This Morning Routine Will Save You 20 Hours Per Week

Author Article

The traditional 9–5 workday is poorly structured for high productivity. Perhaps when most work was physical labor, but not in the knowledge working world we now live in.Although this may be obvious based on people’s mediocre performance, addiction to stimulants, lack of engagement, and the fact that most people hate their jobs — now there’s loads of scientific evidence you can’t ignore.

The Myth of the 8 Hour Workday

The most productive countries in the world do not work 8 hours per day. Actually, the most productive countries have the shortest workdays.

People in countries like Luxembourg are working approximately 30 hours per week (approximately 6 hours per day, 5 days per week) and making more money on average than people working longer workweeks.


This is the average person in those countries. But what about the super-productive?

Although Gary Vaynerchuck claims to work 20 hours per day, many “highly successful” people I know work between 3–6 hours per day.

It also depends on what you’re really trying to accomplish in your life. Gary Vaynerchuck wants to own the New York Jets. He’s also fine, apparently, not spending much time with his family.

And that’s completely fine. He’s clear on his priorities.

However, you must also be clear on yours. If you’re like most people, you probably want to make a great income, doing work you love, that also provides lots of flexibility in your schedule.

If that’s your goal, this post is for you.

However, you must also be clear on yours. If you’re like most people, you probably want to make a great income, doing work you love, that also provides lots of flexibility in your schedule.

If that’s your goal, this post is for you.

Quality Vs. Quantity

“Wherever you are, make sure you’re there.” — Dan Sullivan

If you’re like most people, your workday is a blend of low-velocity work mixed with continual distraction (e.g., social media and email).

Most people’s “working time” is not done at peak performance levels. When most people are working, they do so in a relaxed fashion. Makes sense, they have plenty of time to get it done.

However, when you are results-oriented, rather than “being busy,” you’re 100 percent on when you’re working and 100 percent off when you’re not. Why do anything half-way? If you’re going to work, you’re going to work.

To get the best results in your fitness, research has found that shorter but more intensive exercise is more effective than longer drawn-out exercise.

The concept is simple: Intensive activity followed by high-quality rest and recovery.

Most of the growth actually comes during the recovery process. However, the only way to truly recover is by actually pushing yourself to exhaustion during the workout.

The same concept applies to work. The best work happens in short intensive spurts. By short, I’m talking 1–3 hours. But this must be “Deep Work,” with no distractions, just like an intensive workout is non-stop. Interestingly, your best work — which for most people is thinking — will actually happen while you’re away from your work, “recovering.”

For best results: Spend 20% of your energy on your work and 80% of your energy on recovery and self-improvement. When you’re getting high-quality recovery, you’re growing. When you’re continually honing your mental-model, the quality and impact of your work continually increase. This is what psychologists call, “Deliberate Practice.” It’s not about doing more, but better training. It’s about being strategic and results-focused, not busyness-focused.

In one study, only 16 percent of respondents reported getting creative insight while at work. Ideas generally came while the person was at home, in transportation, or during recreational activity. “The most creative ideas aren’t going to come while sitting in front of your monitor,” says Scott Birnbaum, a vice president of Samsung Semiconductor.

The reason for this is simple. When you’re working directly on a task, your mind is tightly focused on the problem at hand (i.e., direct reflection). Conversely, when you’re not working, your mind loosely wanders (i.e., indirect reflection).

While driving or doing some other form of recreation, the external stimuli in your environment (like the buildings or other landscapes around you) subconsciously prompt memories and other thoughts. Because your mind is wandering both contextually (on different subjects) and temporally between past, present, and future, your brain will make distant and distinct connections related to the problem you’re trying to solve (eureka!).

Creativity, after all, is making connections between different parts of the brain. Ideation and inspiration is a process you can perfect.

Case in point: when you’re working, be at work. When you’re not working, stop working. By taking your mind off work and actually recovering, you’ll get creative breakthroughs related to your work.

First Three Hours Will Make or Break You

According to psychologist Ron Friedman, the first three hours of your day are your most precious for maximized productivity.

“Typically, we have a window of about three hours where we’re really, really focused. We’re able to have some strong contributions in terms of planning, in terms of thinking, in terms of speaking well,” Friedman told Harvard Business Review.

This makes sense on several levels. Let’s start with sleep. Research confirms the brain, specifically the prefrontal cortex, is most active and readily creative immediately following sleep. Your subconscious mind has been loosely mind-wandering while you slept, making contextual and temporal connections.

So, immediately following sleep, your mind is most readily active to do thoughtful work.

So, your brain is most attuned first thing in the morning, and so are your energy levels. Consequently, the best time to do your best work is during the first three hours of your day.

I used to exercise first thing in the morning. Not anymore. I’ve found that exercising first thing in the morning actually sucks my energy, leaving me with less than I started.

Lately, I’ve been waking up at 6AM, driving to my school and walking to the library I work in. While walking from my car to the library, I drink a 250 calorie plant-based protein shake (approximately 30 grams of protein).

Donald Layman, professor emeritus of nutrition at the University of Illinois, recommends consuming at least 30 grams of protein for breakfast. Similarly, Tim Ferriss, in his book, The 4-Hour Body, also recommends 30 grams of protein 30 minutes after waking.

Protein-rich foods keep you full longer than other foods because they take longer to leave the stomach. Also, protein keeps blood-sugar levels steady, which prevent spikes in hunger.

I get to the library and all set-up by around 6:30 AM. I spend a few minutes in prayer and meditation, followed by a 5–10-minute session in my journal.

The purpose of this journal session is to get clarity and focus for my day. I write down my big picture goals and my objectives for that particular day. I then write down anything that comes to my mind. Often, it relates to people I need to contact or ideas related to a project I’m working on. I purposefully keep this journal session short and focused.

By 6:45, I’m set to work on whatever project I’m working on, whether that’s writing a book or an article, working on a research paper for my doctoral research, creating an online course, etc.

Starting work this early may seem crazy to you, but I’ve been shocked by how easy it is to work for 2–5 hours straight without distractions. My mind is laser at this time of day. And I don’t rely on any stimulants at all.

Between 11 AM-noon, my mind is ready for a break, so that’s when I do my workout. Research confirms that your workout is better with food in your system. Consequently, my workouts are now a lot more productive and powerful than they were when I was exercising immediately following sleep.

After the workout, which is a great mental break, you should be fine to work a few more hours, if needed.

If your 3–5 hours before your workout was focused, you could probably be done for the day.

Protect Your Mornings

I understand that this schedule will not work for everyone. There are single-parents with kids who simply can’t do something like this.

