We’re often inundated with a ton of information about how we can increase our energy levels during the day. Eat this, drink that, skip this, forego that. But in reality, getting your energy back might be as simple as restructuring your morning routine so that you’re exposed to sunlight first thing when you wake up.
Most recently, sleep troubles have — admittedly — gotten the best of me. Initially, I tried going to bed earlier and even drinking a little more caffeine during the day to help me stay alert, but ultimately, I felt that I was still feeling lethargic and perhaps even making the problem worse.
The Link Between Sunlight, Energy, and Sleep
Luckily, I’d been reading up on how natural light affects our energy levels, particularly in the morning. Experts say that exposing ourselves to sunlight first thing in the AM hours can increase our energy because it signals to the brain that it’s time to wake up. This might seem obvious, but there’s a little more to it.
The brain and body operate synergistically with our environments to create our circadian rhythm, which describes our hormonal cycles during a given day. Our circadian rhythm is governed by light. Light exposure, like when the sun is up, triggers our brain to release adrenaline and cortisol, which tell our bodies that it’s time to get up and moving. On the other hand, when night falls and the sun sets, darkness tells our brains to release melatonin, which helps us fall and stay asleep.
Light therapy is something that’s relatively common these days, with many folks purchasing light “alarm” clocks and light therapy lamps for their homes. I personally had no desire to purchase one of these devices, but I decided that I would give light therapy a try the good ol’ fashioned way.
I challenged myself for 30 days to either sit outside or by a window for the first 15 to 30 minutes of each day to try and boost my energy levels. Each day I’d naturally wake around 5:30 a.m., and rather than stay in bed getting upset about the lack of sleep I was getting, I got up immediately and headed for the door (or window). Some days I took a book outside with me, some days I went for a walk around the block, and other days I simply sat and enjoyed some peace and quiet. To my surprise, the difference I noticed was huge.
Even though I was still only clocking between five and seven hours of sleep each night during the first two weeks of my little experiment, I felt so full of energy all day long. My focus was better, and I was able to get so much more done during the day. By week three, my sleep problems also completely disappeared. I started being able to fall asleep earlier and stay asleep during the night, and began waking up feeling fully energized. I even started going to the gym in the mornings before work!
Research shows that regulating your circadian rhythm has health benefits other than more energy and better sleep. For example, some studies have found that it can also help you improve your metabolic health and immunity!
So while you could experiment with all sorts of complicated tricks and tweaks to boost your energy, try just getting some natural light first thing in the morning. The impulse to stay in bed might be strong initially, but after you’ve made it a habit and have felt the differences in your body, this little morning ritual may become something you look forward to each and every day like I do.