It's all too easy to go to bed with good intentions for the next morning--and then spend the morning procrastinating while you wait for your coffee to kick in. But if you're smart and strategic, you can get some of your most productive and creative work done in the morning hours, before the afternoon slump kicks in. Here are a few scientifically proven ways to jump-start your brain and get the most out of your morning.

1. Avoid sleep inertia.

Resist the urge to give yourself a few extra minutes of sleep. You're not doing yourself any favors when you hit that snooze button and drift back to sleep. This practice restarts your sleep cycle, only to interrupt it a few minutes later when your alarm sounds again. Studies show that when you interrupt the early sleep cycle, it extends "sleep inertia," that feeling that happens between when you wake up and when you start to actually feel awake. This makes it even harder to feel alert and awake once you do crawl out of bed. Want to wake up faster? Don't let yourself fall back to sleep!

2. Mind your body clock and don't sleep in on the weekends.

Are you a night owl who loves to sleep in? Do you lack that alert feeling in the morning? You might have delayed sleep phase disorder, which manifests in delayed sleep patterns and a hard time waking up early. Don't despair! You can retrain your body's clock (or circadian rhythm) so that you get used to mornings. Things like avoiding stimulating activities before you go to sleep and using natural light to help you wake up will get you on track. Unfortunately for late risers, sleep disorder specialist Jean Matheson advises that if you really want to change your inner clock, you've got to stop sleeping in on weekends.

3. Have a glass of orange juice.

Prone to stress and anxiety? Well, it turns out that a morning glass of orange juice could help you feel better and put you on the right track for a successful and productive day. One study demonstrated that the scent of citrus reduced anxiety and improved the mood of people who were waiting for dental appointments. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization reports that the vitamin C in citrus can also help treat stress.

4. Eat an apple.

While caffeine is a sure-fire pick-me-up, if you're looking for an alternative, eat an apple with your breakfast. While reports that apples are a better source of energy than caffeine may be overblown, the naturally occurring sugars in an apple can give you a much-needed boost and its antioxidants can have long-term benefits!

5. Do your most difficult, stressful tasks first.

If you really want to make the most of your morning, don't waste it on easy tasks. Researchers at Stanford University have found that willpower is a resource that can get depleted as your day progresses and your energy drops. That means that it could become easier for you to get distracted, and harder to get things done. So prioritize: Make sure that you get your top to-do items done first thing in the morning, while your will is strong!

Published on: Sep 8, 2015