We all need to work within the constraints of our unique contexts. However, if you work best in the morning, you gotta find a way to make it happen. This may require waking up a few extra hours earlier than you’re used to and taking a nap during the afternoon.

Or, it may require you to simply focus hardcore the moment you get to work. A common strategy for this is known as the “90–90–1” rule, where you spend the first 90 minutes of your workday on your #1 priority. I’m certain this isn’t checking your email or social media.

Whatever your situation, protect your mornings!

I’m blown away by how many people schedule things like meetings in the mornings. Nothing could be worse for peak performance and creativity.

Schedule all of your meetings for the afternoon, after lunch.

Don’t check your social media or email until after your 3 hours of deep work. Your morning time should be spent on output, not input.

If you don’t protect your mornings, a million different things will take up your time. Other people will only respect you as much as you respect yourself.

Protecting your mornings means you are literally unreachable during certain hours. Only in case of serious emergency can you be summoned from your focus-cave.

Mind-Body Connection

What you do outside of work is just as significant for your work-productivity as what you do while you’re working.

A March 2016 study in the online issue of Neurology found that regular exercise can slow brain aging by as much as 10 years. Loads of other research has found that people who regularly exercise are more productive at work. Your brain is, after all, part of your body. If your body is healthier, it makes sense that your brain would operate better.

If you want to operate at your highest level, you need to take a holistic approach to life. You are a system. When you change a part of any system, you simultaneously change the whole. Improve one area of your life, all other areas improve in a virtuous cycle. This is the butterfly effect in action and the basis of the book, Start with Habit, which shows that by integrating one “keystone habit,” like exercise or reading, that the positivity of that one habits ripples into all other areas of your life, eventually transforming your whole life.

Consequently, the types of foods you eat, and when you eat them, determine your ability to focus at work. Your ability to sleep well (by the way, it’s easy to sleep well when you get up early and work hard) is also essential to peak performance. Rather than managing your time, then, you should really be focused on managing your energy. Your work schedule should be scheduled around when you work best, not around social norms and expectations.

A Very Simple Technique For Building Keystone Habits

You only need one keystone habit to start. If you create one, then you’ll have built the confidence to build several more. The reason is simple: how you do anything is often how you do everything.

If you can lock in one keystone habit — particularly something that is fundamental and important like food or money or time — then you’ll have gained sufficient confidence and control in your life.

This is actually what most people don’t understand about willpower. They think willpower is about self-control when willpower is actually a matter of confidence.

If you have low willpower, it’s because you have low confidence.

You create confidence by getting small wins, which ripple into bigger wins. The more confident you are, the less willpower you need to make good choices.

So how do you build a keystone habit quick?

One answer that psychologists have hit upon is called “implementation intentions” It’s extremely simple and easy to apply.

Basically, you create a planned response every time you’re either triggered or tempted to do something you don’t want to do.

For example, every time you get triggered to smoke a cigarette, you immediately call a friend. You can also have back-up plans if the friend doesn’t answer.

But the principle is simple: have an immediate response to a trigger so you don’t unconsciously react.

Your planned and immediate response takes willpower out of the equation because it takes the choice out of the equation. Willpower is all about choice, or in reality, the lack of having made a choice. Willpower is the byproduct of not knowing exactly what the outcome will be. For instance, when you get triggered to smoke or do any other negative behavior — if willpower is part of the equation, it is because you haven’t decided beforehand what you will do. You’re still undecided. Hence, 98% commitment is much harder than 100% commitment.

True decisions mean you have cut-off alternative options. The decision is the opposite of decision fatigue, and decision fatigue is the same thing as willpower. Thus, willpower is the absence of a decision, and leads to an emotional tug-of-war within yourself which generally ends in failure.

Part of the genius of implementation intentions is simply their ability to distract you from your trigger for long enough for the trigger to subside. In the brief 10–60 second window where you’re going through your pre-planned and healthy response to a trigger, your re-reminded of the decision you made and the goals you’re pursuing. The trigger and desire go away as you engage in healthy behavior and re-ignite your confidence.

I applied an implementation intention while at Disney World the other day. Instead of caving into the junk food all around me, I did a bunch of push-ups. Every time I wanted to eat snacks, I just did 10 pushups. By the end of the day, I’d done over 100.

Habit formation is about replacement more than simply removal. You can’t just create a void in your life. You need to fill it with something more congruent. Therefore, in order to build a successful implementation intention or pre-planned response— you need to establish an “if-then” response to whatever you’re trying to accomplish.

Pick the goal.

Whenever an obstacle appears, use your if-then response. Example:

Goal: Be as healthy as possible.
Obstacle: eating bad food.
If-then: if I’m tempted to eat unhealthy foods in an impulsive and non-planned manner, then I will immediately drink a big glass of water and do 20 jumping-jacks.

It doesn’t really matter what your pre-planned response is, so long as you consistently do it. By consistently following through, you’ll create small wins. Small wins build self-respect and confidence, thus lowering your need for willpower. Small wins and confidence solidify the decisions you’ve made, giving you increased inner-knowing that you absolutely will achieve your goal.

Another key reason that confidence lowers the need for willpower is that the more confident you get, the more you genuinely DESIRE better results. At the heart of willpower is not actually knowing what you want. Indeed, you may actually still desire eating bad food, for example. Thus, you’re at continually battling within yourself.

This is a horrible yet common way to live.

Most people do not know what they truly want. They don’t know how to make decisions. They haven’t learned how to build genuine confidence. Most people’s lives are a constant back-and-forth of indecision and lack of clarity. Yet, decision and clarity go hand-in-hand are not actually hard to build. They are skills.

You start with one simple one. And watch the ripples grow and success compound.

As you become more confident and mature as a person, your desires fundamentally change. You stop wanting stuff you used to want. You start wanting to succeed. You start loving yourself enough to win at life. You start seeing a much bigger picture for yourself. You realize increasingly more that you are the one painting the picture and actually have been the entire time.

Rather than being disappointed by your previous choices, you’re increasingly grateful for what your life is. You see increased vision and potential in everything around you.

Don’t Forget to Psychologically Detach and Play

Research in several fields has found that recovery from work is a necessity for staying energetic, engaged, and healthy when facing job demands.

Recovery” is the process of reducing or eliminating physical and psychological strain/stress caused by work.

One particular recovery strategy that is getting lots of attention in recent research is called “psychological detachment from work.” True psychological detachment occurs when you completely refrain from work-related activities and thoughts during non-work time.

