If you have trouble rolling out of bed in the morning, you're in good company — it takes most Americans two alarms and a total of 24 minutes to get out from under the covers, according to a 2022 survey commissioned by mattress review company MattressNerd. The number one feeling reported in the morning? Groggy.
But if anyone struggles to get up, it should be doctors, who often are awake before dawn and don't sink into their sheets until late at night. So how do they get the energy to keep going, going, going? Here are seven tips that physicians swear by to keep them feeling like the Energizer Bunny all day long.
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1. Warm Up
When Eric Han, MD, MBA, wakes up, the first thing he does is put on an extra layer of clothes. "The rationale behind this is to keep my body temperature warm, specifically my muscles," Dr. Han, a hospitalist at the Indiana University Health in Indianapolis, explains.
Then, to limber up muscles that are stiff from sleeping, he does a few basic stretches. "It's not overly complicated to the point that it ends up being a yoga session, rather just a simple stretching of the neck, shoulder, hands, low back and lower extremity." These stretches can help boost energy, Dr. Han says, and are a good message to the rest of your body that your day is about to start. A 2020 study published in the journal Perceptual and Motor Skills found that young adults who stretched for a full ten minutes reported less fatigue and improvements in mood.
Another good warm up option is yoga. "I try and begin every morning with ten minutes of yoga," says Alex Trevatt, MD, a plastic surgeon in London. "Whenever I miss it, I notice the difference throughout the day. I feel sluggish and less motivated."
If you don't feel like doing downward facing dog, consider some quick planks, lunges or push-ups. "I do a quick set of 20 push-ups before I leave for work: It gives me a quick jolt of energy by triggering all the sympathetic responses such as increased heart rate," Dr. Han says.
2. Drink Water
Mahmud Kara, MD, a functional medicine specialist in Cleveland and founder of KaraMD may skip breakfast every day, but he kickstarts his morning routine by drinking a large glass of water. "It might seem simple but starting the day like this can have many health benefits and can drive your overall routine," he explains. The biggest benefit? Rehydration.
"During our six to eight hours of rest, we lose water through sweat, urine and the general metabolism process," he says. When you guzzle water, it helps jump-start your mind and in turn helps improve your mental performance throughout the day. A 2019 study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, for example, found that test takers who were dehydrated performed more poorly on their exam — but bounced back once they were rehydrated.
If you find it hard to get down plain water, prepare a pitcher of water with lemon or cucumber the night before, Dr. Kara suggests.
3. Walk With a Loved One
Exercise is a great way to get energized in the morning — a 2019 study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that a bout of morning exercise boosts attention and working memory. But you may find it even more enjoyable if you do it with a special someone.
NYC dermatologist Debra Jaliman, MD, takes a walk-through Central Park with her new puppy most mornings as the sun rises. "When I get back, I'm ready to shower, moisturize and begin my day," she says.
Dentist Alex Rubinov, DDS, makes it a priority three to four times a week to get outside for some outdoor time on a walk with his son. "I find the fresh air revitalizing and energizing," he says. Research backs him up: a 2022 study published in the journal Ambio found that the smells of nature evoke feelings of rejuvenation.
4. Make Your Bed (or Another Small Chore)
Brett Mollard, MD, a diagnostic radiologist in Tacoma, Washington, starts off his day with a few simple chores — he makes his bed, he puts away dry dishes from the night before and he waters his house plants. "Completing tasks first thing in the morning gives me an instant sense of accomplishment, which is a wonderful way to start the day," Dr. Mollard says.
5. Savor a Cup of Joe
A good cup of coffee has been shown to have numerous health benefits, particularly when it comes to diabetes and cardiovascular disease, Dr. Mollard says. But it also can give you a potent energy boost. "Drinking coffee gives me the sustainable mental energy I need to stay alert and focused throughout each day — and as a diagnostic radiologist, my days are mentally intensive and consist of non-stop thinking and problem solving," he says.
Bonus points if you sip it with a loved one. Shideh Shafie, MD, an emergency room physician in Providence, Rhode Island, relishes the early morning coffee she shares each day with her husband before anyone else in the house is up. "Creating that connection with him helps me feel energized throughout the day," she says.
Regular meditation has a long-lasting effect on your attention span and other cognitive abilities, according to a 2018 study published in the Journal of Cognitive Enhancement.
"I've found that taking a short meditation break — clearing my mind so every day starts with a fresh slate — helps me tackle each and every day with renewed fervor," Dr. Mollard says. "It allows me to put yesterday behind me and move forward with a clear and focused mind. It resets my mindset to one of peace and tranquility, which you need in a high stress profession."
Along with all of these benefits of meditation, it's also easy — you can do it anywhere, at any time. Here's an easy meditation exercise from Harvard Health Publishing: sit in a chair and breathe through your nose, allowing air to fill your lungs, then breathe out slowly through your mouth. This slows down your heart rate and blood pressure, and helps you relax. As you do so, engage your senses: notice each sight, touch and sound. If your mind wanders, bring it back to these sensations.
7. Soak in a Warm Tub
You might think a warm bath is only for before bed, but it can reinvigorate you in the morning, too. "The warm and soothing water both calms and invigorates me," says Clare Bertucio, MD, a radiation oncologist in Anchorage, Alaska and CEO of Medicine Mama's.
A 2018 study published in the journal Evidence Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine found that a regular warm bath boosts blood flow and helps reduce fatigue, stress and pain. Savor your last little bit of "me time" and soak up sea salts and natural oils, Dr. Bertucio advises. "I remember that if I show myself love, it reinforces my ability to support and aid others," she says.
- MattressNerd: "Alarming Habits." April 2020.
- "Perceptual and Motor Skills: Effects of Acute Stretching on Cognitive Function and Mood States of Physically Inactive Young Adults." November 2019.
- International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health: "Effects of Dehydration and Rehydration on Cognitive Performance and Mood among Male College Students in Cangzhou, China: A Self-Controlled Trial. November 2019
- British Journal of Sports Medicine: Distinct effects of acute exercise and breaks in sitting on working memory and executive function in older adults: a three-arm, randomised cross-over trial to evaluate the effects of exercise with and without breaks in sitting on cognition."
- Ambio: "Nature, Smells, and Human Wellbeing." July 2022
- Best Mattress Brand: "Can Making the Bed in the Morning Make You Happier?" August 2022
- Journal of Cognitive Enhancement: "Cognitive Aging and Long-Term Maintenance of Attentional Improvements Following Meditation Training." March 2018
- Evidence Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine: "Physical and Mental Effects of Bathing: A Randomized Intervention Study." June 2018.
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.