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Good Morning! Why We Wake Up, Toast and Coffee Science

I get distracted by how incredible humans can be and interesting science questions.

How the Circadian Principle works.

How the Circadian Principle works.

Good Morning! The Circadian Principle

We have the Circadian Principle and our unique circadian rhythms to thank for our ability to wake up when daylight occurs.

Our individual rhythm is set by our regular body, mind and behaviour habits over a 24 hour period. The Latin circa dies means “about a day”. As we complete the same tasks or processes at approximately the same time every day our body’s internal clock in the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) in the brain’s hypothalamus learns how to regulate us.

The SCN uses daylight, darkness and other external cues so that we operate optimally throughout our 24 hour cycle. It governs when we prepare for sleep, when to wake, when to release hormones and even when we should eat. It’s why we feel tired before bed and hopefully full of energy after a good night’s rest.

Late night screen time can affect your circadian rhythm.

Late night screen time can affect your circadian rhythm.

Your Environment and Habits Affect Your Circadian Rhythm

Humans need to be careful about screen time, especially around bedtime, because it can damage the circadian rhythm. A screen that is too bright sends the wrong message to the brain and relaxation proves difficult.

LED street and car park lights installed by local authorities and landlords which are too bright, directed towards buildings and have too high a colour temperature on the blue wavelength have caused significant disruption to circadian rhythms across several continents because they replicate daylight conditions and so confuse the brain. For an example please read

The circadian rhythm needs a reset when it's disturbed.

The circadian rhythm needs a reset when it's disturbed.

What Happens When Your Circadian Rhythm is Off?

A disturbed circadian rhythm causes insomnia, obesity, a lack of concentration and depression. As we age the electrical activity in the SCN and hypothalamus reduces so more mature people are likely to experience difficulty in maintaining sleep patterns. Humans with jetlag or “circadian dysrhythmia” and shift workers suffer the fatigue and mood changes associated with altering the circadian rhythm. The external and internal cues are out of synchronization. The rhythm needs to be reset which can take a few days to achieve.

An effective reset for most people begins with simply waking with natural daylight and remaining active throughout the hours before darkness. The light shift tells the body what it should want to do next: sleep until daylight returns.

We are not the only living species to operate with biological circadian rhythms. Plants and animals, including nocturnal ones, also follow the wake-sleep circadian principle.

Why Does Toast Land Butter Side Down?

When people drop a slice of toast it normally lands butter side down, but not always. Is it possible to outwit the toast or does this phenomenon have a scientific base?

It has taken extensive scientific research to ascertain that toast rarely lands butter side up because gravity kicks in and pulls the weighted side, the buttered one, towards the floor. You may not think that toast is an acrobat but when it falls it can only complete a half somersault before it hits the ground. As toast is almost always butter side up on the plate and when it’s held this results in a buttery mess on the floor.

Bonus fact: Your cell phone (mobile) follows the same rule. Often it’s screen side up or at an angle so that it will land screen side down.

Buttered and loaded toast falls with one half somersault and lands messy side down.

Buttered and loaded toast falls with one half somersault and lands messy side down.

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Why Does the First Cup of Coffee Taste So Good?

There's a scientific answer to this question as well. Coffee contains caffeine, acids and alkaloids. The consumption of caffeine leads the body to release the feel good chemical dopamine in the brain. Your first hit of the day is always the most satisfying because there's a significant craving for it.

Caffeine plus dopamine helps us to feel invigorated and ready to face the day. Caffeine is addictive and dopamine is present in illegal substances including cocaine and amphetamines but at least caffeinated coffee drinkers get their high the legal way.

Did you know that rather like illegal drugs more and more caffeine is required to hit the same level of euphoria because your brain becomes accustomed to an amount and demands more for the dopamine to be released. From one mug of coffee, it'll want another and another.

For people who prefer a decaffeinated brew at least 98% of the caffeine has been removed from the bean prior to sale. It's much less addictive but lacks the morning coffee buzz.

Coffee's caffeine delivers a feel good dopamine hit.

Coffee's caffeine delivers a feel good dopamine hit.

5 Great Quotes About Getting Out of Bed and Toast

1. "Daybreak is a never-ending glory. Getting out of bed is a never ending nuisance." G.K. Chesterton.

2. "Every day starts with an act of courage and hope: getting out of bed." Mason Cooley.

3. "My hour for tea is half past five and my buttered toast waits for no man." Wilkie Collins, The Woman in White.

4. "I don't get out of bed for less than $10000 a day." Linda Evangelista.

5. "If toast always lands butter side down, and cats always land on their feet, what happens if you strap toast on the back of a cat and drop it?" Steve Wright.

Why not pop the kettle on and mull this morning malarkey over.

No time for the Monday morning feeling!

No time for the Monday morning feeling!


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2022 Joanne Hayle

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