Proper detachment/recovery from work is essential for physical and psychological health, in addition to engaged and productive work. Yet, few people do it. Most people are always “available” to their email and work. Millennials are the worst, often wearing the openness to work “whenever” as a badge of honor. It’s not a badge of honor.

Research has found that people who psychologically detach from work experience:

When you’re at work, be fully absorbed. When it’s time to call it a day, completely detach yourself from work and become absorbed in the other areas of your life.

If you don’t detach, you’ll never fully be present or engaged at work or at home. You’ll be under constant strain, even if minimally. Your sleep will suffer. Your relationships will be shallow. Your life will not be happy.

Not only that, but lots of science has found play to be extremely important for productivity and creativity. Just like your body needs a reset, which you can get through fasting, you also need to reset from work in order to do your best work. Thus, you need to step away from work and dive into other beautiful areas of your life. For me, that’s goofing off with my kids.

Stuart Brown, the founder of the National Institute for Play, has studied the “Play Histories” of over six thousand people and concludes playing can radically improve everything — from personal well-being to relationships to learning to an organization’s potential to innovate. As Greg McKeownexplains, “Very successful people see play as essential for creativity.”

In his TED talk, Brown said, “Play leads to brain plasticity, adaptability, and creativity… Nothing fires up the brain like play.” There is a burgeoning body of literature highlighting the extensive cognitive and social benefits of play, including:

Cognitive

  • Enhanced memory and focus
  • Improved language learning skills
  • Creative problem solving
  • Improved mathematics skills
  • Increased ability to self-regulate, an essential component of motivation and goal achievement

Social

  • Cooperation
  • Team work
  • Conflict resolution
  • Leadership skill development
  • Control of impulses and aggressive behavior

Listen to Brain Music or Songs on Repeat

In her book, On Repeat: How Music Plays the Mind, psychologist Elizabeth Hellmuth Margulis explains why listening to music on repeat improves focus. When you’re listening to a song on repeat, you tend to dissolve into the song, which blocks out mind wandering (let your mind wander while you’re away from work!).

WordPress founder, Matt Mullenweg, listens to one single song on repeat to get into flow. So do authors Ryan Holiday and Tim Ferriss, and many others.

Give it a try.

You can use this website to listen to YouTube videos on repeat.

I generally listen to classical music or electronic music (like video game type music). Here are a few that have worked for me:

One Moment by Michael Nyman
Make Love by Daft Punk
Tearin’ it up by Gramatik
Terra’s theme from Final Fantasy 3
Duel of Fates from Star Wars
Stop crying your heart out by Oasis

Ready to Upgrade?

I’ve created a cheat sheet for putting yourself into a PEAK-STATE, immediately. You follow this daily, your life will change very quickly.

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This article first appeared on Medium

9 Ways Happy People Start Their Mornings

Author Article

Everyone approaches their morning differently. Some people wake up excited to start their day. Others like to ease into their day more gradually. No matter how you like to start your morning, there are things you can do to ensure every day gets off to a great start.

A good morning routine will help you feel relaxed, alert and energized. Starting your morning on the right foot means creating a feeling of happiness that you can carry with you all day long. Your morning routine should include not only getting ready, but also making space for feeling joy and feeling mentally and physically prepared to take on whatever the world has in store for you.

Start your day off the right way with these 9 habits that happy people use to get their morning going. (Hint: It’s not about gulping coffee and running out the door.)

1. Get enough sleep.

An exhausted person isn’t a happy person. Nothing will kill your happiness faster than waking up tired and grumpy. If you aren’t getting enough sleep at night, you’re probably starting your day drained and irritated. It’s hard to have a positive outlook when all you want to do is crawl back into bed.

A good night’s sleep is like a magical elixir for your physical health, and is key to your overall sense of happiness and well-being. Research has shown that sleep is one of the most effective ways to improve concentration, strengthen the immune system and improve a person’s mood and feeling of well-being.

However, not getting enough sleep impairs memory and increases levels of stress hormones. So, the first step to creating a happy, cheerful morning is ensuring you get enough quality sleep the night before. Set a sleep schedule for yourself and stick to it — your happiness may depend on it.

2. A new day, a new start.

Happy people begin each day anew. They wake up with the mindset that each day is a new beginning — a chance to move forward and not let past failures weigh them down. Yesterday may have been a rotten day, but that doesn’t mean today has to be.

Happy people start their day with an affirmation. They declare from the outset how they want their day to go. A positive morning affirmation can be a powerful way to start your day feeling confident and ready for success. Examples include:

  • I have the knowledge to make smart decisions for myself.
  • I am, and always will be, enough.
  • I let go of any negative feelings about myself or my life and accept all that is good.
  • I am courageous. I am willing to act and face my fears.

3. Wake up grateful.

Waking up with a feeling of gratitude ensures you start your day in good spirits. A thankful heart is a happy heart. Gratitude is powerful because it’s both a feeling and an action. Actively thinking about things you’re grateful for, in turn, makes you feel grateful. It’s a positive thought loop that’s easy to practice and has beneficial effects on your physical and mental health.

You can wake up feeling grateful by simply taking a moment when you first open your eyes to look about and feel a swell of appreciation for everything around you. Recognize how wonderful this moment is, and how good it feels to be here. Today is a gift, and you can do with it what you will. You can choose to make the most of it. You can choose happiness. Take a moment to acknowledge all you have and see the possibilities of the day before you.

4. Keep a manageable morning routine.

Happy people don’t frantically tear around trying to get ready at breakneck speed and then rush out the door, already late for their first meeting or appointment of the day. Doing this will set you up for feeling stressed out and harried all day long. Starting the day with a contented and peaceful attitude requires you to have time to wake up properly and to get ready at a calm and measured pace.

Happy people tend to keep their routine simple and manageable. A complex routine is hard to stick to and can leave you feeling anxious and exasperated first thing in the morning. Cut out multitasking and reject unneeded distractions, like checking and returning email while trying to get ready. Do one thing at a time. Keep your morning uncomplicated and as stress-free as possible so you’ll set yourself up to be in a good mood all day long.

5. Meditate

Daily meditation, whether it’s a quick five-minute practice or a lengthier session, can help create a contented and happy mind. Spending time meditating each morning improves focus, increases self-esteem and confidence, and quiets the cacophony of mental angst and turbulence we are constantly contending with. You can meditate at any time of day, but it’s best to do it in the morning so you’re sure to get it in, and so you can benefit from its effects throughout the day.

To begin the practice of meditation, start by sitting quietly in a comfortable position or in a chair for two minutes every morning. This is a chance for you to check in with how you’re feeling, both in your mind and body. Be focused on the moment. Turn your attention to your breaths or do a body scan, focusing on one body part at a time. Recognize your thoughts and feelings, and maintain a loving attitude toward yourself. Meditation is a chance to get to know yourself and be aware of each moment you are in.

