Waking Gently

I have always found the winter months in Calgary difficult. Sure, the cold can take its toll at times, but I can find it tolerable as long as the sun is shining. We are lucky to be here, because most of the time we do get to enjoy a big blue sky with beautiful mountains on the horizon.
The fact that we thrive in light is more than a preference, it is a physiological response. A small, pea-sized gland in our brain, the pineal gland, is affected by the absence or presence of light. The pineal gland is considered to be our intuitive centre, and produces melatonin in the absence of light- our natural sleepy hormone. Our bodies are designed to wake upon sunrise and get sleepy with sunset. This process gets disrupted however, with our exposure to lights, tvs, computer and phone screens. This is why many sleep experts recommend dimming lights prior to bedtime, and avoiding electronically lit screens which can keep us awake.
Considering all of this, it makes sense that we become more lethargic in winter months when the days are 'shorter'. It also validates why it can be more difficult to get out of bed on those cold, dark winter days. If we are being awakened with sudden sound, our bodies will actually wake due to stress instead of our biological innate responses. This brings me to my new favourite thing...the sunrise alarm clock. I received this as a gift for Christmas, and had been considering getting one for some time. The alarm clock simulates a natural sunrise, beginning 10 minutes before your set wake time. At your set alarm time, either music or nature sounds will gradually increase to a preset volume in case you haven't already awaken from the light.
I've been using this alarm clock now for a few weeks, and notice a significant difference to my mood and level of alertness when I wake without it. I find I am waking more easily with the light alone, and the best feature is that you can hit "snooze" on the sound but not the light! So even if it takes a little longer to get moving in the morning, you will wake up on a physiological level making it less of a struggle to get up and going.
If you are not a morning person, or find it particularly difficult to eagerly get up and moving in the morning, I recommend trying this sunrise clock. Making choices and creating habits that support our natural innate functions is another step towards improved health and wellbeing!