As the old popular song goes, waking up is hard to do.
OK, so the original lyric is “breaking up”, but now the mornings are getting darker and cooler we can all probably agree the revised version is more relevant. From the moment our clocks went back last month, waking up has become a serious struggle (if it wasn’t already).
Bounding out of bed and feeling ready to tackle the day seems an impossible task when the sun hasn’t even bothered to show its face. It’s no wonder some animals hibernate through the colder, darker months — alas, we humans have things like “jobs” and “families” requiring our attention.
This dark morning struggle doesn’t make you a lazy slob; it’s actually a pretty common phenomenon. It all comes down to how the morning light affects your cortisol awakening response, or CAR — a burst of the stress hormone cortisol that occurs in the brain when you wake up.
According to the Telegraph, this natural process "primes the rest of the brain for maximum functioning", by releasing stored energy and getting your muscles ready for the day ahead.
Research indicates that light can seriously hamper our cortisol awakening response. This is a key reason why you feel so groggy and slow on mornings with minimal natural light.
That's not the only process contributing to your zombie-like state.
“When the sun comes up in the morning, the light turns off or suppresses melatonin, which is the naturally occurring body hormone which helps us go to sleep,” president of the Australasian Sleep Association, Dr Maree Barnes, told news.com.au earlier this year.
Watch: Arianna Huffington reckons we need a sleep intervention. (Post continues after video.)
Essentially, melatonin gives way to cortisol, which gets our energy levels up.
If this gloomy morning business is really getting you down, introducing some artificial light into your room might help. In other countries where winter sunlight is seriously limited, some people find relief in bedside light therapy devices.
"The light starts to emerge about half an hour before you wake up, so it’s mimicking the dawn. Light before awakening increases your CAR and that is associated with increased arousal,” Angela Clow, Professor of Psychophysiology at the University of Westminster, tells the Telegraph.
These don't appear to be widely available in Australia, however you can order a Lumie Bodyclock alarm through Wiggle for AU$102.93. (Post continues after gallery.)
It's not even winter yet, so there are many, many dark torturous mornings ahead. There's not much that can be done about that.
However, to ensure you're getting enough sleep in general the Sleep Health Foundation recommends: establishing a regular sleep pattern, winding down in the leadup to bed time, avoiding daytime naps and ensuring your bed is a space strictly for sleep, not entertainment.
Are you struggling with these early mornings?
Featured image: iStock.