6. Start your day with exercise.

Before you dive into a long day of work, make sure you take time to get some exercise in. Some people find that fresh air first thing in the morning brightens their mood all day. Try a brisk walk, a run around the block or a trip to the gym. Other people may prefer to start their day with a home workout, such as stretching or yoga.

Morning exercise gets your blood flowing and gives you a boost of energy for the day. Exercise also releases feel-good brain chemicals like serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine. These may buffer feelings of stress and anxiety, and help relieve symptoms of depression. Research has shown that working out improves how we feel about our bodies and gives us a sense of well-being.

7. Make your bed.

It may sound silly, but beginning your day by making your bed can set you up for feeling ready to take on the world. According to one survey of 2,000 Americans, bed makers tend to be adventurous, confident and sociable. People who don’t make their beds tend to be shy, moody and sarcastic.

Many successful people recommend making your bed as a simple way to start the day off on the right foot. For example, Tim Ferriss has said that the simple act of bed making teaches us that it’s the little things in life that matter.

US Navy SEAL commander Admiral William H. McRaven gave a now-famous commencement speech at the University of Texas in which he said that making your bed is so powerful because it gives you a feeling of accomplishment first thing in the morning. It encourages you to take on even more tasks and motivates you to get more done in life.

8. Nourish your body.

You’ve heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and it’s true. Eating breakfast jump-starts your metabolism and gets your body and mind prepped for a busy day. Research has found that breakfast eaters have better diets and consume more fruit and vegetables than those who don’t eat breakfast.

But just as important, a nourished body leads to an improved mood. Eating breakfast also sends a positive message to yourself that you are taking care of your health and well-being. You’ll find you can concentrate better if you start the day with a healthy meal. You’ll be less likely to feel fatigued and get that “hangry” feeling mid-morning, which leads to overeating at lunch. The best breakfasts pair carbs with proteins to get your body fueled and ready to go.

9. Set goals for the day.

Happy people often have a sense of purpose. They aren’t wandering aimlessly through life; they work each day to make progress and accomplish their tasks. It feels satisfying to have set priorities for yourself and strive to meet milestones. Happy people make sure they begin their day by setting goals for themselves. What do you want to accomplish today? What is the most efficient and effective use of your time?

Make it a point to spend a few minutes each morning determining what you want to do that day. Be sure to think through your to-do list carefully — often we spend too much time on things that aren’t really important. Focus on what matters and make sure you’re scheduling downtime. After all, the secret to lasting happiness is finding ways to enjoy each day in its entirety.

How To Prevent Morning Anxiety From Totally Ruining Your Day

Author Article

Anxiety has a very unwelcome way of popping up when you least expect it. It could happen at a party, just when you were starting to have a good time. Or in the middle of the night, making it that much harder to get a blissful eight hours of sleep. And, for some, anxiety has a habit of rearing its ugly head in the early morning—just to make sure your day starts off on a really stellar note.
Why—why?!—does morning anxiety happen? And how do you get rid of it? Here, Gail Saltz, MD, an associate professor of psychiatry at the NY Presbyterian Hospital Weill-Cornell School of Medicine gives all the need-to-know facts.

What morning anxiety looks like (and why it’s happening)

There’s a difference between waking up and being in a bad mood because you don’t feel like going to work and having actual morning anxiety. Here are the signs of the latter, according to Dr. Saltz:

  • A rush in adrenaline, such as a racing heart or increased jitteriness.
  • Increased blood pressure.
  • A sense of worry for no apparent reason.
  • Feeling on edge, but you aren’t sure why.
  • Exhaustion even though you’ve just slept.

As for why anxiety can strike in the morning, Dr. Saltz says there are a few factors at play that could cause morning anxiety:

1. You have higher amounts of stress hormones in the morning. “There’s actually a physiological reason why some people experience anxiety in the mornings,” Dr. Saltz says. “For one, it’s when cortisol levels are naturally at their highest.” She explains that cortisol is often called “the stress hormone” because high levels of it can lead to feeling stressed.

“There’s nothing you can do from stopping cortisol from raising slightly in the morning—that’s biologically what happens—but there are steps you can take to lower your cortisol over all so that it doesn’t peak as high,” Dr. Saltz says. (Don’t worry, we’ll get to it!)

2. Coffee can lead to feeling anxious. What you eat or drink in the morning can also lead to increased feelings of anxiety, according to Dr. Saltz. “The first thing many people do in the morning is drink a cup of coffee. Caffeine, particularly for people who already have anxiety, can definitely worsen the symptoms of that.” She explains that caffeine can lead to feeling jittery and having an increased heart rate. “Then our brain tries to come up with a reason to explain why we feel that way: I’m feeling jittery. I must be worried about X.” Dr. Saltz says this happens so quickly that it can feel like we have the thought first and thenthe physiological reaction, but it’s actually the other way around.

3. Sugar is another culprit. What are you normally eating for breakfast? If you’re going for something that has lots of simple sugars or carbs (like a smoothie bowl or toast), the quick energy spike could ultimately affect your morning anxiety. “Right after you have an insulin burst, blood sugar levels drop and that can make your anxiety feel worse,” Dr. Saltz says, adding that this can lead to feeling fatigued or on edge for seemingly no reason. Your blood sugar is also at a natural low point in the morning (since, you know, you haven’t eaten since the night before), which can contribute to feeling anxious.

4. Morning anxiety could also be a sign of having general anxiety disorder. If you experience morning anxiety several times a week, Dr. Saltz says you likely have generalized anxiety disorder, which she says is extremely common. (This means that you are consistently experiencing symptoms of anxiety over at least a six-month period.) If this is the case, the key will be finding ways to quell your anxiety as a whole.

If you suspect that you have generalized anxiety disorder, the next best step is to seek help from a mental health professional, who help you develop a treatment plan that’s right for you.

5. You’re chronically stressed. “If you are overly stressed, your body will produce more cortisol,” Dr. Saltz says. That means that morning peak is going to be higher than it would be otherwise. Again, the only way to get to the root cause of this is to take steps to minimize the stress in your life.

