• February 28, 2024

The 1 Thing Sleep Doctors Never, Ever Do In The Morning

You’ve likely heard that a good night of sleep starts in the morning, and sleep experts agree with this statement wholeheartedly. This is because of our circadian rhythm, or our body’s natural sleep-wake cycle, which is a 24-hour process.

“The circadian rhythm, your internal biological clock, operates on a roughly 24-hour cycle and dictates when you feel awake or sleepy, largely influenced by light exposure,” explained Dr. Chester Wu, a double-board certified psychiatrist and sleep medicine specialist. “Health behaviors in the morning reinforce a strong circadian rhythm, promoting wakefulness during the day and sleepiness at night.”

Conversely, according to Wu, irregular sleep patterns, excessive evening light exposure and sedentary lifestyles can disrupt this rhythm and sleep pressure balance, leading to sleep issues.

Considering they’ve dedicated their careers to helping people sleep better, it’s safe to say the morning routines of sleep doctors are ones we want to emulate. So, what do sleep experts avoid doing in the morning to ensure they get a good night’s sleep?

 

They never lie in bed after their alarms go off.

 

In what may be the most unrelatable (but definitely smart) action ever, sleep doctors don’t lie in bed, scrolling on their phones for 15 minutes before dragging themselves out of bed. “I try not to linger in bed because I definitely feel like that causes me to feel more lazy or groggy,” Wu said.

Chelsie Rohrscheib, a neuroscientist and sleep expert, also doesn’t do this. “I never stay in bed and do activities that aren’t related to sleep and intimacy. This means when I wake up, I get out of bed immediately and go somewhere else in my house,” she said. “This helps to maintain my brain’s association that the bedroom is only a place of rest, which promotes high-quality sleep.”

“I never remain in my dark bedroom,” added Dr. Chris Winter, a neurologist and sleep health expert. “It is essential to get into the light. Light effectively shuts off your brain’s production of melatonin and lets your body know the day has begun.”

While not lying in bed was the most popular tip among the sleep experts we consulted, Carleara Weiss, a sleep specialist and research assistant professor at the University at Buffalo, State University of New York, gave a slightly different answer: For her, in addition to getting up as soon as she wakes up, she makes sure not to sleep in.

“The reasoning for that relates to the circadian rhythms,” Weiss said. “Regular wake-up times help the biological clock regulate physiological functions, not just sleep. Sleeping in on the weekends leads to social jet lag and causes difficulty concentrating, fatigue, irritability, and headaches.”

Dr. Raj Dasgupta ― a physician who is a quadruple board-certified physician in internal medicine, pulmonary, critical care and sleep medicine ― is also wary of sleeping in.

“While occasionally sleeping in is unlikely to have a lasting impact on your overall sleep quality, it may affect your ability to fall asleep later in the evening,” he said. “Maintaining a consistent sleep schedule, where you wake up and go to bed at the same time every day, is really important for ensuring you have a good night of quality sleep.”

Staying in bed after your alarm goes off can be doing more harm than good.

Jay Yuno via Getty Images

Staying in bed after your alarm goes off can be doing more harm than good.

 

What do sleep doctors do in the morning instead?

 

We know what they don’t do in the mornings. So, what do sleep doctors do? One thing that came up consistently was ensuring they were exposed to light early in the morning.

“One of the first things I do in the morning, usually within 30 minutes of waking, is exposing myself to natural sunlight by going outside or sitting by a window,” Rohrscheib said. “Light during the day is very important for keeping our circadian rhythm well-regulated. Studies have shown that a lack of sunlight exposure can reduce the quality of your sleep, contribute to insomnia, and negatively impact mood.”

Dasgupta also makes sure to get sun exposure first thing in the morning. “Getting sunlight exposure first thing in the morning upon waking up can increase alertness and energy during the day, leading to improved sleep at night,” he said.

Another big tip that came up? Exercise. “Getting active quickly is a fantastic way to signal to your brain that the day has begun,” Winter said. “The exercise does not have to be particularly intense. I start my day off by walking my dogs every day or walking with my wife to work.”

Interestingly, another thing Winter always makes sure to do is make his bed. “It’s not only symbolically powerful, but it’s also a great deterrent for individuals who might want to slip back into bed during the day and feel the napping might adversely affect their sleep the upcoming night,” he said.

As far as we’re concerned, the fact that sleep doctors don’t say anything about giving up coffee is a big win. As long as we can have our coffee, we don’t mind dragging ourselves out of bed before checking emails and scrolling through Instagram.

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