By Alisha Gupta
As medical students, it can be difficult to fit in everything we want to do into each day. Early on in the year, I realised that I was doing something every evening of the week, whether that be attending talks, sports training or spending time with friends. I was struggling to keep on top of work because there were so many fantastic opportunities but not enough time (or so I thought...).
In the new year, I decided that this was going to change- I was going to wake up earlier and get things done in the morning. I’ve never been a ‘morning person’, but I can honestly say that it has transformed my mentality and I can now fit a lot more into my days. I aim to be in bed by 10pm, read for 30 minutes and then I wake up at 6.25am, giving me approximately 7.5-8 hours of sleep.
Here are some things which you can do to maximise your mornings!
Establishing a night-time routine helps you to sleep better and you can wake up feeling ready to go. By preparing things which can be done the day before, you reduce the number of decisions and tasks you need to do when you wake up, meaning you can focus on the things which are important to you. I make sure my bag is packed the night before (including all those EXTREMELY important mid-lecture snacks).
Deciding what to wear can be very stressful but this morning stressor can be removed by planning your outfit the night before, so the next morning you can just get dressed.
Having a clear outline of what you want to achieve during the day is a great way for your mind to keep focused. Writing a to-do list the night before ensures that you know what you want to get out of the day, and it is very satisfying to tick things off as you go along!
We want to start our days being focused as this mentality will carry on for the rest of the day. However as soon as we check our phones, this focus lessens.
Imagine that you’ve just woken up and 30 people come into your room and start talking to you. You would not want to speak to them as you need time to get ready and wake up properly. This is similar to how you use your phone; if you use it as soon as you wake up, you are bombarded with notifications and your body is not ready to respond to this intense stimuli as soon as you wake up. You need time to wake up properly, and then you can start responding to your messages. Create these good habits and stick to them and ultimately you will waste less time on your phone.
At night, the blue light emitted by our devices keeps us awake for longer by delaying melatonin release. By turning your phone and electrical devices off at least 30 minutes before bedtime, ensures that your hormones are less affected, helping you to achieve good quality sleep, so you are refreshed the next morning.
Exercising in the morning helps you to feel more awake, and it increases levels of BDNF (brain-derived nutrient factor) which improves neuroplasticity and mood, therefore improving your ability to learn and stay focused during lectures and placement.
The public spaces and gyms are much quieter in the morning compared to the evenings, so you can FIT in (pun intended!) an effective workout without having to wait for equipment or watch out for pedestrians whilst you are running/walking. There are also lots of online workouts which can be done in your bedroom!
Scenes from my morning bike ride along the Victoria Embankment
This varies, but our brains tend to be sharpest in the mornings. There are fewer distractions as most people are sleeping, meaning that you can get an effective study session completed in the morning. By working in the morning, you are giving yourself more time in the evenings to unwind before bed. Personally, after a day of lectures, my brain is frazzled, so it is a relief to have a lighter workload in the evenings.
It took me a few weeks to adjust to this new routine and have been flexible as things can go on past bedtime. My friends know about my routine and are understanding when I leave early to go to bed (as much of a granny as that makes me sound!).
Gradually try these tips and wake up 15 minutes earlier every week until you find a suitable time for you and hopefully you will be able to realise the benefits of waking up early!