The benefits of waking up early and soaking up the morning sun
In today’s busy world most people reach for the snooze button when the morning alarm goes off. After a few rounds of snoozing, finally opening their eyes and trying to find the energy to face the day.
But waking up early doesn’t have to be a struggle. It is possible to rise with abundant energy and ready to take on the new day.
You can make tomorrow the day you turn it all around.
Waking a few hours earlier has been linked to an array of benefits across every aspect of life; from weigh and fitness, to academic and work performance, mental and emotional health, quality of sleep and overall wellness.
Rising earlier makes our body more in tune with the natural circadian rhythms of the earth (i.e. sunset and sunrise), which also leads to deeper restorative sleep at night.
A World of Over-stimulation
Staying up late, glued to the television or other electronic devices: like the phone, tablet or computer is becoming the norm. However, the stress of the day is only worsened by the blue light glow of the screen as it causes your body to release adrenaline, which keeps you awake late into the night or prevents you from having good quality sleep.
Oftentimes, sleep issues are simply a result of an overstimulating environment during the evening hours and inadequate sleep patterns are often due to a mismatch between your biological clock and your daily schedule.
Researcher Kenneth P. Wright studied a group of students with poor sleep habits on a technology-free camping trip. The aim of the trip was an attempt to reset the internal clocks of the participants. Prior to the trip, a test showed that the students’ bodies released the sleep chemical, melatonin, around two hours before their usual sleep times and a slow, gradual decrease of melatonin in the bloodstream upon waking up. By the time the technology-free week was up, those patterns had shifted. Melatonin levels increased around sunset and decreased around sunrise. This change made it easier for them to fall asleep at night and wake up rested and energised around sunrise.
Due to the absence of artificial light and technology, they had successfully adjusted to their natural environment in a matter of days.
Much of our current morning grogginess and inability to wake up early has to do with improper melatonin regulation.
By making simple lifestyle changes we can prime our sleep cycle for early hours.
On the most fundamental level, to wake up earlier you need to go to sleep earlier.
The closer you can mimic the natural patterns of the sun, the easier it will be to wake up early in the morning bright eyed and bushy tailed.
Our bodies have a natural rhythm, called our circadian rhythm, which is pre-set to be in tune with the presence or absence of natural light. The only way to ensure optimal melatonin production is to have a sleep cycle that is closely aligned with the natural light cycles, sunrise and sunset.
The above doesn’t go to say that we should necessarily be asleep by sunset and awake at the crack of dawn, as for most of us, that would be impractical. However, science has proven that our bodies are naturally designed to go to sleep early and wake early too, so the closer we can get to this pattern, the more benefits we will reap from our sleep.
And if you are not sure where to start here are a few pointers that might help
5 Simple Steps to Becoming an Early Riser
1. Create a bedtime ritual that gives your body and mind the signal to start winding down.
2.Start by adjusting your bedtime incrementally, by 15 minutes at a time, to allow your body to adjust gradually.
3. Turn off any digital distractions and artificial light sources early in the night, at least an hour before you intend to sleep. (If you are wondering what to do with your time: spend quality time with your family, read a book or just cuddle up with your partner)
4. If possible, sleep with your curtains open so that your room is flooded with natural light in the morning.
Waking early can be one of the most beneficial habits to start in your own life.
The benefits are great, but you’ll only experience them after break out of your normal cycle.So why not make tonight the night you start your new sleeping regime?
And here are a few reasons to rise with the sun
Better Night's Sleep
The sleep-wake cycle is dependent on morning sunlight to help you sleep at night. Natural daylight helps your body restart and become active in the daytime phase. To ensure that your body clock is in sync, be sure to go outside and get some sunlight when you wake up or turn on the lights in your room (if it is still dark out). This will give your body the signal that it is now daytime. To avoid confusing your circadian rhythm, try not to sit in dim settings during the day as our body associates the low light with the night, time for rest, therefore, making us less productive. The less morning light we are exposed to, the more difficult it is to fall asleep and wake up at your set time.
Being exposed to sunlight in the early hours of the morning (instead of later on during the day) is associated with a lower BMI, a new North-western University School of Medicine study reports. This association was found regardless of other factors such as caloric intake, diet type or physical activity levels. Early morning light exposure accounted for 20 percent of the variation in BMI among studied ind
individuals. Light sends an extremely strong signal to your body and brain to wake up and also helps regulate your body’s circadian clock, says Kathryn Reid, Ph.D., one of the study’s authors. Your circadian rhythm may impact your metabolism too. Reid emphasizes that research shows that animals with an altered circadian rhythm gain weight even when they are not fed more. Messing with your natural body clock, and missing out on early rays may “alter the way your body processes the foods you eat, leading to weight gain,” she says. Moreover, it may also affect your hunger and satiety signals.
We need about 20 to 30 minutes of morning sunlight to reap its benefits.
