Are some people really programmed naturally to stay up late into the night? I don’t believe so. Everyone has an internal clock that cycles between sleepiness and alertness known as circadian rhythm. This sleep/wake cycle is controlled by the hypothalamus and heavily influenced by light and darkness (1). When darkness falls at night, your eyes send a signal to the hypothalamus letting it know that it is time to feel tired. This leads to the release of the chemical melatonin which makes you tired. There is some degree of variance in circadian rhythm from person to person, but typically this falls between a range of a couple hours. So while staying up till 10pm is understandable, staying awake past midnight is not.
The problem that many night owls have is that their lives are “off beat” from their circadian rhythm. Shift work, late night tv, video games, texting, Facebook,high stress, caffeine, college all-nighters, parties, sugar intake and other factors can all cause an individual to resist and override their natural sleep/wake cycle. I’m not saying that everyone should go to bed as soon as the sun sets or at one designated time. What I am saying though is that staying awake into the wee hours of the night is not only unnatural, but also potentially unhealthy.
Potential Health Benefits of Going to Bed Early and Rising Early
- Positive thoughts. One study found that those that go to bed early tend to worry less and have a more positive outlook on life (2).
- More in control and less stressed. Wouldn’t it be nice to not have to wake up to an alarm clock? Well you shouldn’t really have to. One huge benefit of going to bed early is getting adequate sleep. Most of us need to be up by a certain time in the morning, so while the time of falling asleep vary, the time to get up is nearly constant. Those that retire early usually wake up naturally well before they have to be somewhere or do something. The night owls are often the same people who continue to hit snooze on their alarms until the last possible minute and then in a panicked hurry get ready for wherever they have to be. Poor or inadequate sleep are linked to feelings of irritability, stress and short tempers (3).
- Enhances your chance of success. Some research has shown that early risers tend to get better grades, are more proactive, better at solving problems, more cooperative, more conscientious, and have increased memory and concentration (4).
- Makes you happier (3). I think we have all experienced this. You just feel good and happier after a good nights rest.
- Strengthens the immune system. Have you ever noticed that when you are running on less than desired sleep that you are more prone to getting sick? Adequate and quality rest help keep you healthy and disease free by strengthening the immune system (5) . Maybe instead of the flu shot, people just need to get more sleep?
- More energy in the morning and throughout the day.
Tips to help you fall asleep earlier so that you can enjoy the health benefits of those listed above!
- Exercise early in the day
- Don’t eat late at night
- Listen to sleep meditation at the time you want to fall asleep
- Drink a warm glass of chamomile tea an hour or so before bed
- Don’t bring your electronics with you to bed. Try reading a book instead.
- Limit caffeine intake to the morning
Good luck on making going to bed earlier and waking up earlier a habit! In fact, I’m off to bed!