What time do you wake up each morning?
OK, what time do you really wake up each morning?
That snooze button, it seems, is your enemy. It's the first bargain you make of the day: Give me 5 more minutes of sleep, and I promise I'll get ready for work quicker.
But, it may also be your first mistake.
Waking up, falling asleep and waking up again disrupts your natural sleep cycle, which may leave you feeling drowsy through the day.
The same can be said about skipping breakfast. The cliché is true: It's the most important meal of the day.
A good breakfast energizes you, gets your system running at full speed and can even boost your memory's performance. Taking the time to prepare it properly can also be therapeutic.
And a nicely prepared breakfast is potentially the most satisfying dish of the day.
And it's not just your belly that benefits. Rising early is actually good for your psyche.
The precise mechanics are not fully understood yet, but trends show that morning people are better at problem-solving, more happy and stable and less susceptible to depression.
There may be some dark moments those first few early mornings, but once you have a routine, you should be all good.
If you're really sharp, your body will also benefit. A quick stretch, workout or run will kick-start some of those mood-boosting endorphins and burn fat more efficiently than if you save your workout for later.
This is all well and good, but good intentions quickly evaporate in the early morning light.
You know it's beneficial to wake up early, but actually doing so remains a challenge. Those great reasons for rising with the sun do not seem so great from the comfort of the duvet.
Good news: Science is on the case.
Science doesn't just tell us why it's good to get up early; it tells us how.
Let's take a look at some scientifically-verifiable methods to shift your morning routine up a gear:
1. Drink a glass of water first thing in the morning.
There are tons of reasons why drinking water is healthy. It's good for your skin and for digestion, and it can help you lose weight.
Better still, it's an excellent… placebo? Yes, regardless of the fact that no objectively observable improvements in cognitive performance could be noted, participants in a study claimed that drinking water made them feel more alert.
And if you feel more alert, you're more likely to jump out of bed when that alarm rings, right?
So when you go to bed tonight, take two glasses of water with you: one to keep you hydrated through the night, and a second to drink the moment you wake up.
2. Put your phone to sleep.
You will meet few people in this life who don't claim they wish they spent less time on their phone and more time reading a book.
Yet, at the end of a hard day, most of us still compromise the quality of our sleep by spending our last waking moments captivated by the glow of Facebook and Twitter.
Using technology like this actually restricts the production of melatonin in your body. Yes, that's melatonin, the hormone that regulates your circadian rhythm.
That's not a good idea if you want to wake up early, refreshed and raring to go.
Figure out what time you plan to go to bed each workday, and set a regular alert to buzz two hours before your bedtime.
When the alarm goes off, so should your WiFi connection.
3. Leave your curtains open at night, and rise with the sun.
You've probably shouted some pretty nasty abuse at the morning sun over the years, particularly after a heavy night out.
But sunlight is an integral part of our relationship with our surroundings. Like the birds, our daily rhythms are triggered by our exposure to the sun.
Our ancestors, after all, didn't have those smart phones to keep them entertained after sundown.
You can start rekindling your love affair with the sun when you're already up and about. In short, get plenty of it.
Try to get out of the office on your lunch break, and if you can walk home instead of taking the metro, you'll get some of that melatonin thrown in free with your exercise.
And when you go to bed at night, leave those curtains undrawn.
Rising with the sun is the perfect way to synchronize your system with the natural cycle outside. If it gets light late where you are, look into acquiring a dawn simulator.
4. Have an apple instead of coffee.
The smell of coffee in the morning is a stirring sensation, but in order to experience it, you actually have to get out of bed first and make it.
Apples, on the other hand, are relatively low-maintenance. Most people don't realize they come packed with 13 grams of natural, fast-acting sugars that can give you just as effective a kick as coffee.
Keep one by your bed each night, and wash it down with that glass of water every morning.
5. Let technology do the work.
Ideally, one day soon our jobs will be entirely automated, and we can rest in bed all day before cashing in our guaranteed basic income.
Until that day, try using an app like Sleep Time to track the ebb and flow of your REM and non-REM cycles. That way, you wake at a point that is most beneficial to you.
And you should definitely use a dawn simulator to increase your alertness after waking. Make sure to trigger it to start 30 minutes before your desired waking time.
6. Don't hit the snooze button.
Research shows that hitting the snooze button and drifting off to sleep again means you are most likely resetting your brain back to the start of the sleep cycle.
A good tip is to keep your alarm clock (or your smart phone) across the room so you have no choice but to get out of bed to switch it off.
7. Go easy on yourself.
If all this is a bit much to take in, don't put too much pressure on yourself. Suddenly choosing to wake an hour earlier each morning will soon exhaust you and, more importantly, destroy your good intentions.
Instead, just wind it back another 5 minutes each day until you reach your desired waking time. And stay away from the snooze button, or you end up waking up at… the same time as usual.
With a bit of will power and the wisdom of science, waking up early and enjoying those morning hours needn't be such a pain after all.