Early bird or night owl?

Are you someone that gets up when the birds are awake; or do you burn the midnight candle?  When I was a student (and I am sure many of you will agree), I much preferred staying up late and sleeping late, then going to bed and waking up early.  Nowadays, I must be honest, it depends on the time I go to sleep, the day of the year and the season.  The only change is that, regardless of the time I go to bed, I wake up early!  Where I live there is plenty of bird life, which always greets me once the sun is up.  However, during the summer months, there is a bird that will start to chatter at around 3 pm!  Lo and behold, an hour later, around 4 pm, there is a Robin that joins in the conversation. 

What makes one person wake up early and another stay up late?  For starters, it boils down to your biorhythms, where you live and, of course, what your daily schedule looks like.  Your biorhythms, thanks to your biological clock or circadian rhythm, is 24 hours.  This is the natural rhythm of your body, which, before electricity and technology, was in sync with nature.  The earth has a magnetic pulse and animals, are fully in tune with this pulse.  Thus, they settle down when the sun sets and wakes up when the sun rises.  Although there are many people who are night owls by nature, the modern world (with electricity and technology), have changed that for a lot of people.  Night-shift workers have to adapt to not be “in sync” with nature, but to sleep when it is daytime and be awake during night time.  This, in the long term, can cause many other issues, because your biological clock is not in sync with the natural rhythms. 

People who like getting up early, spend those early hours either meditating, going to the gym, going for a walk, and so forth, before they start their day.  Others prefer to “wind down” after work.  If you are in a stressful job, or you are someone that has a lot of pent-up energy, it can be a good idea to go for a jog, a gym session or something similar, before heading home (and taking all the stress and build up energies with you).  Many years ago, Dr. Phil said he plays squash, before heading home, so not to take out any frustration or stress he might had during the day, on his family.  This, I believe, is wonderful advice; especially if you (your partner or child), has loads of energy!

A few years ago, a study was done on the biorhythms.  It was noted that children tend to get up early, whilst teenagers and students, tend to be night owls.  When the latter become adults, they migrate back, so to speak, to being morning persons.  According to Katherine Sharkey (MD), night owls can be more depressed and be more dependent on caffeine, to get them through the day.  However, all is not lost.  A study done in Belgium, found that night owls stay more focused as the day progresses, than early risers.

Early birds, on the other hand, have more flexible personalities, sleep better and has better sleeping patterns.  A Toronto-study also found that early birds tend to be happier and feel healthier than night owls, but they can “go through a dip,” in the afternoon.  These studies are interesting, but nothing is set in stone.  For example, a teenager, who used to get up early as a child, can become a night owl, because of hormonal changes – not to mention their social lives as well!  If this causes issues, then have a rule that no smartphones, laptops and the like, be used at least an hour before bedtime.  It has been proven over and over again, that looking at a screen (including watching television in bed), just before switching off the lights, will keep you awake for much longer.  The reason being that the electric pulses the device sends out, activates the brain cells that keeps you awake.  Therefore, whether you are a teenager or an adult, making a conscious decision to not look at any device for at least an hour (or 30 minutes) before you switch off your lights, is key to sleeping well and getting up refreshed.

One thing to remember, regardless whether or not you are an early riser or not, is to drink a glass of water before you reach for the caffeine.  Having breakfast is vital; if you don’t like eating a big breakfast in the morning, have something small like a rusk, toast, a health bar, fruit and/or yoghurt.  If you are starting your day on an empty stomach, not only will your energy levels quickly dip before lunchtime, but your body will store your meals as fat and not use it as energy.  The reason being; your body goes into survival-mode; it stores because it doesn’t know when the next meal will be.  Headaches and irritability can also be cause by not eating something when you get up.  Like your car, your body needs fuel to “get up and go.”  Some people go to gym before they have their breakfast.  This is a personal choice and will also depend on whether or not you suffer from low blood sugar levels.

At the end of the day, your body’s clock, your environment, diet and lifestyle, all play a key role when it comes to getting up early or late.  Although I like technology, I do believe that being in touch with and in harmony, with nature and her natural rhythms, is a wonderful way to live.  Unfortunately, modern day and work schedules for many, doesn’t allow this.  However, I think we can still work around this by making time to be outside, meditate, relax and just be! 

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