Sun is up! You’ve awoken, groggy and bewildered, to yet another beautiful morning bursting with possibilities and potential. Aren’t you lucky? Time to shake off your slumber, wipe the sleep out of your eyes, and prepare yourself for the brand new day ahead.
Though, while we’ve got you, have you ever stopped to wonder if your morning routine is helping or hurting you? Because, according to science, there’s a whole range of things that you might be doing wrong.
And Who doesn’t want a scientifically optimized morning?
6 Worst Morning Habits For Your Health
1. Don’t use the Snooze Button
So there you are, nestled up all cozy in your bed as the night is slowly conquered by the arrival of another brand new day. If you happen to be the type of person who doesn’t have the luxury of daily lie-ins, you may rely on some kind of alarm to wake you up at the right time each morning.
You also might be the kind of person who dreads the incessant screeching of your morning alarm with the fiery passion of a thousand suns, prompting you to hit the ‘snooze’ button for a few more precious minutes of peace and quiet.
Sorry to the bearer of bad news, but sadly you might want to stop doing that for your own good, as it turns out that the snooze button is only making you sleepier and groggier.
Sleep experts have found that hitting the snooze button and lying in bed for even just an extra ten minutes after initially waking up convinces your body that it is entering another sleep cycle, prompting it to release hormones that induce deep sleep.
This means that when you actually do get out of bed, your body will be swimming with a cocktail of sleepy chemicals that keep you tired for much longer than you would have been had you just gotten up when your alarm went off the first time.
While post-slumber doziness usually lasts no longer than 30 minutes, hitting the snooze button can extend this period for up to 4 hours, even if you actually got a good night’s sleep.
2. Don’t Check Your Phone Immediately After Waking Up
Now, maybe you’re not the kind of layabout who hits the snooze button every morning to eke out the last few moments of blessed stupor. Perhaps you’re sensible and know that the best way to wake yourself up nice and quick is by immediately grabbing your phone and diving headfirst into the polluted, toxic slurry that is social media.
Yes, we are of course talking about the ever-nagging desire to check your phone at every possible opportunity, and the first few seconds of consciousness are no exception.
One study found that roughly 1 in 4 people check their phones less than a minute after getting up each morning, while another slightly less brainwashed 34% wait 5 to 10 minutes.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with staying responsibly abreast of the latest news, nor is the ability to stay in touch with people from all over the world a bad thing. But the sheer amount of scrolling we do has some experts worried.
According to psychiatrist Dr. Nikole Benders-Hadi, checking your phone as soon as you wake up increases feelings of stress and anxiety, and interferes with your ability to prioritize tasks.
In addition, former Google Design Ethicist Tristan Harris points out that immediately looking at a notification-filled screen frames your experience of waking up in terms of everything you’ve missed since yesterday, which can have a negative effect on your productivity throughout the day. Of course, the idea that people spend too much time on their phones, in general, is nothing new.
For example, when the London-based Future Work Center surveyed nearly 2,000 workers in the UK, they discovered a link between email notifications and higher levels of anxiety.
Another study carried out by the University of Gothenburg in Sweden found a correlation between high rates of smartphone usage and increased reports of depression in both men and women. And so, in order to start your day off right, maybe don’t instantly immerse yourself in emails, reminders, constant bad news, and emotionally manipulative social media.
Some experts have suggested waiting a certain period of time at least 30 minutes to an hour or completing other steps in your morning routine before checking your phone.
Of course, you could go a step further; Jari Roomer, the author of the e-book ‘The Ultimate Productivity Guide’, has suggested putting your phone on flight mode before you go to bed, that way the mere act of waking up doesn’t feel like you’re being ambushed with your own responsibilities.
3. Don’T Pee Standing Up
Just don’t pee standing up or hovering over the toilet seat!
Sluggish and bewildered, you’ve finally managed to pull yourself up out of bed and into a (somewhat) standing position. Now, if you’re like many of us, the very first thing on your to-do list is to answer nature’s call, and if you’re really like us, you may very well be accustomed to answering a said call while standing, as is tradition for the male of species.
Even if you happen to have been born with an outie rather than an innie, it still might be a good idea that you sit to pee no matter what the time of day.
“But why?” we rhetorically hear you ask.
Well, although the ability to stand while peeing is indeed a great privilege that should never be taken for granted, there is some compelling research that suggests sitting down to urinate may actually be better for you.
