— When Susie Phillips wakes at 5:30 a.m., before the sun
rises, before cars zoom down the street bearing the
bleary-eyed to work, before children stomp down the sidewalk
on their way to school, it isn’t drudgery.
slips out of bed, fills a hefty mug with coffee and listens to
the birds chirping outside her Dallas home. Early morning
sunlight streams through the window. For Phillips, this is the
most peaceful time of day.
just nice to be up as the world wakes," she says.
reads a few pages of a novel or inspirational blog, pauses to
set an intention for her day, prepares a frozen berry smoothie
and then heads out the door for either Jazzercise or yoga at
7. Energized, she returns to the rest of her smoothie and
another cup of coffee before settling into her art studio for
a good three hours of creative work.
66, is among those who enjoy early mornings. Not all of us do,
but even those who don’t have to wake eventually, and a good
morning can be the difference between a great, a so-so or a
downright terrible day.
components go into having a good morning. As it turns out,
Phillips’ routine, which she’s followed for more than 35
years, provides an excellent model for how to have a good
important of all: She gets enough sleep.
reason some people feel groggy and others refreshed in the
morning is a good night’s sleep, says Jennifer Neily, a
registered dietitian and nutritionist in Dallas who’s worked
research indicates we need seven to nine hours of good sleep
for optimal performance, health and even weight
management," says Neily, adding that people who get less
than seven hours of sleep per night are 30 percent more likely
to be overweight.
not the only factor contributing to whether we feel refreshed.
According to Dr. Joseph Takahashi, a professor of neuroscience
in the Howard Hughes Medical Institute at UT Southwestern
Medical Center, there’s a genetic component as well.
area in the base of the brain called the hypothalamus, which
regulates many basic functions of the body, there is a group
of cells called the suprachiasmatic nucleus. A set of genes in
each of these cells performs on roughly a 24-hour cycle,
controlling the daily rhythms of basic bodily functions,
including the sleep cycle.
light hits our eyes, a signal travels down the optic nerve to
the suprachiasmatic nucleus. How one’s cellular clock
synchronizes to the light determines when a person is alert
and when they are drowsy.
show incredibly wide variation in sleep need and in preferred
wake-up time and bedtime," he says.
words: Whether you’re a morning person may, in part, be the
result of your genetic structure.
you want to become more of a morning person? How can you have
a good morning despite your genes?
the interaction of light with one’s cellular clock affects
the sleep-wake cycle, Takahashi says that darkening the room
when you want to sleep and letting in light in the morning
will help reorient your clock.
nighttime routine will yield restful sleep, as well, he says,
and this will lead to an invigorated morning.
cautions against drinking caffeine after noon because caffeine
stays in the body for up to 12 hours, which means that
afternoon cup of Joe may be keeping you up later than you’d
caffeine intake during the morning may help cognition as well,
adds registered dietitian and nutritionist Angela Lemond of
Plano, Texas. She suggests limiting yourself to 6 ounces of
coffee in the morning, which is about one regular-size mug.
also points out that intense exercise late at night can wind
you up right before you try to sleep, though Lemond says
exercise in the morning — like Phillips’ Jazzercise and
yoga classes — can help start your day right.
gets the blood flowing naturally," she says. "Any
exercise is great, but to really feel the benefits for several
hours after, do some vigorous exercise that really gets the
heart rate up for at least 30 minutes."
suggests going for a light jog, bike ride or morning
also suggests waking up at least two hours before you need to
provides time for preparing a plan for the day — something
Phillips takes seriously. In fact, Phillips conscientiously
avoids the Internet in the morning because it’s easy to get
sucked into checking email and Facebook instead of planning
is a morning killer," she says.
about that timeworn advice, "Breakfast is the most
important meal of the day"?
experts might say don’t skip breakfast, but you know what?
Contrary to everything you’ve heard, it’s not a mandate
for everyone," says Neily.
never eaten breakfast and maintain a healthy weight, there’s
no reason to start, she says.
those who choose to begin their day with a scrumptious meal,
breakfast might include a protein source, some whole grains, a
veggie, fruit and maybe some low-fat dairy, says Lemond.
suggestion: a whole wheat burrito with spinach, cheese and egg
and a side of mixed berries.
these seemingly mundane morning rituals, like that mug of
coffee, berry smoothie and exercise class, that spark Phillips
feel like my energy is best in the morning," she says.
"I’m more creative and focused and optimistic in the
morning, and just have kind of a better attitude of the
A GOOD MORNING
good nighttime routine. Moderate your caffeine intake after
noon and refrain from intense exercise before bed.
between seven and nine hours of sleep at night.
at least two hours before you need to be anywhere so you can
prepare for the day.
in the morning to get the blood flowing. A light jog, bike
ride or morning kickboxing class are good options.