Health: How to wake up to winter

Ten ideas to help you get up in the morning (and setting your alarm clock isn't one of them).
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The Independent Culture
When your alarm clock goes off, does your body clock tell you to stay in bed? The end of British Summer Time is depressing enough, but as the dark winter mornings loom, it's even harder to shrug off your duvet. This is a grim time of year, says Dr Tom Mackay, a consultant physician at the Sleep Centre, at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. "People who are not exposed to bright light first thing can take a while to get going in the mornings. In severe cases this can lead to depression. There is no doubt that people feel better in the summer. They feel brighter because their physical environment is brighter."

Sleep experts suggest easing the transition to winter by turning your alarm clock away from the bed, cutting out nicotine and alcohol, increasing aerobic exercise and getting up at a regular time, even at the weekends. But what if it's too late for that, and you need to get up early for work tomorrow? Read on.

1 When plain air won't do...

Try oxygen. Woody Harrelson, Julia Roberts and Patsy Kensit can't get enough of it. Start with a morning tonic of 95 per cent pure vanilla-scented oxygen, advises Dominic Simler, the managing director of O2LIVE. "As the oxygen attaches itself to your red blood cells, you will immediately feel the benefits - an energy boost, a lift, increased focus and concentration," he claims. I plugged myself into one of his machines for 10 minutes, via a plastic nose tube, and found that it successfully alleviated the symptoms of a late night, an early start and a fraught train journey. For just pounds 3 at a Holmes Place gym, I felt full of energy for the rest of the morning. You could inhale from your bed, if you've got pounds 1,895 for your own machine. Contact O2LIVE on 0171-431 8585 or www.o2live.com

2 Hire a chef

Kick-start your metabolic rate with a bacon sandwich. Sarah Schenker, a nutrition scientist from the British Nutrition Foundation, says there is nothing wrong with tempting yourself out of bed with grilled bacon and a boiled egg - as long as the rest of your diet is low-fat. "A cup of tea or coffee is fine, too," she says.

Alternatively, drink half a teaspoon of cayenne pepper mixed with a glass of water. "It gives you a real kick," says Pippa Waller, from the National Institute of Medical Herbalists.

3 Get your rocks out

Crystal therapists believe certain stones can boost energy. Well, it's worth a try, isn't it? Tripuri Dunne, a member of the International College of Crystal Healing, says: "For energy and focus, drop a few `cleansed' quartz crystals into your morning bath to amplify the freshness of the water. Overcome the urge to stay in bed by putting a few herkimer diamonds around the house. Their bright, hard qualities will get you up and smiling."

For crystal therapies contact the Natural Health Centre on: 0171-720 8817.

4 Lighten up a little

Pop into The Bright Light Cafe (0171-620 2700) and soak up the replicated sunlight that emanates from the lightboxes that are dotted around. This can help combat the symptoms of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), where lack of daylight upsets the body clock, causing weight gain, lethargy, irritability and depression. Alternatively, buy your own lightbox from Outside In (01954 211955). They start at pounds 105. Our favourite product is a dawn-simulation digital alarm clock (pounds 89.95), which can be programmed to wake you with a gradual increase of light. It's so therapeutic that our tester is refusing to give hers back.

5 Get painting

"Bedrooms should be painted turquoise or blue," says Theo Gimbel, of the Hygeia College of Colour Therapy in Gloucestershire (01453 832150). "These colours are calming and soothing and will induce a good night's sleep. You will wake up feeling happy."

6 Take some sound advice

Try music therapy. Doctor Raymond MacDonald, a lecturer in psychology at Strathclyde University, who has conducted research into the effects of music, says: "Wake up to a piece of music that has good associations for you. It doesn't have to be a happy tune. It could be sad, but remind you of when your boyfriend told you that you were the most wonderful person in the world. Listening to it will help raise your mood when it's cold, wet and dark outside."

7 Hypnotise yourself out of bed

Ever tried self hypnosis? Michael Cohen, a hypnotherapist at the Natural Health Centre in London, believes it could rouse you from your pillows in five minutes. "Sit up in bed, close your eyes, and take three deep breaths," he instructs. "Try creating a positive feeling in yourself. Imagine yourself conducting a successful meeting."

8 Stretch yourself

Fenella Lindsell, a director of the Art of Health and Yoga Centre in Balham, advises practising "the Concertina Breath", to calm your mind and energise your body. So, sit cross-legged and clasp your hands under your chin, with elbows joined in front of your breast-bone. Fill your lungs and raise your elbows sideways to the ceiling, as if flying. Drop your head back and breathe out. Bring your elbows down again. Repeat 10 times.

9 Leave your job

Well, at least for half an hour, at lunch time. Make the most of the daylight hours, advises Professor Neil Douglas, chairman of the British Sleep Foundation. "To avoid getting tired in the morning, and to improve sleep patterns, it is important to get outside into the daylight."

10 If all else fails...

...and you're still late for work, the least you can do is turn up armed with a decent excuse. Starbucks' free new booklet, "I'm late for work because...", is essential reading.

Examples include: "I couldn't decide what to wear"; "I was stuck behind a slow person"; "I took a short cut... won't be doing that again".

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