According to research from the Leiden University Medical Centre in the Netherlands, this is because the seated position creates a “more favourable urodynamic profile”, which is fancy science talk meaning that the muscles around the urinary system are more relaxed, encumbering the flow of urine less than when these muscles are engaged while standing.
This allows for a stronger and faster stream and a more complete voiding of the bladder. Well, for some men, anyway. While many of the articles you can find online referencing this research appear to suggest the seated position is beneficial for men in general, in reality, this isn’t really the case.
The researchers from the Leiden University Medical Centre found that an ‘improved urodynamic profile’ from urinating while seated was only seen in men with Lower Urinary Tract Symptoms – or ‘LUTS’ – which are a range of clinical symptoms mostly associated with older men with enlarged prostates.
The study found that neither the standing nor the seated position made any difference to the quality of urination in younger, healthy men, with the researchers specifically stating in their conclusions that
“AS NO EFFECT OF CHANGING VOIDING POSITION IN HEALTHY MALES WAS FOUND, OUR STUDY DOES NOT TRANSLATE INTO A MEDICALLY PREFERABLE POSITION FOR HEALTHY MALES TO URINATE IN”.
Indeed, there does appear to be more than a little misinformation about the supposed health benefits men can reap by sitting down when they’re making warm lemonade.
In 2012, a substitute member of the Sörmland [SURM-land] County Council in central Sweden named Viggo Hansen proposed a motion that would have required men on the council to sit while urinating when using the office facilities.
He justified his brazen attack on the right to stand with claims that, apart from being more hygienic, sitting while urinating reduces the risk of prostate cancer and “helps men achieve a longer, healthier sex life”.
So, as long as you’re reasonably healthy and not noticing any problems when you go number one, standing up isn’t going to do you any harm. Still, that doesn’t mean there are no good reasons to take a seat while you’re emptying the tank; for one thing, it is far more hygienic.
In 2013, a pair of US physicists studying the cold-hard physics of urination tested a range of options for reducing the nemesis of all standing urinators – ‘splashback’. While a number of techniques were found to reduce the level of undesirable toilet ejecta, the research ultimately concluded that…
“SITTING DOWN IS THE BEST SURE-FIRE WAY TO AVOID UNWANTED SPLASHING IN A TRADITIONAL TOILET”.
Given that puddles around toilets are breeding grounds for bacteria, you might want to consider a seated position anyway. Apparently, a substitute member of the Sörmland [SURM-land] County Council in central Sweden Viggo Hansen was right about that one. And while you might have thought this point on the list was just for men, there’s also a good reason for the ladies to sit and relax rather than hover over the toilet seat; a position often adopted to avoid contact with the germ-infested toilet seat.
Like standing, hovering also prevents the pelvic floor muscles from relaxing, which makes it harder for women in this position to completely empty their bladders.
“WE HAVE SHOWN SCIENTIFICALLY THAT IF YOU HOVER ON TOP OF THE TOILET, YOU ONLY EMPTY ONE-THIRD OF YOUR BLADDER. SO YOU HOLD BACK A LOT OF URINE. THAT IS NOT VERY GOOD FOR YOUR BLADDER BECAUSE IF YOU HAVE STAGNANT URINE IN THERE OBVIOUSLY IT’S GOING TO PROMOTE DYSFUNCTIONAL EMPTYING OF YOUR BLADDER, AND IT’S GOING TO PROMOTE YOU GETTING INFECTIONS.”, Professor Ajay Rane.
Thus, we can surmise that sitting to urinate is universally beneficial. So park your bums, folks – you’ll thank us later.
4. Don’t Shower Every Day
Alright, so now you’re up, you’ve peed in a healthy and hygienic position, and you’re ready to get started with that whole daily routine thing we keep banging on about.
For many of us, if not the majority, that means hopping into the shower and lathering ourselves up with soap to get ourselves nice and clean for the day ahead. If that sounds like the kind of crazy shenanigans you might typically get up to, guess what? You’re doing showers wrong too.
As it happens, the idea that one must shower daily is a relatively novel one, emerging only in the last few decades of the 20th century with the rise of built-in showers and baths, and exists largely due to social pressure rather than any actual medical need or recommendation.
In fact, there is a growing consensus amongst experts that showering daily is actually bad for you in a number of ways. Turns out, regularly immersing yourself in a cascade of steaming hot water and aggressively scrubbing all over with harsh soaps can play havoc with your birthday suit.
