning routine that works for you. You may prefer to exercise later in the day, for example, to reduce stress after a long day of work.
Here are some of the best morning habits to develop to help get you physically and mentally energized for the day.
Our natural circadian rhythms respond to light, regulating sleep/wake cycles, digestion, body temperature and hormones. Keep your internal clock on track by opening the curtains and letting sunlight in when you wake up. This cues your body to be alert.
During the day, serotonin production takes place to help us stay calm, focused and positive. When it's dark, our bodies produce melatonin so we can sleep. Keeping your circadian rhythms in check helps protect against insomnia as well as infection, inflammation and cancer.
One study shows the powerful effect of light on sleep cycles. Participants exposed to dawn simulation needed less time to feel fully awake. The study suggests light helps improve alertness and reduce grogginess, impaired performance and help with other lack of sleep effects.
One of the best morning habits you can develop is to consume energy after fasting through the night. Researchers have found that a regular breakfast helps improve mood, alertness and sleep quality. Breakfast-eaters also have better overall dietary habits and are less likely to eat larger meals later in the day. They take in less carbohydrates and calories than those who skip the morning meal.
While eating breakfast has benefits, missing this meal can have a negative health impact. Breakfast skipping is associated with obesity and type 2 diabetes, which are also effects of sleep deprivation.
Nine out of 10 adults consume a caffeinated beverage every day, with many Americans reaching for coffee in the morning to help wake up. However, caffeine can lead to trouble sleeping and create a cycle of insomnia and caffeine dependency.
On the other hand, water is essential for health. It regulates body temperature, keeps organs functioning optimally, and helps you think more clearly.
You don't have to forgo your morning coffee, but while it's brewing, drink some water. A glass of zero-calorie water in the morning is an easy way to get started on your fluid consumption and fend off signs of dehydration such as crankiness and fatigue.
A quick jog or yoga session in the morning can provide immediate benefits that last through the day. Exercise improves cognition and reduces short-term anxiety. Over the long-term, it enhances sleep, mood and executive function. Adults should aim for 150 minutes of aerobic exercise per week.
While you benefit from physical activity no matter what time of day it is, you may find it easier to exercise in the morning before your day gets too hectic. Studies also show that those who exercise earlier in the day lose more weight compared to those who exercise in the evening. If you prefer physical activity later in the day, just make sure it's not too close to bedtime as it can increase energy levels and contribute to insomnia.
Emotional health is just as important as physical well-being. While routine stress related to work or family responsibilities is normal, chronic stress can cause a strain on your body.
Set aside time during your morning routine for yourself, even if it's just a few minutes. Instead of scrolling through social media or watching the news, try calming your mind. You can practice meditation, take deep breaths or do some stretching so you can begin your day focused and centered.
© 2021 American Sleep Association.