If you tend to wake up feeling sluggish, tired, and a little cranky, you’ve probably wondered what you can do to make the start of each day easier. According to recent research, there are three simple and effective ways you can help yourself become more of a morning person — and will leave you feeling more refreshed and alert when your feet hit the floor! 

Scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, published a study in November that found that the key to waking up feeling more refreshed doesn’t come from your genetic makeup but from three simple factors: exercise, more sleep, and a breakfast high in carbohydrates with limited sugar. 

For two weeks, the team studied the behavior of 833 people, including identical and fraternal twins, to analyze “the influence of genes from environment and behavior,” per a press release from UC Berkeley’s Berkeley News. The participants were given a variety of breakfast meals, wrote in food diaries, wore watches that recorded their physical activity and sleep (quality, quantity, timing, and regularity), and recorded their alertness throughout the day.  

The scientists found those who woke up most alert did more exercise the previous day, slept longer and later into the morning, and ate a low-sugar breakfast that was high in complex carbohydrates with a modest amount of protein. 


The study also discovered the importance of paying attention to one’s glucose response after eating breakfast, noting a controlled blood glucose response is important for experiencing a less sluggish morning.

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In an ideal world we’d all be getting the recommended seven or more hours of sleep, but what if that’s not an option? Researchers learned that each factor has “a unique and independent effect,” said study co-author and UC Berkeley postdoctoral fellow Raphael Vallat. “If you sleep longer or later, you’re going to see an increase in your alertness. If you do more physical activity on the day before, you’re going to see an increase. You can see improvements with each and every one of these factors.” 

While sleep, movement, and a nutritious breakfast may not be the most surprising advice for a better, more refreshed morning routine, this information supports the idea that becoming a morning person is possible — even if it sometimes doesn’t feel like it. 

“How you wake up each day is very much under your own control, based on how you structure your life and your sleep,” said senior author Matthew Walker, UC Berkeley professor of neuroscience and psychology. “You don’t need to feel resigned to any fate, throwing your hands up in disappointment because, ‘… it’s my genes, and I can’t change my genes.’ There are some very basic and achievable things you can start doing today, and tonight, to change how you awake each morning, feeling alert and free of that grogginess.”


So if you want to start this new year off on a refreshed and recharged note, remember: sleep, move, eat breakfast, and repeat. 

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