Are you tired of waking up groggy and dragging as the day goes on? The key to feeling refreshed in the morning and staying alert all day comes down to three easy steps, according to a new study from UC Berkeley.
Researchers worked with 833 participants over two weeks, tracking everything they did. They were given different breakfasts daily, to track how different foods affect alertness. And the study included both fraternal and identical twins, allowing researchers to show that genetics only account for 25% of morning alertness, or the lack of it. And what they found is that these three simple changes keep you from feeling sluggish when you wake up:
- Get more sleep and wake up a bit later - The study confirms most of us aren’t getting enough sleep, but lead study author, professor and sleep expert Matthew Walker, says sleeping longer can help clear that groggy feeling, officially called sleep inertia [[uh-NUR-shuh]]. He explains that waking up later is important because then you’re “rising at a higher point on the upswing of your 24-hour circadian rhythm,” which ramps up all morning and boosts alertness.
- Eat a balanced breakfast with lots of complex carbs - Surprisingly, the study finds that a high-protein breakfast - which many consider the healthiest - didn’t lead to the greatest level of alertness. Participants felt the most alert after eating a breakfast that’s 77% carbs, 16% fat and 7% protein, with the carbs being complex, so they break down more slowly.
- Exercise today for a more alert tomorrow - Participants who were physically active one day felt less sluggish the next day, and researchers say there are a few possible explanations. For one, exercise helps you sleep better and more deeply, which could help you feel refreshed the next day. Exercise is also a mood booster, and researchers found that participants who feel happier also feel more alert.
Walker calls these small tweaks “a relatively simple prescription for how best to wake up each day.” And if you can’t do all three, study authors say even doing one will make a big difference because they each have a “unique and independent effect.”