In this post we’re going to talk about how to create the perfect morning routine on the daily. You don’t have to strive for unrealistic “that girl” routines requiring you to wake up at 4am. In this post about creating a morning routine that supports your overall health and is backed by science leans on the teachings of Dr. Andrew Huberman, who’s a neuroscientist and professor of neurobiology at the Stanford University of Medicine.
Dr. Huberman talks a lot about sleep and what he calls nonsleep deep rest. He argues that these two things are the basis of how our entire systems function, from our immune systems to our mood during the day. So let’s craft the optimal morning routine.
The perfect morning routine starts the night before
A good morning routine starts the night before with a good night’s sleep and a good nighttime routine.
But, some people are not designed to get up early. One thing that trends don’t take into account is that we’re each unique individuals with different chronotypes. Each of us is going to fall into a different sleep chronotype which is going to affect whether we’re more productive in the morning or evening.
There are four Chronotypes, Dolphin, Lion, Bear and Wolf, and most people fit into the “Bear” category.
If you’re wondering what your sleep chronotype is, take this quiz.
Understanding your sleep chronotype can help you create a routine that’s easy for your body to attain, and makes your life easier, instead of fighting against your sleep chronotype and forcing your body into sleep or productivity patterns that don’t align with you.
It starts with your biological clock ticking away inside your brain, and the thousands of biological clocks ticking in time with your brain, throughout the rest of your body.
Unlike a normal clock, your biological clock doesn’t keep the same time as the person next to you, and chances are they don’t tick at the same pace either. That means when someone says, “I’m not a morning person”, there might be a reason for that. Some people are meant to be productive in the morning, and others are meant to be productive in the evening or at night.
Your body has been programmed to function better at different times of the day than other people.
And based on this, you can find out what chronotype you fall under, and you can use that information to work with your body, not against it.
Now that you’re getting a good night’s sleep, let’s talk about an ideal morning routine.
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The key factors you need to have the perfect morning routine
Dr. Huberman has shared a mood enhancing checklist, otherwise known as the Optimal Morning Routine Checklist (all of these things together are the perfect one hour morning routine!), and by including these things in your morning routine is going to help you avoid fatigue in the afternoon and ultimately sleep better at night as well.
Mood Enhancing Checklist - the Perfect One Hour Morning Routine
- Temperature Increase
Let’s talk about how we can incorporate these things into your morning and what this looks like in a practical daily morning routine.
Get sunlight in your eyes first thing in the morning
A good goal is to get natural light in your eyes within 1-hour of waking up. That can be hard if you wake up before the sun, so it’s that you turn on really bright lights and then when the sun comes up, go outside and get some sun in your eyes.
And keep in mind that a cloudy morning is still going to help you get more photons from sunlight in your eyes than artificial light will.
Perfect morning routine: Get 5-10 minutes outside (without sunglasses) in the morning, once the sun is out. Keep in mind that this does not mean to stare directly into the sun. You just want to be outside allowing your eyes to get exposed to sunlight.
Why you should get sunlight in your eyes first thing in the morning
Getting sunlight in your eyes in the morning helps with modulating the timing of your cortisol pulse.
Once every 24 hours, you get a boost of cortisol, which sets your mood, helps regulate your temperature and sets in motion your level of alertness and focus for the day. Because of this, you want your cortisol pulse to happen as early in the morning as possible.
What does the sun have to do with this? Natural light from the sun triggers your melanopsin ganglion cells which sends signals to your brain to release a peptide hormone, which stimulates a wake up call for your brain and body – and sets an automatic timer for a melatonin release 16 hours later. Melatonin is the hormone that makes you sleepy!
This signal also releases dopamine. Dopamine’s main job in our brains is to drive motivation, craving and pursuit. It’s our ‘Drive’ molecule – that also manufactures adrenaline.
All of this is why you feel so much better in the summer months! Being in the sun directly helps uplift your mood. This is also why we see seasonal depression – our bodies are missing the hit of dopamine and adrenaline from the sun in the mornings.
Raise your body temperature
An increased body temperature helps you wake up – while a decreased body temperature helps you sleep. If you want to feel awake and ready for the day, increasing your body temperature in the morning is a great way to do that. Exercise will increase your body temperature, but so will cold showers. If you’d like to learn more about cold exposure and getting started with cold showers, read this guide.
You might not immediately think about cold showers as raising your body temperature but they do! When you make the temperature of your skin colder, your body is going to increase your internal temperature.
Perfect morning routine: Start your day with a cold shower or cold plunge to raise your body temperature and help you wake up and feel more alert for the day.
Exercising in the morning
You might prefer to do your workouts in the afternoon or evening, but getting at least some movement in the morning is an important part of an ideal morning routine.
