Columbia University Medical Center
NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital The University Hospital of Columbia and Cornell
April 29, 2009

Before the advent of electric lights, coffee bars in Target stores, and wee-hours Will & Grace reruns, "early to bed, early to rise" wasn't just a quaint prescription for health and wealth — it was a way of life. But now, when a late night of work or play is often followed by an early get-up call, you need every trick in the book to stay energized, especially if your day is also jam-packed with absolutely-can't-miss work, family, and life commitments. Here are vastly superior, science-tested alternatives to help you perform at the top of your game — even when you're too tired to make sure your socks match.

 Pull up the shades, pronto: Sunlight is a powerful natural signal that can shift your circadian rhythms from drowsy to alert, whether you're sleep-deprived or not. The light that hits at dawn, just before sunrise, stimulates special cells in your eyes, which then send a wake-up call to your brain's internal clock. Our eyes are especially sensitive to this visual reveille when our pupils are still somewhat dilated from sleep, researchers at the Center for Light Treatment and Biological Rhythms at Columbia University Medical Center have found. So get what you can first thing in the A.M. An early-morning walk is ideal, says researcher Michael Terman, Ph.D., but a dose of sunshine at any time boosts alertness.

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