How to fight back against morning anxiety

Anxiety is a frustrating condition, especially when it pops up first thing in the a.m. As mentioned above, if you have chronic anxiety or a diagnosed anxiety condition, you’ll want to work with your mental health practitioner to find the right treatment for you. But if your morning anxiety is more of an occasional annoyance, Dr. Saltz has some tips that could help cut down on its occurrence:

1. Make measures to minimize overall stress. If you have generalized anxiety disorder or are overly stressed, Dr. Saltz says it’s important to take steps to manage it, which could include the help of a therapist. “Meditationregular exercise, and having an overall healthy diet all play parts in minimizing overall stress,” she adds.

2. Cut back on caffeine and sugar. Because these are two culprits that often cause physiological responses that mimic anxiety, cutting them out or reducing your intake could help. Look for breakfast foods rich in protein and healthy fats (the latter is especially good for brain health) that won’t spike insulin levels, like eggs or a green smoothie, and consider switching your regular latte for a milder form of caffeine, like matcha or tea.

3. Take some deep breaths. This might seem like an “easier said than done” situation, but Dr. Saltz says taking slow, deep breaths truly can help calm the mind and body. “If there’s something you’re worried about on your mind that pops up while you’re taking your deep breaths, acknowledge it and let it pass; don’t try to push it away,” she says.

4. Write down everything you’re worried about. In morning moments where you feel consumed by everything you have to get done that day, Dr. Saltz says it can help to write them down. “Some people keep a ‘worry journal’ for this purpose,” she says. “Once they write it down, it’s out of their mind and they can move on with their day.” It can also help, she says, to make a to-do list so you know exactly when you’re going to get everything done. That way, you’re not spending your morning trying to figure it out in your head.

5. Get enough good quality sleep. Dr. Saltz says not getting enough quality sleep can also lead to feeling anxious when you wake up. Again, it’s because those pesky cortisol levels come into play; not getting enough sleep can raise them higher.

Morning anxiety can feel frustrating and overwhelming. But knowing the everyday factors that can contribute to it can help you take back control of how you feel. Here’s to actually enjoying our morning routines again.

Find out how having anxiety impacted one woman’s career. And here’s the difference between feeling anxious and stressed.

 

Science Says Night Owls Who Wake Up Late Are More Intelligent Than Early Birds

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(Image credit: Simone Becchetti/Stocksy)

Benjamin Franklin wrote the famous phrase, “early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.” His viewpoint sounds nice, and his own personal success gives his advice some strong support. However, now night owls and researchers alike would beg to differ.

During the last few decades, there’s a growing body of fascinating research on the relationship between sleep patterns and intelligence. While there is still more to learn, scientists have made great progress into what it means when your head hits the pillow. One study of U.S. Air Force recruits aimed to systematically explore the relationship between intelligence and sleep scheduling. After assessing the 420 participants, they discovered that night owls are more likely to have higher intelligence scores. They’re not saying that sleeping late makes you smarter, but a higher IQ leads to night owl tendencies.

Satoshi Kanazawa and Kaja Perinawas supplied more proof with their definitive study, “Why night owls are more intelligent,” in 2009. He and his team concluded, “more intelligent children are more likely to grow up to be nocturnal adults who go to bed late and wake up late on both weekdays and weekends.” They analyzed the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health and considered to explain why that’s the case.

Since then, other researchers have delved deeper and looked into different populations to learn more. One team of scientists from The University of Chicago and Northwestern University analyzed GMAT scores from MBA students in 2014. They discovered that GMAT scores were significantly higher among night owls than among early-morning types for both men and women. Yet more support for smarty-pants night owls.

People, unlike other mammals, have the unique power to override their genetic predisposition and circadian rhythm. With the help of electric lights, caffeine, alarm clocks, and more, they can train or force themselves into morning lark or night owl schedules, which Kanazawa and Perinawas’s study suggests is a sign of intelligence as well.

If you need more proof, simply look to some of the most famous night owls who happen to be well known for their intellect, among many other accomplishments. The list includes President Obama, Charles Darwin, Winston Churchill, James Joyce, and many more. Generally, being a morning person is heralded, but identifying as a night owl is not without its perks or good company.

As for morning people, the early bird still gets the worm, at least as far as we know. However, night owls everywhere rejoice late into the night, then smugly hit the snooze button the next day.

How Can I Get on a Better Sleep Schedule?

Author Article

Sleep schedules vary a lot from person to person. Some are naturally “larks”—early to bed and early to rise—while others are “night owls.” Schedules shift with development, too, with babies typically being larks compared to older children; adolescents in particular often are on a later schedule, which can make it difficult to accommodate early classes.

Thankfully even night owls generally can align their schedules with the rest of the world. However, at times they may find themselves stuck in a cycle of late to bed, late to rise that’s hard to get out of.  For example, college students may go to bed and wake up later and later during winter break, and need to shift their schedule to one that’s compatible with academics as the new semester approaches.

If you find yourself in this situation, here are some recommendations for effectively getting on an earlier schedule.

1. Start in the morning.

Most people who try to change their sleep habits start by trying to go to bed earlier. Since sleep has a beginning and an end, it makes sense intuitively that we should adjust the start time. Unfortunately this approach is very likely to fail.

The problem is that you won’t have been up for enough hours in order to fall asleep easily, and so you’re likely to lie in bed for hours; the next morning you’ll probably stick to your typical wake time. There’s also a good chance you’ll get stressed out about not sleeping, which can lead to insomnia as your bed becomes associated with anxiety.

The better method is to think of being awake as having a start and an end, and adjusting when you start being awake. In other words, start by getting up earlier.

Ideally you can make this change gradually, so it’s not too difficult. For example, if you’ve been getting up at noon, start by setting an alarm for 11:30 AM. Gradually shift your wakeup time 15-30 minutes earlier as your body adjusts.

2. Get natural light early in the day.

One of the most effective ways to shift your 24-hour internal clock (or circadian rhythm) is to have exposure to bright light at the right time of day. For moving to an earlier schedule, that means getting natural light early in the day—preferably as soon as you wake up.

It doesn’t have to be for a long time (even 15 minutes helps), and you don’t need the Florida sun—being outside on an overcast day or sitting near a south-facing window can be enough. The light will signal to your brain that it’s time to be awake, and will suppress the production of melatonin, the hormone that tells your body and brain when to expect sleep.

On the flip side, avoid bright lights late in the day, like the glow of your tablet or phone, which can turn off melatonin production right when you need it.

3. Avoid caffeine later in the day.

If you’re getting up earlier, chances are you’re going to be sleepy at times during the day. The temptation to use caffeine to cope can be strong, especially around the mid-afternoon slump. However, it’s likely to keep you awake at bedtime, pushing your wakeup time later and delaying your ability to change your schedule.

