10 Easy Ways to Beat Early Morning Grogginess

Medically reviewed by Dr. Hayley Collinge
Medically reviewed by Dr. Hayley Collinge on November 21, 2020
Naturopathic Doctor
Updated on December 15th, 2020
Groggy in the morning

Have you ever felt you need to be hooked up to a caffeine IV drip that you wheel around all day to function normally because you’re so exhausted when you wake up? Have you ever had your alarm clock go off, then accidentally fell back asleep, only to wake up panicked that you were almost late for starting work?

Do you often repeatedly hit the snooze button because the thought of getting out of bed and taking on your day is just too much to handle on such little sleep? Do you need several cups of coffee in the morning just to start your day and function?

If so, you are not alone, and there are ways to help you feel energized in the morning and ready to take on your day without relying on caffeine. Though caffeine does promote wakefulness, excess caffeine consumption is associated with a host of side effects.

Although many don’t think of caffeine as a drug, it is, and it’s always better to avoid a drug when you can in favor of something that balances the body and promotes good health. 

Have a doctor check your adrenal (and thyroid) function. Low adrenal function can cause you to feel tired in the morning if you don’t have enough of a stress hormone called cortisol. Cortisol acts as the body’s own natural caffeine and helps your body to adapt to stressors throughout the day.

You may have heard of the fight or flight response. This means that when you are faced with a significant stressor, your body has the urge to either fight it off or run from it. This made sense from an evolutionary perspective when a lion is chasing us so that we could either attempt to fight it off and save our lives or run to safety.

The problem is modern-day people tend to chronically be in fight or flight mode because the body does not differentiate between a lion and, say, an argument with a friend or spouse or financial troubles.

Excessive stress over a long period of time can deplete the adrenals causing them to not be able to keep up with the demand placed on them. You may experience symptoms if your adrenals are depleted, daytime fatigue, feeling unable to cope with stress, brain fog, and an inability to concentrate.

Despite people believing caffeine is a harmless way to have more energy, drinking excessive caffeine can worsen adrenal function since it stimulates the release of stress hormones by the body.

The body has adrenal reserves, and caffeine can deplete these, especially if your reserves are already low. Various herbs, vitamins, and minerals can help restore your adrenals’ function if they are depleted.

[Also Read: How To Counteract The Side Effects Of Caffeine]

1. Similarly, low thyroid function can cause low energy

Since the adrenals and thyroid work hand-in-hand, it is a good idea to test both simultaneously. As with adrenals, there are various herbs, vitamins, and minerals that can optimize thyroid function. Diet can also help to maximize the function of both organs and improve energy. 

2. Take time during the day to do deep breathing exercises

The reason why some people are fatigued because they aren’t breathing properly and taking in enough oxygen. The brain requires oxygen to function properly. When we breathe oxygen in, it is absorbed into the blood from the lungs. The brain gets preference over the other organs for oxygen.

Our bodies are designed to provide the brain with a constant blood supply, so it gets both oxygen and glucose. When high levels of carbon dioxide are detected, the body’s reflexive response is to increase the breathing rate to try and once again increase the oxygen levels in the blood.

A process known as cellular respiration, which includes the electron transport chain taking place in your cells in organelles known as mitochondria, utilizes the oxygen you breathe in order to extract energy known as ATP from the food you eat. When our bodies don’t take in enough oxygen, energy production is impaired, and you may feel tired.

Cells require oxygen from the air to extract energy from glucose(derived from the food we eat) through respiration. The process produces carbon dioxide and water as a waste result. Breathing exercises are particularly important these days since mask-wearing is commonplace, and people take in less oxygen because of it.

To do the following breathing exercise, removing your mask is necessary. Begin finding a comfortable position, either seated or laying down. Close your eyes, and inhale deeply into your belly on a count of 4 through your nose.

As you breathe in, look upwards with your eyes and place your tongue on the roof of your mouth just behind your front teeth. Next, hold your breath for a count of four. As you breathe out on a count of 8 through your mouth, keep your tongue on the roof of your mouth, and relax your eyes.

Repeat 6-10 times, or until you feel relaxed. Repeat several times throughout the day for best results and a quick pick-me-up.

3. Take a brief 15-minute walk in the morning to get your blood pumping

To circulate oxygen throughout the body and get that oxygen into your brain, physical activity is important. A power walk is the best since walking slowly may not be enough to really get your blood pumping. If you own a heart rate monitor that you use for exercise, you should aim for at least 40-60% of your heart rate max.

