One thing that some of the most successful people in business, art, and politics all have in common? They have a regular morning routine.
But here’s the thing: The decisions you make in the morning can either set you up for success and encourage you to make healthy choices for the rest of your waking hours or seriously sabotage your overall wellness. Read on to find out if you’re accidentally making things harder for yourself—and what you should be doing instead.
Problem: Hitting the snooze button
Realizing that you can stay bundled under the covers for a few more minutes always feels like a gift—but whether you snooze one, two, or 10 times, you’re really messing with your body’s sleep cycle. Instead of helping you feel more rested and easing you into the day, those extra few minutes of sleep actually leave you feeling groggy and tired.
Why? For starters, relying on an alarm means that your body doesn’t wake up naturally, which throws off your circadian rhythm. The circadian rhythm is basically your internal “clock,” which follows roughly a 24-hour cycle and tells your body when to sleep, wake up, and so on.
It triggers feelings of sleepiness at night and wakes you up in the morning once you’ve gotten enough rest. Getting jolted awake by a shrill iPhone alarm disrupts the body’s natural flow and throws you off for the rest of the day.
And according the the National Sleep Foundation, the sleep that you do get during that short window of snoozing isn’t high-quality stuff. Snoozing can result in sleep inertia, a feeling of grogginess and disorientation that occurs after you wake up from a short period of sleep and can last for hours.
Finally, getting enough sleep is imperative for regulation of ghrelin and leptin, the two hormones that control hunger and cravings. Ghrelin is the “hunger hormone” that sends signals to your brain to let you know you need food, and leptin is responsible for telling your body that you’re sated so it doesn’t need to feel hungry. When sleep deprived, leptin drops by 15 percent while ghrelin spikes 15 percent, meaning that you’ll feel more hungry, but when you do eat, you don’t feel as full.
Solution: Set your alarm later
It’s possible to train yourself to wake up as the sun rises, but for most of us that’s not realistic. Your best bet is to set the alarm for a little later and skip the snooze. Seems like a no-brainer, but instead of setting your alarm for 6 a.m. and planning on snoozing for another hour, just wake up at 7 a.m.! It won’t be such a struggle to pull yourself out of bed because you’ll have had an extra hour of deep sleep.
Problem: Checking your phone from bed in the a.m.
A whopping 71 percent of people copped to sleeping with or next to their smartphones—a habit that not only messes with how quickly you fall asleep, but can also have repercussions the next morning. Spending a few minutes scrolling through your newsfeed, checking out the latest sales that hit your inbox, and responding to work emails well before you’ve made it to the office can actually cause a spike in anxiety and reduce your ability to focus throughout the day.
According to productivity expert Sid Savara, checking email first thing in the morning signifies that you don’t have a “clear list of priorities,” and you’re more likely to get caught up in busy work than actually accomplish all the things you’d like to. Instead of taking some time to think about tackling your to-do list, you hit the ground running—which leads to a more chaotic day.
Solution: Swap screen time for zen time
Instead of using your first waking moments to scan Instagram, take 10 minutes to breathe and meditate. Scientific studies show that regular meditation can reduce anxiety levels, encourage "big picture" thinking and a positive outlook overall, and improve the ability to concentrate.
Get started with this five-minute guided meditation that will help you break through anxiety—fast!
Problem: Skipping breakfast and relying on coffee
Replacing cereal or toast with coffee to cut calories and keep your energy up might seem like a smart idea, but it might actually sabotage your weight-loss goals.
And it’s not for the reason you think—contrary to popular belief, eating breakfast doesn’t kickstart your metabolism. Studies show zero difference in calories burned in one day in people who skip breakfast versus those that eat breakfast. On the flip side, drinking coffee does actually increase your metabolism.
But when you’re relying on caffeine alone—especially when you’re stressed—to power through your work or make it through the morning, it can increase the production of the hormone cortisol. Too much cortisol can result in extra belly fat, lowered immune function, and impaired cognition—exactly the opposite of the reason you’re skipping out on breakfast.
Solution: Find an on-the-go option that energizes and satiates
Grabbing a cup of coffee to wake up is OK, but make sure you give your body a little fuel. A protein shake, nutrition bar, or even a piece of sprouted toast with almond butter are all relatively low in calories but have enough macronutrients to keep you both energized and relaxed under pressure.
Problem: Skimping on sleep for morning workouts
You drag yourself out of bed for your scheduled morning spin class despite the bags under your eyes—we have to admire your dedication. But do you ever wonder when your workout stops being worth your while?
If you’re sleep deprived, it does your body more harm than good. Chronic sleep deprivation—or getting six hours or less a night on a regular basis—actually makes gym sessions less effective and can cause injury. Studies show that not only do tired athletes move more slowly, their balance and motor function is impaired. On a cellular level, the bodies of sleep-deprived people are more inflamed, can’t repair their muscles as well, and are more likely to succumb to overtraining syndrome—which can be catastrophic if you’re working long-term towards a big race or event.
Solution: Skip it
One night of bad sleep isn’t enough to wreck the effects of a great workout. But if you’ve only racked up five hours of sleep a night for a few weeks, you’ll do yourself more good by getting extra rest.