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'I’m a doctor – here’s the one thing you should do every morning after waking up'

It can be hard to feel motivated for the day first thing in the morning. On colder, darker days in particular it can be tempting to hit that snooze button and stay in bed for as long as possible.

While we do need a certain amount of rest, getting into this habit could be doing us no favours. One GP revealed a specific thing we should do every day after waking up for a number of health reasons.

Speaking exclusively with Express.co.uk, Doctor Deborah Lee – from the Dr Fox Online Pharmacy – advised we should expose ourselves to sunlight first thing in the morning.

“One of the most important things you should do immediately after waking is to go outside and expose your skin to natural sunlight,” she said.

“This should be within an hour of getting out of bed.” This could include sitting or walking in the sun for 30 to 45 minutes, she said.

Dr Lee continued: “The sun is less intense early in the morning than later in the day.” However, she still recommended wearing sunscreen but not sunglasses. “The natural light must hit the back of the eyes,” she said.

Doing this can help keep your natural body clock running smoothly – aiding sleep and even lowering your risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

Dr Lee explained: “Your body’s metabolic and physiologic processes are governed by your circadian rhythms – the body’s natural body clock.

“This is a specialised group of cells called the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) which is situated in the hypothalamus, behind the eyes, at the base of the brain.

“To work efficiently, the SCN needs to fully appreciate the difference between day and night. The SCN is the main central pacemaker for the body – but amazingly, it also communicates with cellular clocks in all the other cells and tissues in the body.

“When we sleep, the brain and body are far from inactive. A range of metabolic processes swings into action.”

These processes, according to Dr Lee are:

  • The brain focuses on cognitive function and memories are created. Waste products and toxins – including beta-amyloid – the main abnormal protein in Alzheimer’s Disease – are removed from brain tissue
  • Hormones are produced such as growth hormone, cortisol and the hunger hormones leptin and ghrelin which control our appetite
  • The body is clearing and repairing damaged cells and tissues
  • Energy stores are being replenished
  • Your muscles are resting, and damaged muscle cells are removed, and new ones are formed.

She also warned that not getting seven hours of good quality sleep per night increases the risk of chronic disease and premature death.

“Insomnia and sleep deprivation reduce life expectancy,” Dr Lee said. “Sleep specialists have found that exposure to early morning light can improve insomnia. It is also helpful for anyone with jet lag, shift work, sleep disorders, depression, Seasonal Affective Disorder(SAD) and Alzheimer’s disease.

“In fact, early morning light is beneficial for all sleep problems in general.”

She referenced a 2016 meta-analysis that included 53 studies and 1,154 participants in which light therapy was found to be effective for sleep problems in general, circadian rhythm disorders, insomnia and Alzheimer’s Disease.

Dr Lee said: “Many of these studies used a light box as a form of therapy, but a simpler and easier option is just to go outside for an early morning walk and take advantage of natural sunlight.

“It seems that exposure to natural light first thing in the morning helps rest the natural body clock.”

She added: “If you can establish this as part of your daily ritual and stick to it, it should give you life-long health benefits.

“For those who can’t get outside, a lightbox or a sunrise alarm clock is a reasonable alternative.”


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