04 Feb Which cycle days are you springing out of bed?
Notice that on some mornings, it’s easier to get your motor running and be rarin’ to go than on other days?
That’s the work of the cortisol awakening response–a naturally-occurring spike in the stress hormone cortisol about 20 to 30 minutes after you wake up that helps get your brain and body energized and prepared for the day ahead.
Research shows that certain factors affect how much this energizing hormone surges in the morning, for instance, it’s greater when you wake up earlier rather later (1), you sleep through a night when there’s total quiet (2), you don’t take aspirin before turning in (3) and it’s a workday as opposed to a day off (4).
But, those aren’t the only factors impacting this get-up-and-go hormone.
How hormones help you wake up
According to a 2011 study in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology, you’re also likely to experience a bigger surge in morning cortisol during your ovulation phase, which spans the last two days of Week 2 of your cycle and the first day of Week 3 (Days 13, 14 and 15 in a 28-day cycle).(5)
Credit goes to high estrogen on these days, which prompts a higher production of pep-boosting a.m. cortisol.
How can you use this hormone know-how?
If you’ve got an important activity to plan that occurs early in the day and requires a lot of mental or physical energy (like a breakfast meeting or moving) and you have the ability to schedule it around your cycle, consider having it fall on one of these days in your ovulation phase since you’ll naturally have more oomph right from the start.
And if you can’t schedule it to fall during ovulation, then keep in mind the other factors mentioned above that affect morning cortisol levels to ensure you wake up brimming with energy all cycle long.
Tip: Need help getting up in the morning?
Usually feel groggy when you usually wake up or need to spring out of bed earlier than usual (for example, to catch a plane) and need help being alert? Instead of using an alarm with a harsh beep tone to rouse you, set an alarm that plays music you enjoy. In a 2020 study from Australia’s RMIT University, researchers found that being awoken to music made participants more energized and alert than a buzzer.(6)
“We think that a harsh ‘beep beep beep’ might work to disrupt or confuse our brain activity when waking, while a more melodic sound like the Beach Boys ‘Good Vibrations’ or The Cure’s ‘Close to Me’ may help us transition to a waking state in a more effective way,” explains study co-author Adrian Dyer. Ph.D.
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(1)Bridgette Martina Kudielka, Clemens Kirschbaum, “Awakening cortisol responses are influenced by health status and awakening time but not by menstrual cycle phase,” Psychoneuroendocrinology, 28 (2003): 35-47
(2) Kerstin Persson Waye, et al., “Effects of nighttime low frequency noise on the cortisol response to awakening and subjective sleep quality,” Life Sciences, 72 (2003): 863-875
(3) Stuart Watson, et al., “Effect of aspirin on hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal function and on neuropsychological performance in healthy adults: a pilot study,” Pschyopharmacology, 205 (2009): 151-155
(4) Lisa Thorn, et al., “Suspected non-adherence and weekend versus week day differences in the awakening cortisol response,” Psychoneuroendocrinology, 31 (2006): 1009-1018
(5) Maren Wolfram, Silja Bellingrath, Brigitte M.Kudielk, “The cortisol awakening response (CAR) across the female menstrual cycle,” Psychoneuroendocrinology, 36 (2011): 905-912
(6) Stuart J. McFarlane, et al., “Alarm tones, music and their elements: Analysis of reported waking sounds to counteract sleep inertia,” PLOS ONE, January 28, 2020
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