Hint: The Early Bird Catches the Worm.
How many times did you hit the snooze button this morning? Twice? Three Time? So tempting! Doesn’t it make getting up in the morning even harder? I am sure you have noticed: it is even more painful when we wake up and go to bed at different times throughout the week. Why can’t we always wake up energized and refreshed? Wouldn’t it be nice if we could set the inner alarm to rise and shine and actually be awake?
Well, according to Eastern wisdom and now modern science, we can and we should. Yes, we have an internal clock and yes, we should wake up around time of sunrise. Here’s why – our body has an internal biological clock. And it has adapted to Earth’s Circadian rhythm, the cycle of light and dark, day and night. The term “circadian” comes from the Latin words for about (circa) a day (diem). Our sleeping patterns, body temperature, heart activity, hormone secretion, blood pressure, oxygen consumption, metabolism – all these are regulated by the exposure to daylight. If we stay aligned to this simple rhythm, by waking up with the sunrise and winding down when it gets dark, the body thrives.
For a while now, however, most of us have been disturbing this cycle. We do it by not getting enough daylight during the day, waking up past sunrise and exposing ourselves to the artificial light of computers, phones, and television screens at night. As a result, the metabolic and hormonal functions of the body are affected. Jetlag is a great example of our body’s reaction to internal timing not matching the environment.
Jetlag now and then wouldn’t be a bad thing. It is chronic, irregular sleep patterns that have a long term negative effect on our health. We might think we are accomplishing more by staying up late. However, perhaps even without realizing, we are paying a high price for it as our memory, weight, mood, productivity, heart health, and immunity take the hit.
So called ‘clock genes’ were identified only decades ago, while the traditional healing systems have had detailed models of daily cycles for thousands of years. They are broken down to hours of specific organ, hormonal, metabolic and mental activities throughout the day. Most recommendations from Eastern wisdom are rooted in our connection with the rhythms of nature, the cycles of day, and seasons.
Here are benefits you could enjoy by aligning your sleep routine to Earth’s natural cycle of light and dark. Yes, that includes waking up earlier…
– Enhanced performance, learning and memory; especially short term memory.
– Balanced and healthy weight. The metabolism and hormones that regulate hunger and the feeling of full are negatively affected by irregular sleep routines.
– Normal melatonin production. Melatonin, a natural anti-oxidant, is known to help fight cancer. Exposure to artificial light sources late at night reduce production of melatonin. Not only making it harder for you to fall asleep, but also deprives your body of its anti-oxidant properties.
– Strong immune system. Certain hormones are believed to be released during your sleep that keep the immune system strong.
– Tolerance and buffer to handle stress. Some health concerns made worse by stress – headaches, indigestion, increased anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, to mention a few.
Not a bad list of perks?
Waking up early is also commonly found on lists and books that reveal habits of happy and successful people. While we continue to strive for more happiness and success, our demanding fast paced lifestyle is not showing any signs of slowing down. This might be an especially good time to learn from the wisdom of Aristotle – “It is well to be up before daybreak, for such habits contribute to health, wealth, and wisdom” …and you get to watch the sunrise.
Getting up early not only aligns our natural ‘clock cells’ with the cycle of light, it results in optimal functions of our metabolism, immunity, mood and even adds years to your life. Not just years, healthy years! Now, don’t let that alarm go off more than once, and soon enough you’ll rise before it makes a beep. Even Thomas Jefferson had said “The sun has not caught me in bed in fifty years”. Be the early bird. It’s worth it.
References learn.genetics.utah.edu/content/inheritance/clockgenes/ news.yale.edu/2013/06/17/rhythm-everything www.yinyanghouse.com/practitioner_members/general-lifestyle/circadian-rhythms-chinese-clock-and-how-live-sync articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/03/16/this-modern-day-convenience-can-disrupt-your-metabolism-and-interfere-with-learning.aspx www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3756146/ news.uci.edu/press-releases/nutrition-influences-metabolism-through-circadian-rhythms-uci-study-finds/ www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/06/28/AR2010062803820.html