What’s “later in the day”? A safe rule of thumb for most people is to avoid caffeine after lunchtime. If you’re sensitive to caffeine, it may need to be even earlier. (Of course, if your sleepiness is a safety concern—like while driving—do what you need to do.)

Instead of caffeine, try something like going for a brisk walk or doing calisthenics. If you’re able to go without it after lunch, you’re more likely to be ready for sleep come bedtime.

4. Be careful about naps.

Napping can have a similar effect to caffeine, making it harder to fall asleep when you’d like to. Our drive for sleep depends on how long we’ve been awake, and naps reduce that drive.

As with caffeine, the time of the nap is important; a 7:00 PM nap is going to be a bigger problem than one at 2:00 PM. If you do nap, aim to keep it short—no more than 20-30 minutes. And again, nap for safety reasons when needed.

5. Go to bed when sleepy.

Finally, be careful not to go to bed too early. It’s best if you feel like you could fall asleep relatively quickly once you lie down, to avoid spending a long period of time trying to wrestle your brain to sleep (see the first point, above).

On the other hand, you may be able to go to bed earlier than you think. Many people find that they get a “second wind” if they stay up past a certain hour, even if they were ready for bed earlier in the night. So take care not to push though sleepiness at night. By going to bed when your body is ready, you’ll have a better chance of getting up when your alarm goes off.

Some individuals on a late sleep schedule could have a condition like a Delayed Sleep Phase Circadian Rhythm Sleep-Wake Disorder that may require consultation with a professional. As always, consult a qualified medical professional before making major changes to your sleep. 

‘Night Owl’ Brains May Not Function As Well for Daytime Work

Author Article

A new study finds that “night owls” — those whose internal body clock dictates they go to bed and wake up very late — appear to have fundamental differences in their brain function compared to “morning larks.”

This suggests that night owls could be disadvantaged by the constraints of a normal working day.

Researchers at the University of Birmingham discovered that night owls, who typically have an average bedtime of 2:30 am and a wake-up time of 10:15 am, have lower resting brain connectivity in many of the brain regions associated with the maintenance of consciousness.

Importantly, this reduced brain connectivity was tied to poorer attention, slower reactions and increased sleepiness throughout the hours of a typical working day.

According to the Office for National Statistics, around 12 percent of employees work night shifts. It is well-established that night-shift workers often face huge negative health consequences due to the constant disruption to sleep and body clocks.

However, this type of disruption can also result from being forced to fit into a societal 9-5 working day if those timings do not align with one’s natural biological rhythms. Since around 40-50 percent of the population identify as having a preference for later bedtimes and for getting up after 8:20 a.m., the researchers say much more work needs to be done to investigate any negative implications for this group.

“A huge number of people struggle to deliver their best performance during work or school hours they are not naturally suited to,” said lead researcher Dr. Elise Facer-Childs, from the University of Birmingham’s Centre for Human Brain Health. “There is a critical need to increase our understanding of these issues in order to minimize health risks in society, as well as maximize productivity.”

For the study, the researchers looked at brain function at rest and linked it to the cognitive abilities of 38 individuals who were identified as either night owls or morning larks using physiological rhythms (melatonin and cortisol), continuous sleep/wake monitoring and questionnaires.

The participants underwent MRI scans and then completed a series of tasks, with testing sessions being undertaken at a range of different times during the day from 8  a.m. to 8 p.m. They were also asked to report on their levels of sleepiness.

Self-identified morning larks reported being least sleepy with their fastest reaction time during the early morning tests, which was significantly better than night owls. Night owls, however, were least sleepy and had their fastest reaction time at 8pm in the evening, although this was not significantly better than the larks, highlighting that night owls are most disadvantaged in the morning.

Interestingly, the brain connectivity in the regions that could predict better performance and lower sleepiness was much higher in larks at all time points, suggesting that the resting state brain connectivity of night owls is impaired throughout the whole day (8 a.m.-8 p.m.).

“This mismatch between a person’s biological time and social time, which most of us have experienced in the form of jet lag, is a common issue for night owls trying to follow a normal working day. Our study is the first to show a potential intrinsic neuronal mechanism behind why ‘night owls’ may face cognitive disadvantages when being forced to fit into these constraints,” said Facer-Childs, who is now based at the Monash Institute for Cognitive and Clinical Neurosciences in Melbourne, Australia.

“To manage this, we need to get better at taking an individual’s personal body clock into account — particularly in the world of work. A typical day might last from 9  a.m.-5 p.m., but for a night owl, this could result in diminished performance during the morning, lower brain connectivity in regions linked to consciousness and increased daytime sleepiness.”

“If, as a society, we could be more flexible about how we manage time we could go a long way towards maximizing productivity and minimizing health risks.”

The findings are published in the journal Sleep.

Source: University of Birmingham

This 10-Minute Morning Routine Will Make You A Better Parent, Entrepreneur, And Person

Author Article

This morning, I got up at 5 a.m. and was going to immediately start working on a project. As an entrepreneur, writer, and father of five — I have far more to do than time in my day.But instead of jumping immediately into one of my many projects, I decided to give myself some space.There are certain high-performance habits that ensure you’ll operate at a 10x higher level than if you simply just get to work.Success is not about how many hours you put it, but the quality of those hours.In the book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey explains the importance of “sharpening the saw.”

Most people go throughout their days as a dull saw, putting more and more time in but getting little back from that time.

It’s really not about how much you work.

It’s not about how much effort you put it in.

It’s about the quality and precision of your efforts.

For example, there are millions of blog posts written every single day. But 99.99% of those blog posts will be read by less than 10 people. On the flip-side, some blog posts are read by millions of people.

Most people operate throughout their day putting lots of time and energy in. But they aren’t actually getting better at what they do.

In the book, Turning Pro, Steven Pressfield said something brilliant. He said, “Addictions embody repetition without progress. They produce incapacity as a payoff.”

Most people’s days embody repetition without progress.

Every day they live, but they aren’t actually getting better. Their future is a repetitious reinforcement of the past.

But there’s another problem in most people’s days beyond repetition without progress, and that is that most people’s days are quite aimless.

They aren’t being guided by a higher power — or by the highest power within themselves — to do the right things in a powerful way with their time.

In other words, most people reactively respond to the demands of their day. The urgency of everything takes over and it’s not apparent that their daily efforts really moved the needle. It’s not apparent that their efforts really made a difference.

10-Minute Morning Routine

There are many applications to morning routines. However, there is one thing that is essential to a morning routine to ensure you spend your time on the best things, and that your efforts are impactful on those best things.

Said again — your morning routine should ensure you’re spending your limited time on the right things. But also, your morning routine should be a process of putting yourself in the right frame of mind to execute at your highest level.

