You sleep all night, only to wake up in the morning feeling fuzzy and groggy. What will help wake up your brain so that you can enjoy life every day? Two main ingredients: blood and information flow. Whip these elements into a frothy morning experience and you’ll be able to face the day feeling energized and capable.
When you wake after sleeping in a prone position your brain is the largest it will be all day. According to a new study published in Neuroimage, throughout the day your brain shrinks, becoming its smallest size at night. Then you sleep and, miraculously, wake up in the morning with a bigger brain. One theory that researchers suggest to explain this phenomenon is that your sponge-like brain rehydrates while you sleep; lying down redistributes body fluid to the brain, from where it has collected in the outer extremities during the day. This hydration suggests that your brain is primed to work for you in the morning (water is a key ingredient in your brain’s ability to function). The more blood and information you immediately feed your brain, the more awake and functional you will feel.
Speed up the wake-up-your-brain process with these five daily practices:
1. Whether you’re hungry or not, eat something. Your brain runs on a single food source: glucose. Once in the brain, glucose energizes mitochondria (the organelle in each cell responsible for respiration and energy production) to convert chemical energy into a compound that can be used for cell energy. Glucose is directly obtained from the food you eat, including grains, legumes, fruits, vegetables and dairy products.
2. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! Immediately drink a glass of water upon waking. Your body and brain need water to be able to send electronic messages. While your brain regains its size by hydrating overnight, your body goes its longest stretch without fluids. Once you get out of bed and fluids start to redistribute, your brain will experience a lack of water, which can lead to problems in attention, memory function and the ability to perform mental tasks.
3. Use your breath. Burn the fog of sleep with the Kundalini yoga practice of The Breath of Fire. While a regimen of deep breaths can extend your energy over the course of the day, short, shallow breaths invigorate your body and wake up your brain with a quick dose of oxygen. Check out this video for a how-to primer.
4. Engage your cortex. The seat of your executive and decision-making function, the outer part of your brain revs up the most when it’s focused. Early morning meditation is a great way to gently ease your brain to come online and set the stage for the rest of the day with a sense of wellbeing. Other choices include any brain exercise (ie, crossword puzzles or brain teasers), mindfulness process or even singing your favorite song; music is a great way to wake up your brain and has scientifically proven wellness benefits
5. Get moving asap. Exercise pumps both blood and information to your brain. When you participate in an activity that increases your heart rate, your blood (plus mood-elevating endorphins) flows at a higher rate through your brain and also out to the rest of your body, a process that can make you feel invigorated in both your mind and your muscles. The focus and healthy stress of exercise also help to engage your mind and body in a feedback loop that reinforces wakefulness and wellbeing.
Of course, all these suggestions assume the first step of getting out of bed, or at least out of sleep mode. If you find that you need a process to get you to your wake-up process, implement this step first: Open the shades and let in the day’s natural light to activate your circadian eye, a small number of retina cells dedicated to sensing light for the daily purpose of resetting your body clock. Particularly sensitive to the color orange, photoreceptors in your eyes respond to light by creating melanopsin, a light-sensing pigment that wakes up the brain. Researchers have discovered that people exposed to orange light experience greater levels of alertness and cognition. Every day may not be a sunny day, but with an orange-bulbed light by your bed, you can create a rise-and-shine feeling just by flipping a switch.