We recently caught up with Dr. Michael Breus, a clinical psychologist who specializes in sleep, to geek out about our favorite activity at the Sleep Symposium.
He was full of advice. Regular exercise is one of the best things you can do to get better sleep. Drinking caffeine after 2 p.m. is a sleep killer. Sticking to a regular bedtime and wakeup time during the week and weekends can do wonders for your energy levels. Drinking alcohol within a few hours of going to bed will throw off your brain waves, so if you’re going to hit the bottle, hit it at happy hour, not the after-dinner hour. And because summer is here (woop woop!!), one reminder for getting over morning grogginess popped out:
Melatonin is a hormone that plays a central role in putting us to sleep and waking us up. It’s the main reason we start to feel tired at night and sometimes still feel foggy in the mornings. Darkness activates melatonin production, whereas light slows it down.
“And that’s part of the reason people have that morning fog when they wake up...there’s still probably some melatonin production, that sunlight coming in knocks it out almost immediately,” Breus says.
By waking up and throwing the blinds open or stepping outside we activate the body's best alarm clock: the sun.
If you’re into the technical side of it:
“Melatonin is a hormone produced by the pea-sized pineal gland. As one might expect given its nicknames, the production of melatonin is triggered by darkness. When receptors in our retinas detect a lack of light, a signal is sent to the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) in the hypothalamus to activate the pineal gland. Once melatonin is released into the bloodstream, physiological changes such as decreased body temperature and respiration rate occur, along with drowsiness.”
So when you first open your eyes in the morning and feel that lethargy pull you back under the covers — and you actually want to fight it — take your dog out for a pee or, at the very least, draw back those black-out shades, open your window and soak up the morning light while you down a glass of water.
The day's arrived.
Read more: The Dark Side and Downsides of Melatonin