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Reclaim Sunrise

Make the most of the morning

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Reclaim Sunrise

Night owls, take note: it is possible to change your habits and become a morning person. One of the keys is beginning with a good night's sleep.

Several years ago during a conversation with a friend I realized I was not a member of the early risers club. “I find the time just before sunset to be the best for taking photographs,” I said.

“That, and just before sunrise,” came the reply.

My initial thought was, “What’s a sunrise?” It was my first inkling that I was missing something.

Good for family harmony

Not only was I missing sunrises, but my habit of getting up at the crack of noon meant I was also missing a good part of the day. In the end, I really didn’t get to choose to be a morning person. My husband readily springs out of bed in the morning and my two sons inherited the same trait. Needless to say, if I wanted to hang out with the boys, I had to haul my late-night-loving body out of bed—early.

Good for business

Family harmony isn’t the only good reason to forgo the sleep-in. Many in the business world believe the early bird gets the deal. CEOs of major companies such as Apple, Avon, and Disney report waking times of 5 am or before. Lifehack.org, a blog dedicated to helping people improve productivity, recommends using the early hours to pack in some productive investing.

Good for health and happiness

A study by the University of Toronto found early risers rated their health and happiness higher than those who choose to stay up late. Researchers concluded that since society is set up on a nine-to-five routine, those who are in sync with that routine are more likely to be happier.

Early bird strategies

Using a few simple strategies, even the most nightly of owls can train themselves to be a morning lark.

Get a good night’s sleep

If you’re well rested you’ll be less inclined to linger under the duvet when it’s time to get up. Ensure you get a sound sleep by avoiding caffeine and alcohol before bed. Fit some exercise into each day. Resist snacking in the hours before bed. Establish a relaxing bedtime routine. Take a warm bath or spend some time reading a book, for example.

Light up

In the dead of winter, getting out of bed while it’s still dark can be especially challenging. It may add to the energy bill, but give yourself permission to turn on lots of lights (without disturbing your slumbering loved ones). This bright environment will keep your eyes open and help shake off sleepiness.

Nourish yourself

Combining sweet and sour flavours, says dietitian Danielle Velez, will take the edge off lingering morning fogginess. A fresh orange will add a little sunshine to your day along with a dose of vitamin C and fibre. Alternatively, a cup of warm water flavoured with a bit of honey and lime will do the trick and stimulate digestion as well.

Brew a cup

I love the morning ritual of brewing a cup of eye-opening coffee. The roasty scent is my morning aromatherapy. The National Sleep Foundation states that the caffeine in coffee acts as a stimulant that helps people wake up, and that moderate coffee consumption—three cups a day—so far has not been shown to be harmful. Additionally, research now suggests that caffeine, whether in coffee, tea, or cocoa, is a powerful antioxidant.

Caffeinated beverages may cause jitteriness and heart irregularities; if you experience these effects, it may be best to choose another morning drink.

Be consistent

Sticking to a regular bedtime and waking time will allow your body to reset its natural rhythm, or circadian clock. Sadly, sleeping in on weekends will only leave you feeling tired and drowsy on Mondays.

There’s something hopeful about mornings, whether you choose to watch the sunrise, rustle up breakfast for the kids, or enjoy some peaceful meditation. And claiming the early hours may just make you healthier and happier.

Sun salutations

“If I only had five minutes in the morning to squeeze in some yoga, I’d do five sun salutations,” says yoga instructor Kate McDonald Walker.

Sun salutations will give you energy and strength to face the day. Remember never to push yourself to the point of discomfort—each pose should feel comfortable.

Sun salutations

1: Mountain

Stand with your feet hip-distance apart, hands at your side. Take a few slow, deep breaths.

2: Hands up

Inhale slowly and reach both arms above your head and as far back as you comfortably can.

3: Standing forward bend

Exhale and bend forward at the hips, keeping a long, straight spine, and reach your arms toward your toes.

4: Lunge

As you inhale, put your hands on the floor in front of you. With your right leg, step back into a lunge. Feel the gentle stretch along the front and back of your thigh.

Sun salutations

5: Plank

Bring your left leg back in line with your right so that your weight is distributed between your hands and your feet. Draw in your abdominal muscles, keeping your back level.

6: Chaturanga

Bend your elbows to about 90 degrees, at the same time bringing them close to your body. Maintain a level back. Beginners may do this pose with knees on the ground.

7: Cobra

Push up with your arms and bring your upper back into a gentle arch.

8: Downward dog

Lift your hips and push up with your arms, gently straightening your legs so you are bending over in an inverted V-shape. Hold for five slow breaths.

Sun salutations

9: Lunge

Still with hands on the floor, inhale and step forward with the right leg.

10: Standing forward bend

Bring feet together and gently rise to a forward bend with your arms reaching toward your toes, as far as you comfortably can, keeping a long, straight spine.

11: Hands up

Inhale slowly and reach both arms above your head and as far back as you comfortably can.

12: Mountain pose

Lower hands to your side.

Take a few slow, deep breaths.

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