Heart rate max is determined by a simple formula where you subtract your age from the number 220. For example, if you are 30 years old, your heart rate max would be 190, and 40-60% of this would be between 76 and 114 bpm. An added bonus is you will also burn some calories.

Alternatively, if you don’t feel like taking a walk, you can also do jumping jacks or try marching in place. Whenever you feel fatigued throughout the day, 30 jumping jacks or marching in place for a few minutes should work to wake you up. It is recommended to do this without a mask to increase oxygen flow to your brain.  

[Read: Why Is Walking Called as the Best Exercise?

4. Meditate

Brief mindfulness meditation sessions have been shown in studies to improve brain function and energy. Try two 15 minute mindfulness meditation sessions throughout the day for better energy. Mindfulness meditation involves focusing intensely on what you are sensing and feeling in the moment, without interpretation or judgment.

Mindfulness meditation may involve breathing techniques such as the one you learned above or simply closing your eyes and breathing in deeply through your nose into your belly, and breathing out through your mouth while breathing normally.

Mindfulness meditation also involves guided imagery, where you use your imagination to create relaxing or positive images and experiences. Your body interprets these sensory experiences as real so imagining them has a positive physiological effect on the body.

This may involve imagining yourself at the ocean and hearing waves crashing on the beach, seagulls calling, feeling the breeze against your skin, the sand between your toes, and imagining the smell and taste of the ocean air. Meditation is thought to increase blood flow to the brain, which helps promote wakefulness. 

5. Light Therapy Box 

Purchase and use a light therapy box, especially during the winter months. A light therapy box is designed to mimic outdoor light. In many parts of the world, there is little sunlight, particularly in the winter. Lack of sunlight can not only lead to things like Seasonal Affective disorder but also fatigue.

Our sleep-wake cycles are altered during these months. A sleep-wake cycle is our 24-hour daily sleep pattern, which normally consists of 16 hours of wakefulness and 8 hours of sleep. It is governed by two hormones known as melatonin and serotonin.

Serotonin is released in the morning by the brain when the pineal (a light-sensitive gland) detects light. It is vital for optimal brain function. Melatonin is released when it gets dark out to help promote sleep. In the winter, less serotonin is produced in the morning since it is often still dark out.

Lack of serotonin[1] can leave us feeling more groggy and less energized in the morning. The light emitted from these devices stimulates serotonin release in the brain and helps reset the sleep-wake cycle. When the sleep-wake cycle is normalized, one generally sleeps better and has less morning fatigue, and is able to fall asleep easier at night.

It is recommended to talk to your doctor prior to using light therapy and use caution if you have conditions such as bipolar disorder, glaucoma, cataracts, or eye damage due to diabetes. Generally, the best light therapy boxes provide at least 10,000 LUX of light exposure that is as low of UV exposure as possible.

It is normally recommended to utilize these devices immediately upon waking or at least within an hour of waking for a period of 20 to 30 minutes. Its important to not stare directly at the light and to keep it between 16 and 24 inches from the face for maximum safety.  

6. Go to bed at a decent time

Before the advent of electricity, humans slept as soon as it got dark and woke up when it got light out. We evolved this way, and this is why our brains are physiologically primed to release serotonin when it’s light out and melatonin when it’s dark out.

Artificial lights and electronics have disrupted our normal evolutionary sleep patterns. This is one reason why some people sleep poorly and wake to feel unrested. It is impractical for some people to go to bed at sundown, and staying up later is necessary for various reasons, including work schedules.

Going to bed earlier often results in better sleep. It is just as important to go to bed at the same time each night, though so our sleep-wake cycle can be optimized. In Chinese medicine, different organs and meridians in the body are associated with different times of the day.

The gallbladder meridians time is from 11 PM to 1 AM. When we are not sleeping at this time, this can cause an imbalance. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine theory, the gallbladder meridian is responsible for our mood, decision-making ability, and ability to respond to stress.

When this meridian is imbalanced, we may feel stressed, agitated, angry, anxious, or just unable to cope with stress. This may result in more stress hormones being released during the day and poorer sleep, both of which result in feeling more fatigued. It is important for this reason to go to bed prior to 11, so this important meridian can repair itself each day. 

[Read: A Simple Trick For Falling Asleep Anywhere]

7. Sleep Hygiene

Utilizing sleep hygiene measures can help you sleep more soundly and wake feeling more refreshed. Good sleep hygiene means that you follow a consistent routine each day that helps promote good quality sleep.

This involves optimizing the environment in your bedroom to promote good sleep and implementing certain measures as part of your daily routine. One effective sleep hygiene measures include not looking at electronic screens for at least an hour prior to your bedtime and dimming your light.

