The benefits of rising early

alarm clock, bought from IKEA
alarm clock, bought from IKEA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Its winter time; a time to snuggle inside the warm cozy quilt and put the warmer on. And morning comes only after 10 am. All the late birds out there must be familiar with this routine. Due to an enormous workload, and self-professed night-routines, I was a late bird too once upon a time, before I realized it was doing me more harm than good. As a medical student, having a vast syllabus made me shift into a night-time active routine. Since these habits become easily ingrained, most of the nights would be spent studying or gaming or watching movies, usually extending to 4 and sometimes up to 5 am. I would often hit the bed at the crack of dawn. But I discovered that instead of skyrocketing my productivity(which it was  intended for), it actually spoiled my day. I woke up grumpy and irritable most of the time. I would often be late for college and my whole morning would be spent rushing through my usual chores and by the time I would reach college and settle down to my work, I would be thoroughly hassled. so I decided it was time to change things. Its been a year now that I invariably get up at 5:00 am everyday. Waking up early in the morning gives u a lot of time to plan your whole day. It also gives you time to pursue good habits that make you feel fresh throughout the day. These might include meditation, yoga or just working out in the gym.

Early morning rising is supported by scientific findings as well. Sleep, basically, consists of two patterns; the REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep cycle which is superficial and the NREM sleep which consists of the slow wave sleep in which you sleep deeply. The NREM sleep is concentrated in the first half of the eight hour sleep cycle along with REM while the second half consists of mostly REM.

REM sleep is actually a highly active state(although we are sleeping). Here cholinergic reticular neurons in the brainstem are stimulated and there are high levels of acetylcholine(a neurotransmitter) in the body. This indicates that it’s a lot easier to get up in the early hours than we think it is. Also,the  blood level of cortisol (hormone released from adrenal glands) is highest in the second half of the night with its peak in the early hours and lowest levels in the first half of the night when we hit the bed. Cortisol increases alertness allowing your mind to concentrate and so, you are going to have an amazing level of productivity with any task you take up in the morning . Saving two hours everyday by getting up early doesn’t seem to be a mean feat, but saving 730 hours in a year certainly does.

However, it doesn’t mean losing out on sleep to get up early. If you want to have that wonderful early morning  feeling,you have to get in early too. It might seem a bit difficult,but a little discipline and a lot of practice will set your biological clock running. I used to think exercising or meditating in the morning is a waste of time and I should study instead but then I realized those 45 minutes devoted to yoga or meditation kept me fired up and saved me several hours in the day.

Contributed by “The Idea Bucket” team-member, Pallavi.

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2 Comments

  1. “REM sleep is actually a highly active state(although we are sleeping). Here cholinergic reticular neurons in the brainstem are stimulated and there are high levels of acetylcholine(a neurotransmitter) in the body. This indicates that it’s a lot easier to get up in the early hours .”

    So, does the body release acetylcholine at 0600 even if someone’s sleep cycle is unusual? Does this mean, chemicals released in our bodies do not follow the time-table which we set for them?

    1. Our body does secrete chemicals according to the timetable we set for ourselves. That’s why it was mentioned in the article “as a part of normal 8 hour cycle” which means that the REM sleep will occur during the later half of the cycle, ie, early in the morning if you sleep at 10-11 pm. REM sleep cycle gets repeated almost every 90 minutes and usually lasts a few minutes. During the last lap of your circadian rhythm, REM extends for about half an hour, hence you can be awakened easily. But if your sleep cycle is unusual, ie, u go to bed at around 3 am, firstly you’ll find it difficult to enter into a deep sleep immediately (due to the rhythm’s transition to a REM rather than a NREM which is normal for 3 am) and you might wake up feeling tired and fatigued later in the morning since you will be under the influence of the NREM period.
      In sleep deprived individuals, the REM cycle gets extended, that means that if you have abnormal sleep patterns, you will have more of REM and less of NREM.
      For further queries, you can email us at ask.authorportal@gmail.com

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