Survey finds shattered Brits struggling to wake-up

Is your mood lower in winter? Dr Kat Lederle and Rob Hobson explain why we take time to readjust our sleep pattern through the winter months.
Struggling to wake-up

Struggling to wake-up and not feeling fully rested is a huge problem for people a new study has revealed with many of us functioning on ‘autopilot’ and not starting to feel fully awake until at least half an hour AFTER starting work.

A study of 2,000 adults found the average alarm is set for 6.54am, before they actually get out of bed at 7.12am.

But it’s another 29 minutes before people feel awake and ready to start the day – although men need an extra five minutes longer than women to get going (31 minutes compared to 26 minutes).

Dr Kat Lederle, a sleep therapist and body clock expert, who is working with Healthspan who commissioned the survey said, “Many of us struggle in the morning mostly because we don’t get enough quality sleep during the night. It could be too short and/ or it is disrupted. Sometimes there isn’t an overt sleep problem and yet the quality of our sleep is reduced. Often this is due to stress during the day which still affects us (through subconscious worrying) at night while we sleep. Or it might be that we get up too early, well before our body clock would naturally end our sleep.”

Dr Kat Lederle continues, “While some early birds are able to jump straight out of bed, awake and refreshed and ready for whatever they face that day, others need to take their time to fully wake up.

“Many will find they have a natural sleep pattern and you get the best sleep if you follow this pattern. This is turn will make waking up in the morning easier.”

Why are we struggling to wake-up

It also emerged one in five often arrive at work still feeling sleepy, with 17 per cent admitting they aren’t completely awake during the commute and a third are functioning on autopilot.

As a result, those workers spend the first 35 minutes of their morning at work trying to fully wake up so they can face the day ahead.

But a quarter of adults polled by supplement firm Healthspan claim to have whole days where it feels like they never really feel completely awake and alert.

But the study found that not feeling properly awake has seen 36 per cent make a mistake, while 30 per cent have snapped at someone.

Others admitted it led them to eat unhealthy food (30 per cent), arrive late to work (18 per cent) or even have a road accident (five per cent).

It also emerged that three in 10 believe they are finding it harder to wake up in the mornings as they get older, while 55 per cent struggle more in the winter than at any other time of the year.

And nearly two fifths of those in the study claimed their mood is lower in the winter, with experts believing that some people are more predisposed to SAD.

Dr Kat, said “The winter clock change is a good thing because it means it is brighter in the morning when we wake up. If we also go to bed on time, meaning when we get sleepy in the evening, then this can have a positive impact on the quality of our sleep. Ideally, we would spend time outdoors in the natural light during the morning and then dim the lights when the sun goes down in the evening.

“However, because we have to get up at a consistent time, e.g for work or school, we end up waking in the dark the further we get into winter. Because of the lack of light which helps to alert us, we struggle again to get up.’

For people who are more sensitive to lower light levels or short daylight, though, they might experience Seasonal Affective Disorder. This is a form of depression tied in with seasonal changes in day length.”

Dr Meg Arroll, a Psychologist at Healthspan said: For some people, the darker winter months trigger Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

“One potential reason for this is that the lack of daylight affects the production of hormones which regulate our natural sleep-wake cycle.

“Levels of melatonin and serotonin, which are also important for mood regulation, can become imbalanced and this can have a negative effect on how we feel, leading to depressed mood, lack of energy and general desire to hibernate.

“Even though there may not be a firm consensus over the precise cause of mood changes that occur in the winter, we do know that vitamin D deficiency is associated with low mood.

“So it maybe helpful to invest in a good quality 10mcg vitamin D product this winter, as per government guidelines such as Healthspan vitamin D 3, 140 tablets £8.95.”

The study also found that nearly two thirds of those polled believe their body has a natural inclination to sleep at a certain time.

Finding out more about how our circadian rhythm works is something we could all explore and Dr Kat says, “All biological processes within the body vary across the 24-hour light-dark cycle, they have ups and downs. These rhythms are typically a bit longer than 24-hours which is why we call them circa = almost and dian = day. The daily light exposure helps to keep these rhythms on a 24-hour schedule to match the external day. A good example of a circadian rhythm is the cycle of sleep and wake.“

Although 25 per cent think their sleeping pattern has changed in the last six months as life has started to return to normal post-lockdowns.

In a bid to feel more awake in the mornings, 36 per cent turn to a strong coffee and 24 per cent rely on a hot shower.

Stretching (22 per cent), a walk or exercise (16 per cent) and playing loud music (12 per cent) are also common tactics.

The study, carried out via OnePoll, also found 36 per cent of adult consider themselves to be a night owl, while 33 per cent think they are early birds.

Top 10 things Brits do to feel more awake in the morning:

  1. A strong coffee
  2. A hot shower
  3. Forcing yourself out of bed as soon as the alarm goes off
  4. Stretching
  5. Opening the windows
  6. A morning walk
  7. Making the bed
  8. Doing some exercise
  9. A glass of juice
  10. Putting music on loud

Finally, Dr Kat offers the following tip for those who struggled to wake up feeling refreshed; “Go to bed on time and if you can get up when your inner clock tells you to get up. When you can because of other commitments, make sure your mornings are bright – either by opening the curtains and going for a walk or get a morning wake up lamp. In the evening dim your lights in the hours before you go to bed to inform your body clock that night-time is coming and it’s time to sleep. “

Rob Hobson Registered Nutritionist and author of The Art of Sleeping (amazon) says:

  • Don’t be in a rush to plug yourself back into the digital world when you wake up. Try not to switch your phone on until you have showered and eaten breakfast, because starting your day on a sour note as a result of a negative email just encourages stress.
  • Open the curtains to allow as much natural light to enter your bedroom as possible and switch on the lights, which will encourage the brain to stop releasing melatonin as it uses the hormone cortisol as a tool to help us to rise from slumber and encourage appetite.
  • Whether you eat as soon as you get up or prefer to eat later in the morning (choice or intermittent fasting), make the first meal of the day one that includes protein, fibre and healthy fats to keep you energised through until lunch.
  • Don’t forget to take your supplements. During the autumn and winter months this means vitamin D but you may also be taking other supplements to support your health at any one point in time such as a simple multivitamin to fill any dietary gaps you may be experiencing such as Healthspan Multivitality Gold 90 tablets, £6.95.
  • Plan your day ahead the evening before to avoid any unnecessary stress in the morning which can prevent you from starting the day well. Jot down a to do list the evening before and lay your clothes out ready for the day ahead.
  • Don’t hit the snooze button. Once your alarm goes off then get out of bed. It’s tricky during the autumn and winter months when its dark outside but snoozing is likely to leave you feeling groggy, especially if you fall back into a deep sleep.
  • Savour that first coffee as it is always going to be the best one of the day. If you’re sensitive to coffee then any others during the day risk upsetting your sleep especially if you are not sleeping well so make the most of this one.
  • Morning workouts are a great way to start the day. Exercise releases endorphins which trigger a positive feeling in the body.

For more content about healthy sleep patterns visit our Health channel.

Last modified: November 3, 2021

Written by 3:55 pm Health