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Morning Habits for College Success: Sleep, Movement, and Mindfulness

By Layla Melendez | September 18, 2023

Photo Credit: Unsplash


The alarm clock's relentless screech jolts you awake. You sluggishly rise out of bed, rushing to get dressed, and dash out the door, desperately trying to be on time for class.

For college students, mornings can become the enemy, a daily battle against the clock. We find ourselves dreading this time and attempting to snooze button it away. However, how you spend your mornings can make or break how you feel and operate throughout the day. Optimizing your morning time can reduce stress, boost energy levels, and even improve productivity, ensuring a fulfilling day ahead. With this in mind, let’s go over some helpful tips that can help you develop a manageable and enjoyable morning routine.

Building Better Sleep Habits

Getting the right amount of rest at night can prove difficult in college when having to do classwork into the wee hours of night or engage in extracurricular activities. The Mayo Clinic advises that all adults 18 and above get seven or more hours of sleep a night. Not sleeping for this amount of hours is incredibly problematic because it is linked to diminished focus and lower GPA’s. Less all-nighters, and more managing time effectively throughout the day!

According to David Creswell, a professor in psychology and neuroscience at Carnegie Mellon University, “These college students are going to class with a ton of sleep debt, and they’re having trouble staying focused and learning in college classrooms.”

To receive the energy you need to focus in class and school, it is imperative college students prioritize how many hours of sleep they achieve. Try maintaining a consistent sleep schedule by choosing a specific time to go to sleep and wake up daily. College students must also resist the temptation of the snooze button and going back to sleep once awake. This action disrupts the body’s circadian rhythm, or our internal clock, which can result in sleepiness, impaired memory, and a bad mood! Sound familiar?

When you do wake up, turn off the alarm and leave that phone down! Scrolling through TikTok, messaging friends, or checking your to-dos might seem tempting but doing so can disrupt your circadian rhythm too. Using your phone first thing in the morning distracts your brain, making it hard to concentrate on daily tasks. Instead, open up those blinds!

Dr. Andrew Huberman, a neurobiology professor at Stanford School of Medicine, says “Viewing sunlight within the first hours of waking increases early-day cortisol release and prepares the body for sleep later that night.” A morning spike in cortisol, a stimulating hormone, will positively influence your immune system, metabolism and ability to focus during the day. Unlike the harmful effects of blue light in your mornings, viewing morning sunlight will leave you with increased focus and work to regulate your circadian rhythm.

Make Time for Movement

The first few hours of the day do not need to be spent lifting weights or running a marathon, but they should consist of some type of movement. Regular morning exercise will release endorphins, serotonin, and dopamine, our body’s natural mood elevators. The rush of endorphins will help you feel more positive, alert, and ready to seize the day.

Morning exercise can come in many forms and should be based on what you enjoy doing. Some options other than the gym include: taking a walk, stretches, yoga, and dancing. Whether it is five minutes or 15, morning movement will help you start your day with increased vitality, improved focus, and a greater sense of overall well-being.

Practice Mindfulness

Dedicating time to practicing mindfulness in the morning can be your secret weapon for conquering the college chaos. During the day, it can be hard to put your daily tasks aside for the sake of being fully present. So, when you wake up, carve out some time to immerse yourself in the present moment. Being mindful can involve a host of things like positive affirmations, gratitude journaling, and meditation. These three activities demonstrate various psychological and physiological benefits, making sure you start your morning on the right side of the bed.

Studies have shown just five to 12 minutes of daily mindfulness meditation is associated with decreased stress and anxiety, leaving the individual with a clearer mind. Gratitude journaling and positive affirmations can promote increased self-esteem, reduce stress, and foster a more optimistic outlook on life, ultimately contributing to enhanced well-being and mental health. Each of these activities only need about five minutes of your time, making these tips easy to incorporate into your day without burden.

Mastering Your Mornings

College can often be grueling, but by prioritizing better sleep, morning movement, and mindfulness in your routine, you can establish a positive start to your day and equip yourself with the tools to navigate college life more effectively. Quality sleep ensures focus and alertness, while morning movement boosts energy and mood. Incorporating mindfulness practices such as positive affirmations and gratitude journaling fosters a positive mindset, reduces stress, and enhances mental well-being.

These habits can make a significant difference in your academic and personal life without overwhelming your daily schedule. Most importantly, customize your routine to be enjoyable and manageable for you, avoiding the temptation to do it all at once. Start with small changes, like an eight-minute hip stretch or noting three things you're grateful for. Elevating your mornings doesn't require a complex, time-consuming routine. Success in mastering your mornings lies in consistency and self-care, so embrace the journey at your own pace without undue pressure.


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