As a lifelong night owl whose brain functions best in the early morning, I have a long and complicated relationship with sleep. Although I know I’m most productive before noon, and therefore need an early bedtime, it’s hard to avoid clicking that “Continue Playing” button on Netflix at 11:30 p.m. Sleep is a boring end to fun pastimes at night, and the most important and desirable thing in the world when I’m slapping at the snooze button a few hours later. Fortunately, there is at least one thing you can do in the morning to get a better night’s sleep.
Although most healthy sleep habits take place in the hours leading up to bedtime, there’s one thing you can do the second your eyes open that will help you sleep better the following night. Talk about efficiency! And for most people, following this tip is completely free.
Although most people will still need a little help from coffee to totally get in gear to face the day, this trick is a great addition to your wake-up arsenal. By using your body’s natural circadian rhythm, you can hit the reset button on sleepless nights. (Provided you’re caught up on Netflix for the time being.)
To really wake up in the morning, let the sunshine in! As the National Sleep Foundation explains, your circadian clock is comprised of a group of cells that respond to light and dark signals, and morning exposure to light tells your body to raise its temperature and slow the production of sleep-promoting hormones such as melatonin. Light is a natural signal to make your body get in gear for the day ahead.
Furthermore, as a 2010 Sleep Medicine Clinics study on circadian rhythm sleep disorders found, light exposure has a tremendous affect on circadian rhythm and exposure to bright light is a common way to treat sleep disorders. So throw open those shades as soon as you're up in the morning.
If exposing yourself to natural light is difficult — say you have to be awake before dawn, or your bedroom has tiny windows — you may consider a light alarm such as the Philips Wake-Up Light ($110) or Sleep Spa Wake Up Sunrise Clock ($95). These light alarms gradually brighten to simulate the sunrise, helping you wake up to a light-filled room.
Getting enough shut-eye every night does not have to feel like an impossible goal, and a few simple changes to your routine might make a big difference in your quality of sleep. Whether your fix of morning light is natural or man-made, catching enough rays in the a.m. will likely help you sleep more soundly by bedtime.