Early to bed, early to rise

For healthy and longevity, ayurveda recommends going to bed early (sometime between 9 and 11 pm) and rising early (sometime between 4 and 6 am). These are just average times. The idea is that your internal body clock responds favourably to this ‘natural’ behaviour. Modern studies back this up and show that staying up late, and sleeping in both lead to health problems.

Well, I have decided this week, being the first week of the French school holidays, to test out a 5 day trial with my whole family. As of tonight we are ‘camping out’ in our veranda, under the stars. The rules are quite simple: et into bed when it gets dark outside, no light or candles, so no reading. We’ll just stair at the stars until our naturally heavy, tired eyes carry us into a deep sleep. And at the other end, when we wake in the morning, there’ll be no alarm clock, just the natural sunlight and sounds of nature as she wakes up. This will be especially interesting for Sharon, my wife, who is a bit of a night-owl and not convinced that her body can adapt so quickly (nor should it adapt).

It is true that some 5-10 % (I forget the exact figure) of the population are genetically wired to wake 1-2 hours later than average, and subsequently, find themselves naturally sleepy 1-2 hours later than average.

I often have some clients who work late into the night, have a disturbed or light sleep, then wake tired, or sleep in. I advise them to shift there working hours from late evening to early morning. In effect, they get the same hours work time but also optimise their inner body clock.

Anyway, I will keep you posted over the next five days and let you know how we find it. If you feel like joining in, or sharing, please feel free.

Cheers, Alex.

2 thoughts on “Early to bed, early to rise

  1. i must agree alex, but what is difficult is going to bed when it is still daylight, and most wonderful to wake with sunrise on your face and birds waking you up! but almost in paradox is the winter time effect, this difficulty to rise due to the deep winter darkness …sun not rising till 7am(blasted daylight savings) but then also going down as early as 4:15pm. SAD(seasonal effect syndrome) is a genuine problem in ireland…can you give any comment to this? i know that to keep balanced is the best remedy, but what if we are not due to life’s guna’s! enjoy, marie

    • According to the current evolutionary evidence, humans evolved in Africa, close the equator where days and nights are fairly balanced and fluctuate little during the seasons. The further away from the equator we live, the more change we have to adapt to in terms of daylight hours as well as climate. The extreme is the poles where for part of the year it is always light or always dark. These extreme environments make it harder for us to thrive. That said, over years, we have adapted to some extent. Most cultures that live further away from the poles, or who live in more hostile, changeable geographical places (such as mountains) tend to become more sturdy or build and character (a sign of nature increasing the kapha principle in response to environmental pressures). Yet humans, unlike most other species, have managed to use technology (clothes, heat, agriculture etc.) to allow them to survive in places where they otherwise wouldn’t.

      The problem you mention, of the northern European fluctuations in daylight hours, with long winter nights provoking S.A.D. as well as Vitamin D deficiency and so on is a real environmental pressure that must be understood. Certain metabolic types are less capable of turning light into vitamin D and therefore more susceptible to a host of neurological syndromes. I am not sure if S.A.D. comes under that category, though I know it is melatonin driven. Vata types tend to be the most at risk in my experience. They need plenty of sunlight and heat to keep them healthy. Pitta types seem well adapted to reduced light and heat. Kapha types seems well adapted to the harsh climates (high altitude and very cold climates). Someone in the life-sciences must be writing about this sort of thing.

      So what to do for S.A.D. and long winter nights? Do all that you can to get maximum exposure to sunlight in the winter, especially when it rises. If I was living in the UK, I would seriously consider turning a greenhouse into my office. Otherwise, S.A.D. light boxes are a possibility. Beyond that, balancing vata in general will help.


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