Hello darkness my old friend: tips for dealing with dark winter mornings

As memories of summer fade into autumn’s golden hues, we see the days shortening and must tackle those dark morning starts. It’s not something our ancestors had to contend with – they rose with the sun – but it’s one of the demands of modern working life.

If, like me, you’re relatively happy with a sunlit early start, but find autumn and winter mornings difficult, here are some tips on coping with dark mornings once the clocks have gone back.

Top tips for dark morning starts

1. Get out during the day, even if it isn’t sunny. Exposure to natural daylight can lift our mood, even on an overcast day.

2. Keep up exercise. It may feel harder when the weather isn’t at its best, but regular exercise is a great way of combatting daytime fatigue. A daytime walk, run or cycle outside will combine exercise and daylight exposure.

3. Think about taking a vitamin D supplement. Our skin synthesises this vitamin when exposed to light so shorter days may mean we are producing less.

4. Connect with nature. Getting outside is also a great way to stay in touch with the natural world. This is great for our wellbeing; noticing the little changes around us helps to remind us that spring is on the way.

5. Stay Hydrated. When we wake up we need to hydrate and this can contribute to feeling fatigued. While a caffeine fix is the first choice for many, try drinking some water first.

6. Prep the night before. Get as many things done each evening so you don’t have to start each morning with an unappealing to-do list. This might include choosing clothes for the next day, making a packed lunch, or packing your work bag.

7. No screens before sleep. If you’re finding it hard to sleep, or you aren’t feeling refreshed on waking, make sure that you aren’t using a screen for the last hour before bed. The light from screens can disrupt the natural rhythm by which our body prepares for sleep each day.

8. Turn off the snooze button. It’s very tempting to think ‘just a few more minutes in bed’ but it may be better to start your day straight away and avoid the risk of oversleeping. Turn the snooze button off and and put your phone or alarm out of reach, so you have to get up to turn it off.

9. Turn the light on. Put the light on as soon as you are awake. This will help your body maintain a sleep-wake rhythm and avoid daytime fatigue.

10. Try listening to some epic music on your way to work. Something like the film theme from The Lord of the Rings will make even a familiar walk or the most humdrum commute feel like an momentous quest!

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