Movement in the morning is going to help with your cortisol levels throughout the day, once again making it easier for you to have more energy and stay alert during the day. Dr. Huberman recommends just doing a few push ups and 5-10 minutes of yoga in the morning to get your blood flowing (as well as helping your cortisol boost and temperature).
Perfect morning routine: After waking up do some light stretching, a couple of push ups or situps to get your blood flowing and warm you up for the day.
Postponing your caffeine by 30 minutes to an hour
Delaying our coffee intake in the morning could help you have more energy throughout the day and help you sleep better at night. We already know how important sleep is for our daily function, but imagine also having more energy (and needing less caffeine) as you move throughout the day.
In his research Dr. Huberman recommends delaying coffee consumption by 1.5-2 hours after waking in order to maximize your energy, reset your Circadian Rhythms and improve sleep.
How Caffeine Affects Us
Caffeine works by blocking your body's ability to absorb adenosine, which is the cause of drowsiness. Essentially, caffeine binds to the same receptors as adenosine, blocking the adenosine absorption and sleepiness at the same time. Adenosine gradually builds back up throughout the day and usually reaches its peak as we approach bedtime. Then, while we sleep our bodies naturally clear out the adenosine, causing those levels to get lower until we wake up and begin our day again.
While we usually equate cortisol with stress and consider it a bad thing, we actually wouldn’t be here without it. It’s important for the many functions in our bodies from food and energy metabolism to regulating blood sugar and pressure. But it’s also a hormone that is strongly related to our alertness.
Naturally, our cortisol levels peak about 2 hours after we wake up — and then gradually decline throughout the day as we approach bedtime.
When we immediately start our days with caffeine, we cause our cortisol levels to rise quicker and peak sooner, which results in them dropping sooner as well. Over time our bodies begin to reduce natural cortisol production and build a tolerance to the caffeine which creates a smaller and smaller rise in cortisol. This leads to a reliance on caffeine to start the day, and consuming more caffeine (typically 3-5 cups or more) throughout the day to keep boosting cortisol and alertness levels.
Therefore, all of this caffeine consumption is impacting our natural hormone production and damaging our restorative sleep.
As well as delaying your coffee in the morning, it’s important that you don’t drink coffee after 4/5pm. Even if you think you sleep fine after a late cup of coffee, the caffeine affects the amount of deep sleep and restorative sleep that you’re getting! It’s also going to have negative impacts on your heart rate variability which is an important gauge of cardiovascular fitness and general wellbeing.
Perfect morning routine: Delay your coffee for 15 minutes in the morning. You can wake up, do some movement, make your bed and go outside for 10 minutes before starting your coffee routine. Even delaying your coffee for just 15 minutes a day can make such a difference in your afternoon slump.
If you’d rather watch a video on crafting your ideal anti ‘that girl’ morning routine, check out the original video on morning routines from Dr. Andrew Huberman.
Perfect morning routine hack: Intention Setting Meditation
Setting goals around meditation can be overwhelming. This can be caused by the fact that meditation isn’t always as relaxing as people make it out to be. When you’re first starting a meditation practice, it can be hard to quiet the constant chatter running through your mind. This can lead you to feeling guilty and overwhelmed that you’re not ‘meditating right’ and these feelings can mean you end up quitting meditation altogether.
So, instead of setting goals to sit quietly or meditate for any length of time, start practicing a short intention setting meditation in the mornings. Starting the day with five minutes of mindfulness can have a positive impact on your mental and emotional well being.
A Short Intention Setting Meditation:
- Sit or lay down comfortably
- Close your eyes or pick a soft point in the distance to focus on
- Take 3 calming deep breaths
- Think about how you want to be today — this is going to be a quality that you want to possess like; Relaxed, Productive or Grateful
- Then think about what you want to do today — maybe there’s something on your to-do list that you’ve been meaning to get done… think about how you’ll feel at the end of the day when you accomplish that task
- Now, say to yourself, “Today I will be _________, I will not let _________ overwhelm me… and today I will ____________.
- Take one more deep breath, and start your day.
When you add all of these simple things together, you’re going to start your day in a better mood, with more energy. The perfect morning routine starts with small steps and can easily be done as a one hour morning routine. Always start with delaying your coffee by just 15 minutes, getting outside for just 10 minutes and doing a little movement.
Don’t forget to start by learning about your sleep chronotype, because the ideal one hour morning routine always starts with a good night’s sleep the night before. Understanding your sleep chronotype is the best way to work with your body as opposed to against it.
Whether you start your morning routine at 5:00 am or 9:00 am, these steps are going to help you feel great every single day with a focus on longevity vs. relying on quick fixes.
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