Actually, if you tap into the spiritual and subconscious, you can put yourself into a position where you are executing beyond your highest level on a daily basis. Where your efforts are expanded by a higher power.

It’s really simple.

Before you jump into anything else, give yourself some space. Your compulsion will be to get moving on the urgent.

Don’t do this.

Give yourself space for the important.

The 80/20 rule is a productivity principle explaining that most of the things you spend your time doing aren’t really making an impact.

80% or more of your results come from 20% or less of what you do.

Yet, you continue spending 80% or more of your time on the stuff that doesn’t really matter.

Giving yourself space — even 10 minutes — allows you to think clearly about your goals. To think clearly about your priorities. To think clearly about what matters most to you. And to think clearly about where and what you should be putting your energy into that day.

If you have kids or a morning job — then you should wake up before your kids wake up. I have 5 kids. I know what it feels like to be woken up to my kids being awake.

In those instances, I don’t have 10 minutes to get my head and heart in the right place. I just have to get up and get moving. And when I do this, I’m operating like the millions of blog posts that won’t get any reads.

I’m going to be working but ineffectively.

My kids deserve better.

I deserve better.

You deserve better.

Your kids deserve better.

The purpose of life is to advance forward every single day

In the book, The Laws of Lifetime Growth, Dan Sullivan and Catherine Nomura have 10 amazing laws.

One of those laws is to always make your learning greater than your experience. Here’s specifically what they way about that:

“You can have a great deal of experience and be no smarter for all the things you’ve done, seen, and heard. Experience alone is no guarantee of lifetime growth. But if you regularly transform your experiences into new lessons, you will make each day of your life a source of growth. The smartest people are those who can transform even the smallest events or situations into breakthroughs in thinking and action.”

Every day, your life should be improving.

Your decision-making should be improving.

Your skills and intelligence should be improving.

Your ability to prioritize and focus your time on those things which truly matter — there and then — should be improving.

But in order to improve, you need a process for putting yourself in the right place.

How you start something usually determines the direction and quality it will go.

Take 10 minutes before anything else to get yourself in the right place, and to ensure you focus on the right things that day.

Here’s a simple outline of how you can do it. But I recommend you develop your own system over time.

  • Wake up
  • Drink some water (your brain will thank you)
  • Go to a quiet or peaceful place
  • Say a prayer or do some form of positive meditation
  • If you decide to pray, ask God (or whatever you call the higher power) to inspire you with clarity, discernment, and direction for what you should be focusing on that day
  • After your prayer and meditation, pull out your journal and answer a question — Sean Stephensen, the famed speaker and therapist explains that journaling is often more effective when answering a question
  • Your journal entry, then, could be you free-writing to the question: What should I be focused on today?
  • Here are some other questions you could answer as journal-prompts: Who do I need to show up for today? How can I be most helpful? What needs my attention most? What is currently on my schedule today that I should uncommit to?

Answering these types of questions gives you a little space to open your mind to clarity.

You really don’t need that much time.

You can get life-changing and SIMPLE clarity in a few seconds.

The problem is, most people don’t give themselves those seconds. They rush forward.

Those few seconds will come consistently and daily if you make time for them. But you need to create an environment and a mindSET — your “set” and “setting” — that can create powerful insights.

Once you’ve nailed down what you should be focused on, the second half of the journaling session and morning routine is about COMMITMENT.

You want to commit to yourself that you will execute. That you will follow-through. That you’ll operate at the highest level.

You need to make a definitive decision about how the day will go. When you make a decision the universe conspires to make it happen.

Therefore, your morning routine is about getting clarity for the decisions you should be making, and then truly committing to making those decisions real.

This article first appeared on Medium.

Neuroscience Reveals How to Beat Morning Dread With Just 7 Words

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CREDIT: Getty Images

You know the feeling. The alarm goes off and before you’ve found the button, your brain is already in the shower, fretting over the day ahead. So much work to do. How will you get it all done? Will you do OK in that big presentation? So many meetings you aren’t looking forward to. You want to pick up your daughter after school but secretly know you hardly have the time to do so.

Dread kicks in. What’s wrong with my life?

This is the scenario neuroscientist Lisa Feldman Barrett paints in an interesting TED talk she gave in December 2017 and in her book How Emotions Are Made.

The good news is that you don’t have to be held hostage by this spiraling A.M. anxiety. Barrett’s research points to a surprising finding about our emotions: they’re linked to physical sensations your body is feeling. That’s right, your brain reacts to physical sensations you’re feeling in the form of emotions.

In other words, you might be feeling that sense of dread as soon as you wake up because you simply didn’t sleep well, because you’re hungry, or because you feel dehydrated.

As Barrett explains:

“Your brain is searching to find an explanation for those sensations in your body that you experience as wretchedness. But those sensations might not be an indication that anything is wrong with your life.”

So before you go off the deep end with your morning mental swim, Barrett says ask yourself one question about what you’re feeling, just seven words:

“Could this have a purely physical cause?”

I tried this and found that quite often the answer is, yes. For me, I often wake up parched and, like most of us, have nights where I just didn’t sleep well. I paid attention to this and noticed whenever I felt that sense of dread, it went away as I woke up, drank water, and had breakfast.

But I’d like to add another seven-word question to the mix that you can use when you’re feeling that morning dread; in case your emotions aren’t just based on a physical sensation you’re experiencing in the moment.

“Could this be a signal for change?”

Some have called it Sunday Night Dread–that pit in your stomach you feel as you wind down on Sunday night and think about the day ahead tomorrow. A general unease and unhappiness nags at you. That’s the front line. Ground zero is when you wake up in the morning and the dread is instant and intensified as you face the immediate prospects of the day ahead.

Experiencing this over and over may be a sign that it’s time to make a change and engage in a different line of work or make dramatic changes at the job you’re in.

I experienced this towards the end of my corporate days. I ignored the feeling at first, and then for too long, frankly. Eventually, I let it trigger deep introspection, which ultimately led me to leave corporate behind and embark on my current entrepreneurial journey. I’m so glad I didn’t ignore the signals my morning routine was sending me.

So don’t accept that feeling of morning dread as “just the way it is”. Use Barrett’s question to discern if there’s an underlying physical cause based on what you’re feeling that morning. Use my question so that you’re not just brushing off that dread as you’re brushing your hair. Instead, look in the mirror and get honest with yourself.

Night Owls May Experience ‘Jet Lag’ On A Daily Basis

Author Article

Some people declare themselves to be morning larks, or early risers, and they effortlessly wake up at the crack of dawn and fall asleep earlier in the evening.

