Broadly speaking, there are two types of people in the world. One that retires to bed early and wakes up even before the alarm goes off and the other that sleeps late and wakes up late in the morning. My grandfather belongs to the former category. He is in bed by 9:30 pm and up by 5 am. I am nothing like my grandfather; I am a late riser. So, it is quite ironical for me to explore the benefits of waking up early.
It is not that late risers like me are unaware of the benefits of rising with the sun. It is just that we are not people who are used to the ‘rise and shine’ kind of routine. Though my grandfather has been telling me about the positive changes one can witness by waking up early, for the last 20 years, I have not been able to forgo my precious morning sleep.
They say old habits die hard. But this time, I have consciously decided to cultivate the good habit of waking up early, for its benefits are simply mind-blowing. Through this article, I hope to encourage fellow late risers to explore the benefits of rising with the sun, and make life-altering positive changes.
Synchronised circadian rhythm
The body clock is designed in such a way that it is in sync with the sunrise and sunset. This synchronisation can be achieved when our sleep-wake cycle is regulated. It is called the circadian rhythm. In simple terms, it is the body’s biological clock which is affected by darkness and light.
Alternative medicine proponent Dr Joseph Mercola explains how we can work around our sleep-wake cycle in his book Dark Deception: Discover the Truths About the Benefits of Sunlight Exposure. Dr Mercola recommends going to bed early and sleeping in complete darkness, as it stimulates the secretion of antioxidant-rich hormone melatonin, which induces sleep. He says an hour’s exposure to mild UVB rays of the early morning sun will do the trick. Sunlight, he writes, stimulates the secretion of serotonin. This hormone in turn keeps us energetic and happy. Further, Dr Mercola explains that the more we are exposed to the early morning sun, the better we would sleep at night. This is because the serotonin produced during the day is converted to melatonin at night.
Once our sleep cycle is set, the circadian rhythm automatically synchronises with nature. And when that happens, we experience physiological and psychological wellbeing. Dr Mercola writes that adequate synthesis of melatonin and serotonin play a key role in regulating our digestion, reproductive health, body temperature, immune system and even blood sugar and blood pressure levels. In addition, it helps us maintain a balanced emotional state and improves our mood.
Organ repair and recovery
The second interesting reason to wake up early comes from the ancient discipline of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). According to TCM, every organ in the human body has a particular time when it repairs and restores itself.
TCM expert Dr Helen H Hu in her book Chinese Food Therapy Rx For Selfing Healing (Volume II): Beauty and Longevity presents a detailed account of timings when various organs repair and restore. She says we should shut down and start relaxing as early as from 7 pm. Ideally, there should be no outside communication between 9 pm and 11 pm. So, when the gallbladder and the liver begin to repair themselves from 11 pm to 3 am (thereby increasing the concentration of bile in our systems), we would be sound asleep. Deep sleep, Dr Hu asserts, is a pre-requisite for thorough cleansing and detoxification of the gallbladder and the liver.
Activities such as chanting or deep breathing or sun salutations further stimulate the pineal gland which is the storehouse of antioxidant-loaded-happiness-hormones–melatonin and serotonin.
A couple of hours later, between 5 am and 7 am, the large intestine becomes active, ready to expel waste. Thus, it is ideal to wake up around that time, drink lots of water to get rid of the waste from the body. Just like the liver and large intestine, our stomach, heart, and kidneys too have their own timings. By simply following each of their schedule, we would enable them to function effectively. The organs begin to function like a well-oiled machine, and the whole system is detoxified and cleansed thoroughly. This, in turn, improves our physiological wellbeing.
Activation of the third eye
Just like the Traditional Chinese Medicine, ayurveda too makes a solid case for the benefits of waking up early. And the benefit? Spiritual awakening by activation of our third eye.
Interestingly, it is this pineal gland which is often referred to as the third eye because of its photoreceptive properties and its placement between the two eyes. Microbiologist Dr Urvashi Singh and psychologist Dr Garima Yadav, in their book Paradigms of New Age Psychology, compile their research on the subject. They find that activities such as chanting or deep breathing or sun salutations further stimulate the pineal gland which is the storehouse of antioxidant-loaded-happiness-hormones–melatonin and serotonin.
Opening the third eye is a spiritual process and the hour between 3 am and 4 am are highly conducive to attempt it. This pre-dawn phase is referred to as Brahmamuhurta, says ayurvedic physician Dr Manikantan Menon. During this time, the sattva and rajas guna are predominant in the cosmos and vata dosha is dominant in man. This is a perfect combination because sattva (characterised by positivity, equanimity, serenity and balance) is believed to be conducive for spiritual practices such as chanting and meditation, which activate the pineal gland–the third eye.
And there it is. The three reasons–packed with life-changing benefits–which convinced me to rise early. Much to my grandfather’s surprise, I have finally shrugged off my laziness and turned over a new leaf. And in all honesty, I am already witnessing remarkable changes in my overall wellbeing.