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Here’s the trick to waking up refreshed and alert

Posted on March 28th, 2023

How do you feel in the morning? Do you feel bright-eyed and alert? Or do you feel sluggish and like you can’t quite shake your sleepiness? 

If you wake up feeling the latter, you’re not alone. Morning alertness is a struggle for a lot of people, and many people attribute the problem to their genes. 

However, research shows that genetics aren’t to blame. Your genes play only a small role when it comes to your morning alertness. The role of genetics is significantly overshadowed by your lifestyle choices. 

So you actually have a lot more control over how you feel in the morning than you might think…

Focus on these 3 things to feel more alert in the morning

Based on a study that followed a group of 833 people over two weeks, researchers concluded that the trick to feeling refreshed in the morning was a three-part prescription: 

  1. Eating a breakfast that’s low in sugar and high in complex carbohydrates
  2. Sleeping longer and waking up later
  3. Exercising vigorously the day before 

In this study, participants received a variety of foods to eat for breakfast. They wore a wristwatch that monitored their physical activity and how well they slept. And they kept a diary about what they ate and how alert they felt throughout the day. 

Identical and fraternal twins participated in the study. That way, researchers could extricate the influence of genetics from behavioral and environmental factors. 

Eating a breakfast that’s low in sugar and high in complex carbohydrates

Researchers found that controlling the blood glucose response after breakfast is an essential part of shaking off morning sleepiness. As long as a person can efficiently rid their body of their breakfast’s glucose to prevent a sustained blood sugar spike, they should choose a breakfast that’s rich in carbohydrates, low in sugar, and has a small amount of protein. 

Sleeping longer and waking up later

People should aim to get between seven and nine hours of sleep each night. Most people need this amount of sleep to rid their bodies of adenosine, a chemical that builds up in the brain throughout the day and triggers “sleep pressure” at night. (Sleep pressure is what makes people feel sleepy or the need to go to sleep.)

Exercising vigorously the day before

Exercise is generally associated with an elevated mood, more alertness, and better sleep. So it makes sense that exercising during the day results in higher quality sleep at night, which, in turn, helps people feel more alert and refreshed. 

Morning sleepiness can have serious consequences 

Not only is feeling groggy in the morning annoying, but it can also be deadly. When people feel sleepy, they’re more likely to get into auto accidents or injure themselves at work. 

Sleepiness has even caused large-scale disasters, including the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska and the Three Mile Island nuclear meltdown in Pennsylvania. 

Morning sleepiness also leads to productivity losses for businesses, absenteeism at work and school, and an increased need for healthcare. 

How you wake up feeling each day isn’t about your genes

As previously mentioned, the study discussed above looked at identical and fraternal twins. Therefore, researchers could rule out genetics as a significant predictor of how alert people felt when they woke up. 

It may seem like certain people are naturally bright-eyed and ready to go in the morning since they almost always wake up like that. But as it turns out, you have more control over how you feel in the morning than you may realize. And if you want to become one of those chipper “morning people,” you have the power to do so. 

Here is your prescription for better morning alertness: 

  • Exercise regularly
  • Sleep more hours and wake up later in the morning
  • Eat more carbohydrates and less sugar for breakfast

Dr. Meghna Dassani has practiced dentistry for over two decades and is passionate about the role dentists play in whole-body health. You can learn more at her website:

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