Others, however, are night owls, or evening people, who stay up until the early hours of the morning and wake up later in the day, if left to their own devices.

Previous research has shown that the night owls face some health risks due to their daily rhythms. These include a tendency towards poorer dietary habits, which, in turn, can increase the risk of metabolic conditions, such as diabetes.

Now, a study led by investigators from the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom has found out how activity patterns in the brains of night owls are different from those of morning people. The study also highlights how these differences can impact their lives and levels of productivity in a world that typically favors early risers.

“A huge number of people struggle to deliver their best performance during work or school hours they are not naturally suited to,” notes lead researcher Dr. Elise Facer-Childs, previously of Birmingham University and now based at the Monash Institute for Cognitive and Clinical Neurosciences in Melbourne, Australia.

“There is a critical need to increase our understanding of these issues in order to minimize health risks in society, as well as maximize productivity,” she emphasizes.

The researchers have now published their findings in a study paper featured in the journal SLEEP.

Brain activity in night owls

For this study, the research team recruited 38 healthy participants. They divided the volunteers into two groups, putting 16 early risers into one group and 22 late sleepers into the second.

The researchers split the participants into these two groups based on their melatonin and cortisol circadian rhythms — the natural circulation of these two hormones affect sleep and waking cycles.

The researchers monitored the participants’ sleeping and waking patterns, and the volunteers filled in questionnaires about their rhythms. On average, late sleepers went to bed at 2:30 a.m. and woke up at 10:15 a.m.

To assess brain activity patterns, the investigators asked the volunteers to undergo MRI scans. The researchers also tested the participants’ performance on various tasks they undertook at different times throughout the day to see how sleep-wake cycles affected daily functioning.

The team noticed a difference in brain activity patterns between the two groups, namely that night owls had lower resting brain connectivity in brain areas that scientists primarily associate with maintaining a state of consciousness. They correlated this with shorter attention spans, as well as slower reactions and lower energy levels.

Early risers performed better and had faster reaction times during morning tasks. They also declared themselves as being much less sleepy at that time.

On the contrary, as expected, late sleepers performed best and experienced the fastest reaction times around 8:00 p.m. However, even at the time when they were at their peak performance, night owls did not do much better than their early rising peers.

This suggests that throughout the day — or from around 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. — resting-state brain connectivity is affected in late sleepers, adversely impacting their productivity.

Social expectations ‘could be more flexible’

Dr. Facer-Childs likens the night owls’ state throughout the day to a form of constant jet lag, emphasizing that this may have a significant effect on their well-being in the long run.

This mismatch between a person’s biological time and social time — which most of us have experienced in the form of jet lag — is a common issue for night owls trying to follow a normal working day.”

Dr. Elise Facer-Childs

“Our study is the first to show a potential intrinsic, neuronal mechanism behind why night owls may face cognitive disadvantages when being forced to fit into these constraints,” she adds.

For this reason, the researcher argues that societies need to take a long, hard look at their organizational structures, chiefly in terms of working hours and how to become more accommodating to people’s individuals needs. This flexibilty should mean that night owls can put their best foot forward while avoiding adverse health outcomes.

“To manage this [situation], we need to get better at taking an individual’s body clock into account — particularly in the world of work,” Dr. Facer-Childs argues.

“A typical day might last from 9:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m., but for a night owl, this could result in diminished performance during the morning, lower brain connectivity in regions linked to consciousness, and increased daytime sleepiness,” she warns.

She further advises that “If, as a society, we could be more flexible about how we manage time, we could go a long way toward maximizing productivity and minimizing health risks.”

6 Habits Experts Swear by For More Restful Nights and Happier Mornings

Author Article

1. Spend Some Time Outside

According to the National Sleep Foundation, being exposed to natural light during the day — and being in darkness at night — helps your body maintain a healthy sleep-wake cycle. (Among other things, natural light plays a role in regulating the sleep hormone melatonin.) Get outside at some point during the day, and keep devices and other sources of light out of your room at night by investing in light-blocking curtains or shades.

2. Eat Lighter in the Evenings

Eating until you’re stuffed can help you fall asleep, but you might struggle to stay that way. “Heavy protein — which is hard to digest and often metabolized to wake-promoting dopamine — in combination with spicy or fatty foods will give your body way too much to do at night when it should be focused on sleep,” said Dr. Winter. Try to eat big meals three to four hours before bed. This will also help prevent acid reflux, which can wake you during the night.

3. Avoid Late-Night Workouts

While a 2017 review found that exercise improves sleep quality and duration, working out right before bed may actually cause your sleep to suffer. “Your circadian clock and metabolism are connected. Exercise revs up metabolism, and it can stay elevated for hours, keeping you awake,” Mary Ellen Wells, PhD, director and assistant professor of neurodiagnostics and sleep science at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, told POPSUGAR. “For this reason, avoid exercise a few hours before bedtime.”

4. Skip the Nightcap

You probably know the risks of drinking caffeine in the afternoon, but that glass of wine can also disrupt your sleep. “Alcohol does nothing positive for sleep. It is very important for individuals not to confuse sedation with sleep,” Dr. Winter explained. “Alcohol can reduce the deep sleep we get at night and dramatically suppress REM sleep,” the dream phase considered to be the most restorative stage of sleep. “Alcohol is also a diuretic,” he continued, meaning it can cause you to use the bathroom during the night. And even beyond that, “it increases sleep fragmentation and wake time during the night.”

5. Power Down Your Devices

“Electronics and the light they emit — as well as the stress that often comes with them — can dramatically impact our sleep quality and quantity,” said Dr. Winter. “The light can interrupt the brain’s ability to produce the sleep-promoting chemical melatonin.”

Using glasses that filter out blue light or setting your device to a “sleep” setting can help, but it’s better to just power down. “You should avoid bright light and blue light from devices at least an hour or two before bedtime,” Dr. Wells said. Instead, try creating a relaxing bedtime routine, which may include meditation, reading, or deep-breathing exercises.

6. Keep Cool

The National Sleep Foundation recommends setting your thermostat between 60 and 67 degrees for optimal sleep. You should also wear looser clothing to prevent heat from being trapped inside. It’ll benefit your skin, too. “Tighter clothing can lead to friction and irritation, which can cause clogged pores and rashes,” Michael Kassardjian, DO, a board-certified dermatologist at Coast Dermatology, told POPSUGAR. “Additionally, the hot and humid environment caused by warmer clothing is a perfect breeding ground for bacterial and fungal infections. Folliculitis, acne, and yeast infections are some examples of what can develop.”

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