I’m a sleep doctor — I never make this common morning mistake, here’s why

Stop hitting the snooze button and get up when your alarm sounds, experts say.
Stop hitting the snooze button and get up when your alarm sounds, experts say.

The perfect night’s sleep begins the morning before.

No, really, experts say — thanks to the way our biological clocks tick, how we start our waking day can have a significant impact on how it ends.

“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,” Dr. Chester Wu, a double-board certified psychiatrist and sleep medicine specialist, told HuffPost.

“Health behaviors in the morning reinforce a strong circadian rhythm, promoting wakefulness during the day and sleepiness at night,” he said.

And while we all know the rules for winding down at night by now — distancing ourselves from screens, choosing the same bed time every night, getting enough exercise so we’re tired at day’s end, etcetera — what are the morning health behaviors we should be making a habit of?

The choices we make in the morning can have a major impact on sleep patterns. DavidPrado –
The choices we make in the morning can have a major impact on sleep patterns. DavidPrado –

“I try not to linger in bed because I definitely feel like that causes me to feel more lazy or groggy,” Wu said.

And while putting off the start to your day might feel too luxurious to give up, Wu isn’t the only expert declining to indulge — HuffPost interviewed multiple sleep gurus, who all agreed.

“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,” said Chelsie Rohrscheib, a neuroscientist and sleep expert. “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,” Dr. Chris Winter, a neurologist and sleep health expert, added. “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.”

Carleara Weiss, a sleep specialist and research assistant professor at the University at Buffalo, State University of New York makes sure not only to bolt out of bed first thing — but also resists the urge to sleep in, even on her days off.

“The reasoning for that relates to the circadian rhythms,” she explained. “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 quadruple board-certified physician in internal medicine, pulmonary, critical care and sleep medicine, had a similar warning.

“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 pointed out.

“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,” he said.

Duly noted, no laying about, no sleeping in — what should those looking to up their sleep game be doing in the morning, instead?

“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,” said Rohrscheib. “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.”

Sun exposure is on Dasgupta’s mind, too.

“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.

And then — no groaning, please — there’s 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,” he revealed.

Also? Make your bed — but not just to be tidy.

“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,” Winter said.