Excessive showering strips away at the acid mantle, a thin layer of fatty acids and natural body oils covering your skin that protects the body from bacteria, viruses and other contaminants. This can cause your epidermis to become dry and irritated, which can in turn lead to even further skin complaints.
Showering too frequently can also remove the beneficial bacteria and microorganisms living on your skin that contribute to your microbiome and play a crucial role in your immune system. This is especially true if you’re overusing harsh antimicrobial soaps and cleansers like the germaphobic maniac you are.
For these reasons, many dermatologists suggest showering only every other day, while some go even further and state that showering as little as two or three times a week is plenty to stay sanitary. Ultimately, there is actually no evidence that daily showers make you any cleaner. You also shouldn’t be spending ages in the shower either, as extended showering only exacerbates the skin-seering effects of overdoing it. Showering for just 3 minutes is all you need to cleanse your body of built-up dirt and grime.
Frankly, you shouldn’t even really be using soap except on your armpits and groin areas. This is because it is only the glands in these parts of your body that produce body odour; cleaning your underarms and unmentionables with a bar of gentle soap and rinsing the rest of your body with water is more than sufficient
for a hygienic and fresh-smelling body.
5. Don’t Brush Your Teeth After Breakfast
Moving briskly onwards through your morning, it’s finally time to calm your rumbling tummy and get yourself something to eat. Though some medical professionals are beginning to contest breakfast’s overly-positive reputation as “THE MOST IMPORTANT MEAL OF THE DAY”, there’s definitely nothing wrong with a nutritious, well-balanced morning meal.
However, you should be cautious about when exactly you’re planning on eating, especially with regards to keeping your teeth nice and healthy. According to science, brushing your teeth too soon after you’ve eaten may actually be doing you more harm than good.
This is because many breakfast foods and drinks, such as toast, juice, and coffee are highly acidic, and when you eat them your tooth enamel is temporarily softened as a result. Brushing your teeth while they’re in this vulnerable state can actually damage the enamel.
Because of this, most dentists and dental organizations advise you to wait a while before brushing your teeth after you’ve eaten, especially if you’re consuming food and drinks that are particularly acidic.
Many medical groups, such as the Mayo Clinic, say you should hold off on brushing your teeth for at least 30 minutes, while the Nervous-Nellies at The American Dental Association go even further and recommend you wait a full hour.
Of course, you could always brush your teeth before breakfast, such as when you first wake up. Indeed, when you brush first thing in the morning, you also jump-start saliva production, which helps to break your food down and naturally kills harmful bacteria in your mouth.
6. Don’t Drink Coffee Before 9AM
Okay, you’re almost ready to step outside and face the upcoming day with gusto. The final crucial step in your morning routine is making sure you grab yourself a cup of everyone’s favourite legal stimulant… coffee.
Now, we know what you’re thinking – at this point, you’re scared we are going to tell you coffee is actually somehow extremely dangerous or evil or problematic and etc. Don’t worry, there’s nothing wrong with drinking coffee.
Well, as long as you’re drinking it at the correct times, that is. Here’s the issue – everyone has inside of them a hormone we met earlier, ‘cortisol’, which is widely known as a potent ‘stress hormone’ owing to its significance as part of the body’s ‘fight or flight’ response.
However, cortisol also plays vital roles in a variety of other important bodily processes, such as reducing inflammation, regulating blood pressure, and, as we touched on before, your sleep-wake cycle.
Studies show that cortisol levels spike between the hours of 8 and 9 am as part of the body’s natural mechanism for waking up.
Rather than adding to your level of alertness, scientists have discovered that consuming coffee – or any other caffeinated food or drink – during peak cortisol production actually weakens caffeine’s stimulatory effects. Not only that, but it also causes you to build up a greater long-term tolerance to caffeine. It gets worse.
According to all these scientists, cortisol also spikes between 12 and 1 pm, and between 5:30 and 6:30 pm, so you should probably avoid caffeine during these periods too.
Tragically, you can’t even circumvent this predicament by waking up super early or super late, as it has also been discovered that cortisol production increases after you wake up by up to 50%, regardless of the time.
Not only that, scientists have managed to show that travelling across time zones does affect the timing of these cortisol spikes, which makes scheduling your morning coffee even more of a nightmare.
As a result, it’s generally recommended that you wait at least an hour before imbibing any caffeinated foods or beverages to ensure that they’re waking you up rather than dragging you down.