It’s interesting to think that the old saying my dad used to say when I was young, actually has a medical parallel to it. He used to say, “Early to bed. Early to rise. Makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.” I never really thought why early risers are healthier, even though I did understand the wealthier and wiser part. I was amazed to find out that there was something called healing sleep and that there was a connection between healing sleep and why earlier risers are more healthy.
The “wealthier” aspect of my father’s saying (or whose ever it was that he was quoting) was easy to understand. Morning is when we have the most energy. The mind is naturally proactive and it is when it is most creative. The wise part just made sense to me as well. If you are up early and working, and learning and inquisitive about your day when your energy is the highest, you will tend to be exposed to more, and learn more, versus feeling a little like you would rather be taking a siesta or laying on the beach later in the day.
The more I have gotten into the whole health and longevity thing, the more I have heard about those who got more sleep were typically healthier and aged slower, but I really never knew why. I never really connected all the dots about exactly why that was. It was about five years ago that my nutritionist (yes, I had a coach when I was just starting to do the vegetarian thing… ) told me about our body’s healing time. It makes sense, right – that our bodies need to maintain themselves and heal? Here is the cool thing about the little saying that my dad used to tell me. Because the body has a healing cycle that kicks in at night when we are sleeping, the epiphany that I had was that is was not the rising up in the morning that was the healthy thing as much as that of getting into bed at a reasonable hour.
One of the major keys to increased health and vitality is simply GOING TO BED in time for our bodies to get their healing time in. Is there a specific time? YES! In a nut shell, our body’s natural daily cycle is to shut down for maintenance between about 10PM and night and repair itself and our vital organs until about 2AM in the morning. This four hour window is KEY to lasting health and longevity, and without it one can expect premature aging to occur because the vital organs of our body end up in such poor repair which are important to keeping our ‘outer beauty’ beautiful. More on this in a moment, but let me talk about the getting up early part and why you don’t want to sleep in.
Remember earlier when I said getting up early was because that is when we naturally have more energy? Well, there is a reason for that. When the morning comes, our body starts the production of a hormone called cortisol. Cortisol is the hormone that helps regulate our adrenals and ignites our thoughts and energy in the morning. Later in the day, starting about noon, our cortisol levels start diminishing and our melatonin levels begin to increase so that by 9PM or so, your body can begin to shut down and repair itself. Melatonin is the sleep hormone that gets us into REM sleep where our body can heal.
Now, herein lies the rub with your overall health and in trying to be 100% productive in your day to day life if you are not getting the sleep you need. When you stay up late, two things happen. The first is obvious… your body can’t shut down to heal itself (especially if you are eating dinner late). The second reason is that if you stay up late you will typically sleep in and not get up as your body is naturally trying to wake itself up. It does this naturally by producing the cortisol, and like I said, as those levels increase, they sort of jump start your whole system (including your brain) to help you to generate creative thought and to start burning energy that allows for activity to do things in your day. If you stay in bed when cortisol is increasing, your sleep will be restless and broken since your body is trying to stay on schedule with its natural energy cycle.
Yes, to all you coffee drinkers. You can try to jump start your day with caffeine which will give you a stimulant that will wake you up and keep you going ‘unnaturally’, and it will increase the cortisol levels in your body, but this wreaks havoc on your hormonal cycles that control most of all your day to day internal body and brain functions – which are directly related to the health of your vital organs. One of the biggest causes for sleeplessness is that of these hormonal imbalances. Try as your body might, eventually your liver will not be able to detox your blood or your body on a cellular level, and you will be finding yourself dealing with chronic fatigue syndrome. This is a bad puppy and it really can rob you of your vitality and most creative abilities, but also if left to continue, your long term health and youthfulness. Yes, that is a big yes to premature aging as well. Not to belabor the point, but back to the coffee again.
When you drink coffee late in the morning or afternoon, it superficially increases cortisol levels which negate the melatonin production in your body that happens naturally – starting shortly after lunch time. This is NOT good for your ability to go to sleep naturally, and when you do not have the melatonin levels necessary to shut your body down naturally, your sleep will be restless and entering REM sleep which is so vital to your overall health cannot happen. Additionally, the lack of healing sleep (10PM – 2AM in our daily biological clocks) that results from staying up late, will ultimately cost your body’s health in a big way – including a whole host of premature aging issues and potential vital organ failure – even cardiac arrest.
If you are struggling with sleep disorders, here are four things that I would like to recommend for your health and wellbeing:
1) Consider doing a liver detox regiment to clean up your liver so that it can clean up your blood and the cells that are storing unwanted and unhealthy toxins that are keeping your body from functioning normally. I hope to have a doctor friend as a guest writer in the near future that will do a series of articles on the importance of a healthy liver and how to clean it up if you have trashed it through over indulgence in your diet and drink, and lifestyle.
2) Consider weaning yourself from coffee as quickly as possible. Coffee is a leading contributor to poor liver health, almost as much as alcohol. Try to start by just cutting back a quarter cup a week until you can limit your intake to a cup or so a week, and then only in the early morning and followed by 6 to 8 glasses of water to flush out your liver afterwards. I recommend green tea in the morning or fresh ginger tea (dice up some ginger root and simmer it for about 30 minutes – the more root the stronger the taste, and add honey to sweeten it).
3) See that your overall water intake increases to at least 50% of your body weight in ounces. This will go a long way in helping your body rid itself of toxins as your liver is refreshed by a lower acidic intake (coffee is very acidic).
4) Pick up some melatonin from the store. Follow recommended instructions for use, and take it on a regular basis until your sleep cycle is stabilized.
“Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.”