This blog is about being bold, so I’m going to step out on a limb here. Early rising isn’t for me.
Given the opportunity, I will sleep until until 8:30 or 9:00. Of course that rarely happens, because I have kids and work and other life demands. But oh, when it does happen, it’s a beautiful thing.
Admitting this in the blogosphere is a little unnerving. It hasn’t gone unnoticed by me that one of the most popular blog topics relates to strategies for rising early. The benefits of early rising are undeniable, and I’ve certainly made many attempts at getting up early on mornings when I don’t really have to. But when that alarm goes off, my sleepy brain screams,”Don’t be an idiot! What could possibly more important than lying here in this warm, cozy bed and drifting off to sleep again?” It’s hard to argue with that logic.
How about you? Do you love sleeping? Or do you bolt out of bed at 5:00 a.m. ready to meditate, run five miles, fix a healthy tofu smoothie, followed by writing 200 pages in your novel, all before 9:00 a.m.?
If so, more power to you. Yes, I am a bit envious of that, but I’ve come to accept the reality of my body’s need for at least 8 hours of sleep. If you are like me, then you can relate to my struggle. But I’ve finally come to the conclusion that it’s the quality of hours in the day that counts, not the quantity. So I am embracing my inner Rip Van Winkle.
The happy news for us sleepyheads is that there are real benefits to getting the right amount of sleep. And for me, those benefits far outweigh the benefits of regularly rising at dawn’s crack. After experiencing the effects of chronic sleep deprivation, I choose not to alienate my family and friends or risk serving jail time just so I can be a bit more productive. When you regularly don’t get enough sleep, you pay for it in daytime drowsiness, irritability, trouble concentrating, higher risk of accidents, and — ironically, lower productivity. So there you go early risers — take that and chew on it.
Most adults optimally need 7-8 hours of sleep and teenagers need 9-10 hours. The health benefits of getting the right amount of sleep are overwhelming and certainly provide plenty of valid excuses for staying in bed when that alarm goes off at 5:30. If you find yourself having that internal debate about whether or not to wake up early, here’s some food for thought to make you feel better about hitting the snooze button and rolling over:
1. Sleep Helps Your Body Repair Itself
You may be sleeping, but you’re not a total slug. Your body is hard at work. During sleep, your body is repairing damage caused by stress, ultraviolet rays, and other harmful exposures. Your cells produce more protein during sleep, and these protein molecules form the building block for cells, allowing them to repair damage in the body.
2. Sleep Makes You More Alert
If you get the right amount of sleep for your own sleep needs, you are going to feel more alert and energized in the morning. I don’t know about you, but when I’m perky in the morning, I can accomplish so much more than when I’m nodding off in my bowl of cereal. With more energy in the morning, you are going to be active and engaged during the day, which will help you get a good night’s sleep that evening. Sleep begets energy, and energy begets more energy which tires you out and allows you to sleep well. Don’t mess with that.
3. Sleep Strengthens Your Memory
A process called memory consolidation occurs during sleep. As your body is resting, your brain is busy processing your day and making connections between sensory input, events, and feelings. During dreaming and REM sleep, your brain is making links and creating memories. Quality sleep helps you remember and process things during waking hours.
4. Sleep Can Help You Lose Weight
Well, this is reason enough for me. Maybe we should stay in bed all day. Researchers have discovered that people who sleep less than 7 hours a night are more likely to be overweight or obese. It seems that lack of sleep impacts the hormones in the body that regulate appetite. Lack of sleep causes a disruption with these hormones. A good night’s sleep, combined with healthy eating and exercise (yeah, you still have to do that), helps you keep your appetite hormones in balance and lose those extra pounds.
5. Sleep Helps Your Heart Stay Healthy
Heart attacks and strokes tend to occur in the early morning hours. It seems this fact has a connection with the way sleep interacts with blood vessels. A chronic lack of sleep has been associated with blood pressure and cholesterol problems, both of which are risk factors for heart disease and stroke. Getting between 7 and 9 hours of sleep a night will support proper heart function.
6. Sleep May Prevent Cancer
Researchers have found that people who work the late shift have a higher risk for breast and colon cancers. Why? Because of the differing levels of melatonin found in people who are exposed to light at night. Melatonin is a hormone that makes us sleep and is believed to protect against cancer. It appears to suppress the growth of tumors. Light exposure reduces the amount of melatonin the body produces. Make sure your bedroom is dark and windows block early morning light.
7. Sleep May Help Prevent Depression
Sleep helps in the production of a lot of chemicals in your body, including serotonin. People with a deficiency in serotonin are more likely to suffer from depression. Chronic lack of sleep causes your body to go into a state of stress, causing an increase in blood pressure and a production of stress hormones. The stress hormones make it harder to sleep, causing a vicious cycle that impacts your mood and energy.
8. Sleep Helps Your Brain
Recent studies have suggested that when the brain has some downtime during sleep, it replenishes some of the dwindling energy stores that cells need to function. The resting brain may also repair damage caused by our hard-working metabolism and even grow new nerve cells in the brain.
9. Sleep and Dozing Support Creativity
REM or dreaming sleep enhances creative problem solving for new problems that you are working out. It seems changes in neurotransmitters in the brain may help incorporate new information into associative pathways in the brain. In our dreams, we also produce unusual combinations of ideas that can result in creative solutions to problems. During any time of relaxation, especially during dozing before REM sleep or just before you fully awaken in the morning, you often get your best ideas or answers to questions or decisions.
10. Later Morning Sleep is Good for You
Sleeping in a little later for you in the morning is a good thing. As your sleep cycles through the night, the cycle begins with longer periods of deep sleep. By morning, however, the REM stage of sleep is longer. REM sleep is essential to processing and consolidating emotions, memories and stress. Your mood improves with more REM sleep. You can get more REM sleep by sleeping a late in the morning — so don’t feel too guilty when you sleep through that early alarm.
If you absolutely insist on rising early, try to go to bed early enough to provide you a full 7-8 hours of sleep. If spite of its bad rap, sleeping longer can really improve your productivity — not to mention your physical, mental and emotional health. Do you think you might be sleep deprived? Here’s a fun test to help you determine your reaction time related to sleep. Try this Sheep Dash test from the BBC to determine how sleep deprived you might be.
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