During my research into early man, modern-day hunter-gatherer communities and urban vs. rural sleep patterns, one reoccurring theme emerged; early waking is conducive to better quality sleep.
This simple fact became a staple part of my personal insomnia cure, and the creation of the subsequent Six Steps program.
I have been forced to continually test this theory over the years, as I have had to change my sleeping pattern on a number of occasions due to lifestyle changes dictated by work and personal circumstances.
But the fact remains, when I sleep early and wake up early, at the same times each day, the quality of my sleep escalates considerably.
Compared with sleeping later and waking later, even when sleeping for the same number of hours, I have more energy, I am more productive, my brain works faster and I feel happier, less stressed and less easily irritated. But why is this?
Humans Have Not Adapted to Late Nights!
You would have thought that since the introduction of artificial light humans would have adapted to sleeping later and waking up later; I don’t believe this is the case. We have an intrinsic connection to nature that cannot be removed, and sleep is part of that connection.
Neither do I believe that science knows enough about this connection to truly understand everything about human sleep. For example, no physician can tell me why I feel a intense zest for life when I sleep for seven hours between 10pm and 5am, but averagely enthusiastic when I sleep for the same duration between 1am and 8am.
My personal research has led me to understand that there is a synchronization between humans and the natural environment, and the closer to that synchronization we get the better we feel and the healthier we become. In my book I discuss how man used to sleep not long after the sun went down – perhaps after a few hours sitting round the campfire singing songs and bringing the mind to centre – and woke not long after the sun rose.
When you think about this scenario it makes perfect sense, because historically man has had to utilize the hours of daylight to complete his tasks productively. However, in the modern era we have the luxury, or hindrance, of artificial light.
Many people feel more comfortable working late in the evening when others are retiring to bed and distraction reduced to a minimum; I am in fact typing this as the sun is going down. But what does this twilight activity lead to? In a nutshell: restless sleep due to late-night brain stimulation, tired mornings that lead to tired afternoons, less daylight productivity and more coffee consumption.
Whenever I go though a period of my life where I have to shift my bedtime and waking time forward, I simply don’t perform at optimum level, which is why I am quick to switch back to early-sleeping-early rising as soon as life permits.
Another thing I have noticed about sleeping more “in sync” with nature is that I yawn more as the evening draws closer. If this isn’t a positive sign of a natural sleep routine I don’t know what is. This yawning means my body is slowing down, preparing for the evening to draw in and to subsequently sleep in a few hours time.
And I am not the only one, either. Many Six Steps users report back to me with the same results, saying that the first sign of their insomnia departing was rediscovering that amazing yawning feeling near bedtime that they used to experience as a child.
The Benefits of Being “in Sync” with Nature
- Increased energy
- Higher productivity
- Heightened creativity
- Deeper, more restorative sleep
- Rediscover that child-like yawning feeling near bedtime
- Less stressed and irritable
- Increased general happiness
- Better overall health and wellbeing
Think about this logically, and ask yourself, how did nature intend me to sleep? At 2am after a late session on the laptop, only to wake feeling groggy, looking like you’ve hardly slept? Or to sleep at 9.30pm after a highly productive day, and to wake bright eyed and bushy tailed at 5.30am for a run before breakfast?
Some scientists would argue that as long as a person has 3-4 full cycles of sleep in a 24-hour period they will feel the same regardless of the hours they slept between. But for me the proof is in the doing, and I’ve experienced the best and worst sleep, at different times of the day.
And I can tell you this: nothing beats waking up early with the natural world, why? Because we are part of it, and to work with nature is always a more prosperous path than to work against it.
But don’t take my word for it. Try yourself.