We spend a third of our lives sleeping. It is how the body recharges and rests, yet many choose to stay awake till the early hours of the morning. When you wake up the following morning tired and with brain fog, you’re unable to function. To overcome sleepiness, you pump your body with caffeine so that you could get some more work done.
Sleep is one of the most important bodily functions yet the most ignored. The foundation to get better at many things starts with resting the mind. The minute you start questioning yourself with things like how can I feel better, how can I get fitter or how can I perform better, the answer begins with just this: Sleep better.
If you fail to get a good night’s sleep consistently for extended periods, you’re doing your body a disservice. Everything from metabolism to the immune system, and even the brain’s ability to think logically is adversely affected.
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In the 4th century BC, the Greek philosopher Theophrastus found evidence of what is now commonly known as the Circadian rhythm. In his book, ‘Enquiry into plants’, Theophrastus writes, “tree with many leaves like the rose, and that this closes at night, but opens at sunrise, and by noon is completely unfolded; and at evening again it closes by degrees and remains shut at night, and the natives say that it goes to sleep.”
The Circadian rhythm is what helps regulate the behaviour of living beings based on external changes. It helps the flowers bloom with sunrise, controls the feeding time of bees, and governs our biological clocks concerning sleep. Every part of your body has a Circadian rhythm with a 24-hour cycle of its own. Sleep is the way all these clocks align together and function as a whole body. Circadian rhythms are entrainable, meaning that the rhythms can always be reset by a stimulus from the environment. This is why your body experiences jet lag in a different time zone but adjusts to the new environment after a couple of days.
In a 2014 TEDTalk, Jeff Iliff spoke of how sleep was an elegant design solution for the brain’s most basic needs. He found that there was a direct correlation between poor sleeping patterns and the chances of getting Alzheimer’s disease. Apart from the obvious physical and mental benefits, sleep is important in mysticism. It is considered that sleep determines how the energy moves through the body when you wake up. While asleep, the ability to dream or astrally project into another realm has a significant spiritual connotation. Many religions consider dream incubation or lucid dreaming as a way to connect with the Spiritual realm.
Respecting our biological clock does not just mean getting a good night’s sleep. It also has a lot to do with waking up at the right time. Getting sunlight on your body soon after you wake up should be a part of the ultimate morning routine. You hear the first sound of sunrise the minute you hear birds chirping outside. Animals are naturally tuned with this cycle and rise with the sun. But people have become so accustomed to staying up late that by the time they rise, they are exhausted or late. If you live in a place with a thick cloud cover, there is still enough natural light that can speak with the biological clock inside you. No amount of artificial light can mimic the healing properties of sunlight; yet most people stay in bed after waking up, glued to the artificial light emanating from the screens of their phones.
Stress hormone cortisol peaks after you wake up in the morning. The Healthline website reports that while cortisol drops to its lowest at midnight, it peaks roughly an hour after you wake up. Both cortisol and melatonin follow the body’s circadian cycle which is why getting natural light early in the morning becomes vital. Natural light helps regulate this cortisol spike early in the morning to ease you into wakefulness. So when you wake up and stay in bed scrolling through social media or texting, that artificial light is not enough to regulate your cortisol. To make matters worse, you are feeding your mind with garbage from social media as soon as you wake up while still in the Theta brainwave state.
When you finally decide to open the windows or go outside, your body has already reached a dead zone. Your circadian rhythm responds to light during the night, but becomes insensitive to photons or reaches a “circadian dead zone” during the day. When you decide to finally get some light later during the day, it pushes back the cortisol peak and you experience it in the afternoon instead of early morning. This causes anxiety, depression, difficulty sleeping at night, and a host of other biological problems.
The rays from the sun are more beneficial than we realise. It helps the hypothalamus bring the body into wakefulness. This only happens if the photons of light touch the Melanopsin retinal ganglion cells in your eyes. These cells play a huge role in the entrainment of circadian rhythms in response to light.
Sunlight also acts as a mood regulator. Many people living in dark and cloudy regions like the UK report low moods and depression. But the minute they get some sunlight or travel to areas with more sunlight, they experience a boost in their mood. Sunlight has been shown to elevate your happiness level.
A study published in the Environmental Health journal showed a direct link between serotonin and melatonin levels and sunlight. In another research, Dr. Normal Rosenthal at Georgetown University coined the term Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD to describe the depression and sadness that people feel when they do not have much exposure to natural light during the winter.
Exposure to natural light has been shown to affect the reproductive glands. Getting sunlight only a few times a week has been shown to boost testosterone and estrogen levels in men and women. This is why many people feel good in the summer as the serotonin, dopamine, testosterone, and estrogen levels are high.
Your body produces a chemical called Adenosine that is known to be a regulator of sleep. When you’re awake for several hours, the Adenosine in your body keeps increasing and is thus responsible for the increasing levels of sleepiness. When you fall asleep, the levels of Adenosine start decreasing. When you wake up, you still have residual levels of Adenosine in you which is why you feel sleepy. Exercise is found to be a good way to wake the body up and reduce Adenosine levels in the body. Apart from keeping you fit, exercise can regulate how you ease into wakefulness.
Your core body temperature drops when you sleep and goes to its lowest after midnight. As you wake up, the core body temperature rises again along with a cortisol spike. So if you get some natural light at that time, you entrain the circadian cycle. Adding exercise to the routine will keep the body fit, increase the body temperature even more and ease you fully into wakefulness without the need for caffeine.
This is what an ideal morning routine should be like. It starts with a good night’s sleep and ends with bringing the body into a wakeful beta state with natural light, exercise, and a healthy diet. It’s like creating your own summer despite the external conditions.
A happy life not only means being wealthy, it also means being whole in every way. It means having abundance in every area of life including health, wealth, and peace. But it all begins with you taking care of your body. It begins with an ideal morning routine.