Original Article Written By: Robert Sanders
Summarized By: Neurobit
How you slept, what you ate for breakfast, and the amount of physical activity you engaged in the day before have more to do with your morning alertness than you think. Research done by scientists Raphael Vallat, Matthew Walker, and their colleagues at the University of California, Berkeley brings attention to factors that impact feelings of morning grogginess.
In the study, 833 participants were given a variety of breakfast meals and were asked to wear a wristwatch to record their physical activity and sleep quality, write down what they ate, and keep track of their levels of alertness throughout the day. At the end of the experiment, the researchers found that a combination of what breakfast food participants ate, their level of physical activity the day before, and how long and late into the morning individuals slept influenced their alertness in the mornings.
In a separate study testing specifically the type of food that promotes the best morning alertness, Vallat and Walker compared the effects of a standardized breakfast, with moderate amounts of fat and carbohydrates, to a high protein, high carbohydrate or high sugar breakfast. They found that when given this sugar-infused breakfast, participants struggled with sleepiness. “We have known for some time that a diet high in sugar is harmful to sleep, not to mention being toxic for the cells in your brain and body,” Walker mentioned. “However, what we have discovered is that, beyond these harmful effects on sleep, consuming high amounts of sugar in your breakfast, and having a spike in blood sugar following any type of breakfast meal, markedly blunts your brain's ability to return to waking consciousness following sleep.”
Additionally, the results of Vallet and Walker’s research found that sleeping later or longer than usual resulted in participants becoming alert quicker after waking up. To better transition from feelings of grogginess to cognitive alertness in the mornings, the researchers recommend getting seven to nine hours of sleep a night.
Furthermore, the researchers and their colleagues tested the relationship between genetics and alertness in the morning through a twin study. The data from this study showed that genetics has a minor role in alertness level, explaining only around 25% of the differences among people.
Lastly, the researchers explained the potential impacts exercise can have on morning alertness. They noted that physical activity is known to have positive effects on alertness and mood levels. Therefore, the high correlation they found between alertness and mood level in their experiment was not surprising. Exercise is also known to improve sleep quality as can be seen in past research. For this reason, the researchers suggest that exercising the day before will help individuals sleep better and thus be more awake the following morning and throughout the day.
Sanders, R. (2022, November 29). Scientists discover secret to waking up alert and refreshed. UC Berkeley News. Retrieved December 9, 2022, from https://news.berkeley.edu/2022/11/29/scientists-discover-secret-to-waking-up-alert-and-refreshed/
Vallat, R., Berry, S.E., Tsereteli, N. et al. How people wake up is associated with previous night’s sleep together with physical activity and food intake. Nat Commun 13, 7116 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-022-34503-2