Mornings are often the most challenging time for many of us. We toss and turn, push the “snooze” button on the alarm and wish we could sleep for just five more minutes, but that alarm is relentless. No, the secret is not in the mattress you selected and the money you paid. Nor is it that you aren’t using a weighted blanket to keep you snuggly all night and wake up refreshed. It’s not even your bed partner if you choose to have one. Well, then, what is it?
A bit of digression here. During WWI, the songwriter Irving Berlin was famous for a song that resonates with we morning sleepy folks. It went, “Oh, how I hate to get up in the morning, Oh, how I’d love to remain in bed.” Berlin knew, and the song was a big hit for him on the Broadway stage.
Yes, we’d all love to remain in bed, but our version of the bugler’s call summons us, and it won’t stop. Work, school, or appointments are on the agenda, and each requires our physical presence. What is going on? Much of this bed-induced reiteration of what the next day will bring is one of the impediments to restful sleep. But there’s more, and it has to do with your body’s biorhythms.
Sleep researchers know that the morning can be difficult because of this overnight biological activity. “It is well known that cortisol has a circadian rhythm, with levels peaking in the morning between 08.00 and 09.00, and smaller secondary peaks after meals. This diurnal rhythm can be affected by sleep and working night shifts.” Cortisol is the stress hormone that can cause inflammation, and we know that it can cause mood changes, possible depression, anxiety, and sleep disruption.
And these higher levels of cortisol in the morning that respond to our body’s circadian rhythm don’t immediately decrease. “In humans, under normal circumstances, cortisol will begin to increase during the latter half of sleep, continuing into the early awake phase, sometimes until about noon….” How could you expect to shake off these increased stress hormone levels immediately upon awakening? Well, you can’t.
In fact, “Approximately half the day’s cortisol production is achieved in the early morning hours during sleep….” So, that rise-and-shine mandate is struggling against the cortisol highs you’ve got going.
You can’t fight it, but you can help yourself level out normal cortisol levels (yes, you will probably have that morning wish to stay in bed) by changes under your control. What to do?
Cortisol should not be painted in unflattering colors because it is a helpful hormone in many ways, but stress is its adversary. Managing stress can also keep that hormone level in check in normally healthy bodies.
Healthy eating is one way to help yourself, and yogurt, in addition to green tea and dark chocolate, are three items to consider. Research points to maintaining a healthy microbiome, and fermented foods like yogurt are high on the list.
What’s this microbiome thing? Scientific explorers are now discovering aspects of the gut that replace considerations of the brain as being involved in all facets of our emotional and physical lives.
As one researcher indicated, the gut is a therapeutic target for mental health research. “Patients with various psychiatric disorders including depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and autism spectrum disorder have been shown to have significant differences in the composition of their gut microbiome.” We know sleep is vital for maintaining mental health, and now we see it’s also diet.
Besides diet and learning simple muscle relaxation techniques, sleep and morning mood may be aided by engaging in hobbies, exercise (no equipment=isometric exercises). Exercise has also been receiving increased attention because the activity and the work of exercise and muscles have previously unknown effects on mental health.
Muscle activity increases the abundance of “good” hormones such as serotonin and dopamine that enable us to maintain mental health and reduce pain. Guidelines have been provided for various groups and how to manage exercise for health best.
Now, make your mental checklist enumerating why you want to remain in bed. It’s up to you to do some detective work here because there’s no one-size-fits-all technique.
Each of us is unique. A supervisor once told this psychology intern that a sample size of one is all you need. So, be the one and go over why you might be reluctant to get up. You know what they are. Write them down. See where you might be able to make some changes to help yourself. Empower yourself and stop looking for “experts” or “gurus” to get you going. Be your own guru.