Ever wonder why some people wake up full of energy, but you have to drag yourself out of bed in the morning? Do you wish you could get yourself going without relying on caffeine and sugar to fuel your day? Where does morning energy come from?
One of the most effective ways to help your body get going in the morning is to optimize the Sleep-Wake rhythm of the adrenal glands.
The first thing to know is that a rising level of cortisol is the main hormonal signal telling your body to wake up. In the early hours of the morning, cortisol steadily rises until it brings you to waking. Levels continue to rise to a peak about 30min after you get up, and then gradually decline through the mid-day and afternoon. So the cortisol curve goes up sharply upon rising, flattens over the day, and then drops at night as you wind down and prepare for sleep.
At least that’s what is *supposed* to happen!
If you have a hard time getting up and going in the morning, chances are your cortisol isn’t rising as much as it should.
Low morning cortisol is usually a result of chronic stress. The adrenal system initially responds to stress by producing MORE cortisol. But over time the system down regulates, produces LESS cortisol, and leaves you feeling sluggish and burned out.
I know it’s easier said than done, but when this happens you need to try to reduce your stress and give your body the nourishment and support it needs.
When you are really busy, it may seem impossible to reduce your stress. However, it is critical to do so in order to stay healthy enough to continue doing all the important things that you do.
The “WAKE” part of the Sleep-Wake Rhythm
One of the best ways to get back your get up and go, is to… well… get up and go. As much as you can, stick to the same wake up time every day, within 30min +/-. And when you wake, get moving right away.
Ideally get outside for a walk to wake your body up with movement and fresh air. Plus, the sunshine provides bright light which shuts off your melatonin from the night before, and tells your endocrine system that it is morning time. If the weather makes that difficult, dance to a favorite soundtrack or do a little workout routine indoors. When time is tight, try just doing a big stretch and then rub your skin and shake out your arms and legs for a minute to help wake your body up.
After a couple weeks of waking at a consistent time, your adrenals will start to learn this rhythm and will naturally produce more cortisol for you at that same time every morning. Then waking up actually becomes easier and easier over time.
You might not ever be as chipper as a natural morning person (I know I’m not!), but you’ll find that your body is ready and able to wake up and face the day!
The “SLEEP” part of the Sleep-Wake Rhythm
In order to set yourself up for successfully waking at the same time every morning, you want to try to get to bed early enough to allow the 8 (or more!) hours of sleep that your body needs.
So calculate backwards from your chosen wake up time, to decide on your chosen bed time (I suggest 9hrs earlier to allow for a bit of the tossing and turning that naturally happens). So if you are waking at 7am, that means you want to be in bed falling asleep by 10pm.
Many of us who have a hard time waking in the morning find that we get this amazing burst of energy at the end of the day and we end up staying up too late trying to get things done. Sound familiar? Or you may just lie awake at night unable to shut your mind off and relax your body enough to be able to fall asleep on time.
Remember the cortisol curve I described earlier? It peaks in the late morning and then tapers off and is supposed to go DOWN at night time. If the rhythm is off, one of the best ways to help it reset is to practice a relaxation routine before bed (and before the second wind kicks in!).
Just like helping a child wind down with a bath or story time, your body needs to be reminded that it’s time to let go of the day and prepare for rest.
So pick a practice that appeals to you (or rotate between a few if you like variety): foam rolling, deep breathing, guided meditation (Calm or Insight Timer are great apps), gentle stretching, yin yoga (legs up the wall is a great pose). Some people like reading a book but if you can also plan on 5-10min after reading, it’s ideal to just let your mind rest with no input. If you are having a hard time doing this “perfectly” know that you can shift your nervous system into a more restful start with even just… one… slow… deep… breath.
Of course there are many factors that determine how easily you fall asleep and how well you sleep through the night, and we can’t cover all of that in this article. If you are having ongoing sleep issues, you should talk to your primary care doctor about any other important issues that may need to be addressed, such as sleep apnea which can be dangerous if not treated.
In most cases though, some combination of keeping a consistent schedule, adjusting your nutrition through the day, balancing your hormones (eg progesterone can be a KEY factor during perimenopause!), managing your stress, supplementing when necessary, and practicing a relaxation routine before bed will do the trick!
Could you use more help to address your sleep concerns? We warmly invite you to schedule a complimentary “Vitality Discovery Call” so we can get to know you and help you figure out your best next steps from here.