We’ve all experienced the heavy weight of grogginess in the morning. In the worst scenarios, that “fog” can last for hours into the day. It can be really frustrating to try to figure out why we simply “can’t wake up” and really focus on the work that needs to be done, and on some days it feels like relying on caffeine is truly the only solution. But what if we told you there’s a lot going on behind the scenes, and that clearing that morning fog is biologically super easy? Read on to learn how to get rid of morning grogginess with a simple and unexpected trick!
Here’s the trick (drum roll please): First thing in the morning, go outside and get a good 15 minutes of sunlight.
We know, we know — it sounds simple. Too simple. But there’s actually a huge body of research behind the effects of sunlight on the brain’s production of melatonin. The reason we start to feel tired at night and still feel tired in the mornings is because the body amps up melatonin production during the dark times of the day. Melatonin is the hormone behind our sleep patterns, circadian rhythms, and feelings of sleepiness. Basically, if putting us to sleep is the job, melatonin is the general manager.
Melatonin and the Brain
According to the National Sleep Foundation, “Melatonin is a natural hormone made by your body’s pineal gland, … a pea-sized gland located just above the middle of the brain.” During the daytime, the pineal gland is inactive — but when the sun goes down and it gets dark, the pineal is “turned on” by the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), a special center located in the brain’s hypothalamus and directly connected to the nerves in the retina. The SCN is responsible for sending signals to other parts of the brain that control hormones, body temperature, and other functions that either make us feel sleepy or wide awake. When the pineal gland gets the signal from the SCN that it’s time to sleep (dark) or time to wake up (light), it starts or stops producing melatonin, causing us to either feel more sleepy or more energetic.
This biological process sheds some light (no pun intended) on the huge effect sunlight can have on how sleepy we feel. Bright light directly inhibits the release of melatonin, so it’s the perfect solution to our melatonin-induced morning grogginess — In fact, the National Sleep Foundation says, it’s still unclear whether timely exposure to sunlight might actually be more effective at getting sleep rhythms back on schedule than the popular melatonin supplement.
Artificial Light’s Powerful Effects
Human beings are naturally diurnal creatures, meaning we’re programmed to be sleeping at night and up-and-at-em during the day. So it makes sense that melatonin production amps up as the sun goes down — but, says Graham Ballachey of Sustainable Balance, “modern artificial lighting and all the electronic gizmos we shine directly into our eyes” has changed the game. “Melatonin suppression is becoming a serious problem.” At night, or even in the late evening, artificial light (especially blue light) suppresses the melatonin release that’s supposed to be happening to make you feel drowsy. Remember the SCN, the “call center” behind wake-up and go-to-sleep signals? Artificial light tells the SCN that it’s still daytime, so the pineal gland will never get the message that it’s time to release melatonin.
This major effect that light has on melatonin production is exactly why our one simple trick to banish morning grogginess really works. Going out to get 15 minutes of sunlight when you start your day will send the signal to your body that it’s time to stop producing melatonin and start the day. As soon as the melatonin “spigot” is turned off, that early-morning fog is sure to dissipate for good.
So, when you first wake up and feel that urge of wanting to stay in bed, eyes-closed, whatever the cost may be — go outside and get some sunlight. Or at the very least, spend a good amount of time at the window, soaking in the morning sun as you sip on some coffee. (Although, with this deceptively simple trick under your belt now, you may no longer need that java!)
What are your tricks to shake off morning grogginess? Tell us about it in the comments below for a chance to win our new Bubbly Bunny Gift Set (ARV $35.99)!
UPDATE: Congratulations to our lucky winner, Marya! Thanks to everyone for participating — watch our blog for our next giveaway launching soon!
Underneath their fluffy wool, these dreamy bunnies have some sleepy-time tricks for soothing little ones into slumber. Together, they are a must-have collection based on pediatric research demonstrating that certain aspects of sound and touch are all vital to achieving peaceful, deeper sleep. Plus, they’re perfect playtime pals, too!
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In the comments below, share what you do to shake off morning grogginess.
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