As the sun’s rays are composed of ultraviolet light which the body needs for optimum health it literally recharges our batteries. Sunlight stimulates the production of melanin, stimulates glands that take care of internal secretion and our metabolism (especially metabolism of minerals). Vitamin D derived from sun exposure encourages endorphin production. Endorphins give us a feeling of joy, happiness, wellness and satisfaction which prevents depression. So, when we are feeling blue or a little under the weather we should definitely try to soak up the morning sun.
Sunlight is found to be highly beneficial for the nervous system. Regular exposure to the morning sun has been shown to reduce anxiety. In Scandinavian countries, a region deficient in sunlight, many people are known to suffer from anxiety, depression, and other health issues.
Regular sunlight exposure can naturally increase serotonin levels in your body, making you more active and alert.
In an article published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), exposure to bright light is discussed as an approach to increase serotonin without the use of drugs. The positive correlation between the development of serotonin and the hours of sunlight during the day was studied in healthy volunteers. In a sample size of 101 healthy men, researchers found that the turnover of serotonin in the brain was lowest during the winter whereas the production rate of serotonin was highest when the subjects stayed in the sunlight longer, suggests that spending time in the summer sun can help avoid the winter blues.
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), seasonal depression, and mood variation have been linked to the lack of sunlight exposure. Dr. Timo Partonen from the University of Helsinki's National Public Health Institute in Finland and researchers found that blood levels of cholecalciferol, also known as vitamin D3, are relatively low in the winter months. Sunlight exposure in the summer can equip your body to stock up on vitamin D3 that can last throughout the fall and yield for the production of more vitamin D, which leads to higher serotonin levels.
Protection from Melanoma and other medical conditions
Yes, safe sun exposure can actually protect you from melanoma. The skin's exposure to ultraviolet radiation of short wave lengths (UVB) has been linked to a decreased risk of melanoma in outdoor workers compared to their indoor counterparts, suggesting that chronic sunlight exposure can have a protective effect, says The Lancet Journal. In a study, indoor workers were found to have increased rates of melanoma because they were only exposed to UVA light, which is associated with skin damage and skin cancer. These workers were found to get three to nine times less solar UV exposure than outdoor workers and therefore had lower levels of vitamin D. Indoor UV breaks down vitamin D3 formed after outdoor UVB exposure, which can result in a vitamin D deficiency and increase the risk of melanoma.
We usually go above and beyond to avoid being in the sun, wearing clothing that covers the skin for fear of skin cancer, however it is important to know that early morning rays are gentle and beneficial to us as well as prevent us from the risk of other diseases. The list is long: breast cancer, colon cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis, elevated blood pressure, heart disease, multiple sclerosis, ovarian cancer, Osteomalacia, prostate cancer, psoriasis, rickets, Seasonal Affect Disorder, tuberculosis and even cavities.
Vitamin D deficiency is rampant especially among the elderly as they are often housebound and do not receive natural sunlight.
Lowers Blood Pressure
Skin that is exposed to ultraviolet (UV) rays release a compound, nitric oxide, that lowers blood pressure. In a recent study conducted at Edinburgh University, dermatologists studied the blood pressure of 34 volunteers under UV and heat lamps. In one session, the volunteers were exposed to both light sources and in the other session, the UV rays were blocked so only the heat affected the skin. The results of the study showed a significant drop in blood pressure after exposure to UV rays for an hour but not after the heat-only sessions.
Sufficient Supply of Vitamin D
The most notable benefit of exposure to sunlight is its ability to boost your body's vitamin D supply. At least 1,000 different genes that control every tissue in the body are linked to be regulated by vitamin D3. Vitamin D is produced by the skin's response to UV radiation primarily through sun exposure, which affects 10 percent of the genes in the human body. In a study, researchers did vitamin D screenings on approximately 500 children admitted to a pediatric hospital ward for 12 months. Two in five children were found to have a vitamin D deficiency, which was linked to severe illness and a longer hospital stay. A healthy supply of vitamin D promotes bone growth and prevent illnesses such as cancer, inflammation, multiple sclerosis, seasonal disorders, and depression.
In a University of Texas study, researchers found that students who consistently wake up early show higher productivity and test scores, by up to 20%.
Research shows that later sleep schedules are often also linked to more irregular sleeping schedules, which in turn affects the body’s physiological and mental performance through the day.
We can safely conclude that by simply adjusting our sleep schedule to be more synchronised with the circadian cycles we can improve our mood, physical and intellectual performance as well as our energy levels.
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Results may individually vary. Information and statements made in articles of The Health Coach academy Blog are for education purposes only and are not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. The Health Coach academy does not provide medical advice, prescribe medication and treatment plans, or diagnose illness. The views and nutritional advice expressed by The Health Coach academy are not intended to be a substitute for conventional medical service. Should you have a medical condition or health concern, consult your physician.