There’s one single piece of advice that’s universal amongst all sleep experts and researchers. It’s to have a consistent bedtime and rising time. This can be frustrating to a modern-day lifestyle, where time freedom is highly valued. What if sleep timing actually could get people closer to their goals of having more energy and feeling better? Having a sleep routine is a powerful habit for wellness and vitality.
Rising time — when you wake up each day
Bedtime — when you turn off the lights each night
Before I share some of the science, imagine if your clients showed up for sessions at random times each week and didn’t stay on a routine with their workouts and nutrition. What would that be like?
Changing the Clocks
Now, consider the spring-forward time change. Waking up an hour earlier than usual and getting your stove clock, car clock, and wall clocks all on the same rhythm. It’s just one hour and a few clocks, but it squeezes out a groan from most people every single season. It also heightens heart attacks and car accidents the day after (but that’s a topic for another time).
Now, consider the fact that there are 3-trillion clocks inside your body. One in every single cell, actually. There was even a Nobel Prize awarded for physiology (and medicine) in 2017 to Jeffrey C. Hall, Michael Rosbash and Michael W. Young for this profound discovery.
As you can probably imagine, it takes energy for your body to change its clocks–energy that could be used for life and healing. Commitment to a sleep schedule and attention to sleep timing pay off in exponential dividends for health and well-being because of this fact. Giving it a try for a week or two can help a person feel the benefits.
Synchronizing with the Sun
Here’s one last example of the relevance of sleep timing. What would it be like if the sun changed its rising and setting time throughout the week? What if it got dark at 7pm one night and 9pm the next, and wavered back and forth erratically in this way? Nobody would like it. It’s too unpredictable. And that’s exactly how the body feels (groan) about the internal changes made by external clocks night to night.
Not only do all the cells in the human body have to recalculate every time rising time and bedtime change, but so do hormones like melatonin, which is the trigger for sleep and cortisol, which wakes you up in the morning.
Melatonin sets its watch on darkness, which is under the control of the lights in our homes, yet not on a precise schedule like the sun.
Cortisol drops at night and starts rising a few hours before it’s time to wake up, also setting its routine based upon light and darkness.
In the absence of a predictable rhythm, these two (amongst many other processes such as digestion) get confused, not sure what the schedule is. This can make a person feel off-balance, groggy, grouchy and without the motivation, focus, and energy they desire.
It can also cause the unfortunate situation of being tired during the day and wide awake at night. Which leads to the use of caffeine and sugar as energy supplements and alcohol as a sedative. People are sleepy during the day and awake at night. This is not what humans were designed for.
Feeling awake during the day and sleeping well at night is achievable when the body’s rising time and bedtime are set to be the same every day of the week. It can seem like a mountain to climb because it isn’t the norm, but it is possible. With small steps.
Keep it simple when having this conversation (with yourself and clients). You can use a sleep journal to help nudge bedtime and rising time closer to a middle point gradually over time and experience a newfound energy in life.