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3 Tips for a BETTER morning



Author Dan Pink in his book When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing has a section on waking up. I thought this would be a good addition to our sleep series. We spend a lot of time focusing on getting to sleep and how we sleep. Here are some quick things we can consider to have a ‘better morning’.



Drink a glass of water when you wake up




You just went through 8 hours of dehydration. It’s good to get hydrated. Drinking a glass of water can also stave off hunger. This just makes sense to me.



Don’t drink coffee immediately after you wake up




Dan Pink suggests that we should wait an hour to drink a cup of coffee. I couldn’t find any scientific support for this. But should we drink coffee in the afternoon? Even before a nap or break?


Caffeine increases cortisol levels, our stress hormone. This is a concern related to people with high blood pressure but is a 'life saver' for those without hypertension. Cortisol increases our alertness and memory retention. Chronic elevated levels of caffeine use can blunt cortisol elevations and abolishes caffeine’s effect at high doses. Tolerance to caffeine then develops. A quick break from caffeine will cause its effectiveness to return. The average American does not drink enough coffee or ingest enough caffeine to completely stop the effect of caffeine.


This is a great study on teaching us about cortisol and how caffeine effects us. 


Caffeine Stimulation of Cortisol Secretion Across the Waking Hours in Relation to Caffeine Intake Levels


Circadian rhythm


Our cortisol curve adjusts to our habits and circadian rhythms will differ from person to person. This is important to know and explains why parts of the day we are more alert and at our best, and other parts of the day less alert.

Are you an early bird or a night owl?


Our circadian rhythm will change through life. Teenagers are more typically night owls and as we get older we can revert to an early bird. Most of us are mid birds and right in the middle. Our habits can also adjust our cortisol diurnal curve. Knowing your rhythm can help you make choices on your productivity and when to get your best work done.


The best time to drink coffee


Why drink coffee when you are naturally boosting your cortisol? However, what rhythm are you? Are you an early bird, mid bird or an owl? Chances are you are a mid bird. Take an afternoon break for coffee. Also, our rhythm can dictate that we may not be our best in the afternoon so having a caffeine boost can help. (unless we are an owl)



Soak up the morning sun




I don’t know about you but I love the morning light. Here on the front range of Colorado we don’t get many sunsets but we do get some spectacular sunrises. One of the most memorable for me was at the Colorado Springs airport the day after accepting a job at Memorial Hospital. Totally missing the time change I arrived at the airport an hour early.  (Thankfully it was in the fall! Better to be early than late.) The sunrise that morning was like an ever-changing painting of reds, oranges and yellows. My mind seems to gain more clarity with a view of the sun rising and my mood lifts. The spectrum of light we get from the sun will trigger a hormone change that brings us from sleep to wakefulness. Melatonin is inhibited, the hormone that increases at night to induce sleep, and testosterone and cortisol elevations are enhanced with morning light.

Here’s a tip if you live far enough north that the sun comes up after you get to work in the winter or it is very cloudy. Use a full spectrum bulb that is bright, in an area that you are getting ready. Research suggests that this will boost your wakefulness hormones.


Transition from Dim to Bright Light in the Morning Induces an Immediate Elevation of Cortisol Levels


An alarm clock that will slowly light up the room can be a good way to start switching your hormone cycle, decreasing melatonin and increasing cortisol. This seems like a nicer way to wake up but I wonder at those of us that just need a kick in the pants to get out of bed.




Hypertension, High Blood Pressure and Caffeine


If you are feeling tired a natural ‘go to’ is a caffeinated drink. This will boost your cortisol levels. But what if you are already stressed? What if your blood pressure is already elevated? I have noticed that when I have a cup of coffee my blood pressure will rise and stay elevated for hours. 


I was watching TV the other night and a surprising number of commercials were dedicated to performance enhancement, specifically drinks that would increase our energy. I had to wonder that if in our day of increased stress and anxiety if it was wise to encourage habits that mask symptoms of a deeper problem? Focusing on a better sleep and habits that improve our hormonal balance and function sounds like a better way to live life.




Caffeine increases cortisol and our alertness. Consider having a cup of coffee after lunch to reduce the afternoon slump.


Pay attention to your rhythm, are you an early bird, mid bird or night owl? Get your best work done at your most alert time.


The morning sun is an amazing stimulator of cortisol. Say hello! It got up just for you.


If you feel tired a lot, take the GASP Test  for Obstructive Sleep Apnea. This condition has a negative effect on our cortisol cycle. 


Other Resources


Cortisol Rhythm



3 Tips for a BETTER morning