The holidays are long in the past, the mornings are still dark and cold, and it feels that little bit harder to leap out of bed each day. And while we all know the value of a good night's sleep, more than a quarter of us say we're regularly not getting it, leaving us low on energy. But just a few simple steps can get you feeling more alert each day - here are five ways to help.
Follow the 90-minute rule
When it comes to setting the alarm, timing is key. "During the night, we cycle from light to deep sleep and back again, and each cycle takes about 90 minutes," says sleep expert and clinical scientist Dr Charlotte Kemp. "If your alarm goes off when you are in deep sleep, you are likely to feel groggy and take longer to wake up. But if your alarm goes off when you are in light sleep, you'll feel alert sooner." The trick is to plan sleep in multiples of 90 minutes. So for example, if you want to wake up at 7am, go to bed at 11.30pm. "Just don’t press snooze," adds Dr Kemp. "This makes your body gear up for going back to sleep again."
Our signature scents are as vital as our wardrobe staples, but fragrance can also play a role in how refreshed we feel. This is because smell is associated with the limbic system - the area of the brain responsible for moods and emotions. ''Anything that features lavender should ease you into a deep slumber," says fragrance expert Lorna McKay, co-founder of the Perfume Society. And for waking up, "Put a spring in your step with fragrances that contain citrus," adds Lorna, who recommends Botanical Essence No.1 by Liz Earle (£49). Introducing citrus scents to your home can also be a good alternative, if you prefer to skip adding to your personal fragrance collection. The White Company has a variety of fresh, citrusy home options.
Keep up the workouts
Exercise is one of the most valuable ways to balance your energy levels. A recent study found that 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity a week can have a 65% improvement in sleep quality and help people feel less drowsy during the day too. "Just leave at least an hour after exercising before you go to sleep, so that you can wind down," advises Dr Kemp. While research differs on when's the best time to exercise (ultimately, it's what works for you), the NHS suggests that even just five minutes of stretches each morning can help you feel more alert.
Feed Your Sleep
Nutrition plays a key role in how we feel each day - and how easily we sleep. "Ensure your evening meal includes whole grains such as brown rice or quinoa, and a lean protein source, such as turkey, as this will provide the tryptophan and carbohydrates needed to promote the production of melatonin, the hormone that regulates sleep," says Emma Rose, nutritionist at Fresh Fitness Food. "Leafy greens are a great accompaniment: rich in fibre, they also contain magnesium, which has a calming effect on the body. Just try to reduce high-fat foods, as fat requires longer to digest, and avoid large meals two hours before bedtime, as that directs energy towards the digestion process, rather than rest and recuperation."
Have the right light
When it comes to switching off, "Exposure to the blue light at night from your phone, computer and television suppresses the production of melatonin, the sleep-promoting hormone, making it harder to drift off,” says Dr Kemp, who suggests avoiding devices an hour before bed. And when it comes to waking up, try leaving your blinds open a little to let in the morning sun - this stimulates your body clock, helping you wake up better. Alternatively, get a Lumie clock, which uses gradually increasing light to rouse you from sleep.