This allows for melatonin to be produced by the brain. Bright screens not only prevent melatonin from being released in the brain but also cause serotonin to be produced, which makes it difficult to sleep. Instead, try reading a book before bed.

Another measure to promote good sleep is ensuring your bedroom is dark enough to facilitate melatonin production. Blackout curtains can be purchased for this purpose. You should also have a fixed bedtime and wake up time to ensure your sleep cycle stays in synch.

Doing something to relax prior to bedtime is also recommended, whether this is praying, meditating, deep breathing, taking a hot bath, or listening to relaxing music. It is also important to only use your bed for sleeping or sex. Doing things like studying and working can cause your bedroom to be associated with stress instead of relaxation.

If you are unable to fall asleep within 20 minutes of going to bed, it is important to get up and do something calming in low light, such as stretching or reading, prior to attempting to fall asleep again. There are several other factors that can impact circadian rhythms.

Things like daytime light exposure to natural light, physical activity, quitting smoking, not drinking caffeine after 2 PM , and limiting alcohol consumption can help with sleep. It is also important to not eat big meals within 2 hours of your bedtime since your food needs time to digest prior to sleeping.

Making sure your bed is comfortable and your room is at the right temperature is important too. It is recommended to replace your mattress every 6 to 8 years. The best temperature to sleep at is between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit or 15.6 to 19.4 degrees.  

8. Grounding

Try walking barefoot in the grass. This improves sleep, reduces pain, decreases muscle pain, lower stress, and feels more awake. Direct contact with the earth puts us in contact with the earth’s subtle bioelectric fields, which helps to rebalance us.

When we walk outside in shoes, and are not directly in contact with the earth, so we do not get these benefits. The earth’s surface has a negative charge, and when the soles of the feet come in contact with the earth, electrons are transferred into our bodies, which helps to neutralize free radicals and effectively acts as an anti-oxidant.

Contact directly with the earth’s surface also helps to regulate our circadian rhythms. 

9. Hydrotherapy

Hydrotherapy, also known as water cure, is a treatment utilizing water to help relieve pain, boost immune function, detoxify, and promote well-being. By alternating between hot and cold during your shower, you encourage lymphatic circulation.

The hot water dilating your blood vessels and the cold water constricting your blood vessels creates a pumping action. The best way to do this is to start with hot water for 1-2 minutes, then switch to cold water for another 1-2 minutes.

Repeat this for up to 20 minutes, and feel like you just walked out of the spa. Due to improved blood circulation to your brain, this also leaves you feeling energized and invigorated. 

10. Avoid Sugar

Avoiding sugar, especially in your breakfast foods, can help to regulate blood sugar levels. Keeping your blood sugar steady throughout the day can result in more energy since your blood sugar isn’t repeatedly spiking and crashing. It’s important to focus on eating enough protein and good fats in the morning.

This also helps to support adrenal function. To keep blood sugar steady throughout the day, it is good to eat regularly and avoid sugar and refined carbs during the day. Insulin levels are highest during the night, so if you are going to consume sweets, the evening is the time to do it. Insulin ensures glucose from the foods you eat make it into the cells.

Without insulin, there is no glucose to use for the process of cellular respiration. Less energy is produced within the cell when the sugar can’t make it into the cells. In some people, this occurs due to insulin resistance. Persistently high insulin over time causes the body to become less sensitive to insulin.

This can be avoided by reducing your consumption of refined carbohydrates like white sugar, white flour, and fruit juices and focusing on more complex carbohydrates such as whole grains and vegetables. 

In sum, there are various caffeine-free, health-promoting measures one can use when feeling groggy to have more energy and feel better in the morning. Feeling fatigued can be due to underlying medical conditions, so if the cause of your fatigue isn’t obvious, a trip to your medical provider may be a good idea.

This will help rule out common and easily treatable medical conditions that may be responsible for your fatigue. Self-care measures can also help you feel more energized, as can various activities that increase blood flow to the brain.

When the brain is oxygenated, we feel more awake. When you feel more awake, you are able to think better and be more productive.  

About The Author:

Hayley CollingeDr. Hayley Collinge, Naturopathic Doctor, and founder of Evolve Healthcare by Dr. Hayley LLC, graduated from Boucher Institute of Naturopathic Medicine in 2013 and has been practicing in Arizona since 2014. She has also been licensed and practicing in Kamloops, BC since August of 2020, and works out of SKIN Kamloops medispa doing Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy (BHRT). She also does telehealth consults independently throughout BC, and housecalls in Kamloops and the surrounding area.

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