The Science of ‘Early to Bed’

by Dianne Trussell, BSc Hons, Goonellabah, NSW, Australia

Question:

Do you find it difficult committing to a routine, quitting addictions, having enough energy, maintaining a positive attitude, staying emotionally stable, managing your moods, harmonizing with other people, remembering things, learning how to do new stuff, and/or changing behaviour when you realise that how you’ve been isn’t working?

Answer:

Go to bed early! It can change your life.

There is an abundance of scientific research to support this conclusion, but it’s not often put together in a way that makes sense to us. And certainly not presented in a way that makes enough sense for us to actually make the choice to make the change. I offer this short summary, to perhaps help address this deficiency. So let’s get into our heads….. literally. 

The hippocampus is the part of your brain that takes all the things you have thought, felt, done and experienced in your day, and goes off to find a quiet, unstressed space while you sleep from 9 pm until midnight, to sort it all out for you. As it sorts it out, it connects it with everything else you have thought, felt, done and experienced in the past. To succeed, it has to talk to the cortex – the thinking, understanding, associating, sensing part of your brain that ‘knows where you’re at’ and how it all hangs together.

The hippocampus has to talk to the cortex because it has to know what’s ‘already in the files’ to be able to file the new stuff in the right places in the cortex. So the hippocampus and cortex have a kind of back-and-forth ‘email conversation’ throughout the night to get the ‘office work’ done. A different part of the office work is done during 2 types of sleep that we alternate between – dreaming (REM) and non-dreaming (SWS). And in each cycle of REM and SWS, the office work has progressed, and more stuff is transferred to the cortex all tidy and ready to go. Some parts of the cortex get the job done early in the night, and some parts later in the night. So you need the whole night to get the whole job completed – all parts of your cortex updated with the latest info in usable form.

There are some important things going on that impact this process. The ‘stress hormone’ – cortisol – can come along and make a mess of this lovely office filing project. Your brain’s natural cortisol level starts dropping when you go to sleep, and reaches the lowest level at midnight (hence that quiet, unstressed space during sleep). At midnight it starts to rise again. It’s maxed by the time you wake up. If you go to sleep much after 9 pm, you miss out on the ‘narrow window of opportunity’, the quiet time in which your brain can do the crucial first lot of work it has to, to get ready for the later work of the night and for tomorrow. Imagine yourself trying to do 3 hours’ work on the computer that has to be ‘in by midnight’ but you can’t even get into the office until 5 to 12!! You give up, or try to make up time while having to also do other time-sensitive jobs, and the stress and negative consequences build up.

Among those consequences of repeatedly going to sleep after 9 pm are a measurable (9%) shrinkage of the good ol’ buddy hippocampus, a degree of shrinkage associated with depression. Makes sense; even if you’re not depressed (yet), if the hippocampus is shrinking it’s not going to do its office job so well and as a result, you won’t cope very well with life. There are potentially also psychiatric disorders, sleep disorders, Cushing’s syndrome from too much cortisol for too long, leading to things like high blood pressure, bone loss, disfiguring marks on the face, a hump back, and diabetes. So the consequences can be more than just ‘feeling tired’. And the whole equation gets tighter as you get older, like the tsunami of your past choices finally hitting the coast!

The study found an optimum duration of sleep (7 to 9 hours) with both less and more being not so good although nowhere near as strong on effects as going to bed late. So for example sleeping from 8 pm till midnight or from 1 am till midday won’t benefit you as much as the optimal cycle, i.e. going to sleep between 9 and 10 pm, sleeping for 7 – 9 hours, and waking up between 5 and 6 am. The scientists didn’t study going to bed at 8 pm and getting up at 3 to 4 am, but based on how amazing I and many friends feel on this cycle, it would probably show an even more beneficial effect. It’s also important to note that the amount of sleep required may vary depending on the individual person’s life and what their body truly needs which will be influenced by how they have been living.

You might try to get off the hook by thinking: “Oh well, if I go to bed late, I’ll just sleep late and my brain will still get it all done,” Mega-wrong! The cycles to which our bodies naturally work are tied to much bigger and precise cycles of the planet, the moon, the sun, and in fact the whole cosmos, massive energies synchronizing all living bodies, that we can’t escape from (and would be unwise to try). Push it, and we become (and feel) less than we can be. Keep pushing it, and end up sick or crazy, or both.

Going to sleep by 9 pm is the way to go if you want to be a healthy, vibrant, well-balanced, and adaptable, on-the-ball human being, feeling great and making the most of life.

A few quotes from one of the easier-to-digest papers by Diana Kuperczko (Dept. of Neurology, University of Pecs, Hungary) et al in 2014 entitled: “Late bedtime is associated with decreased hippocampal volume in young, healthy subjects“, in ‘Sleep and Biological Rhythms’:

These results suggest the importance of adequate sleep timing and especially bedtime in determining hippocampal volume.

“…highlights the importance of adequate sleep timing and especially that of going to bed early in preventing hippocampal volume loss.”

Delaying sleep onset may lead to dissociations between the endogenous circadian pacemaker, Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Adrenal hormone axis, and sleep stages, which may have adverse consequences.”

This is all pretty cool. But you know what’s even cooler? It’s that, although there is a chunk of society that wants scientific research results and explanations before they will accept the truth of something, the truth is already accessible from our own bodies (which know), if only we listen. And that listening and knowing does not require scientific education or years of research to access; anyone is capable of accessing it. This is what the Ageless Wisdom has always taught, and it’s called ‘ageless’ because it’s still true now. All one has to do is accept the possibility and be helped (if necessary) to learn how to listen and change choices. I learned how from Serge Benhayon. For me, the science presented above is the ‘retrospective’, because my body has already been benefitting for several years from listening and changing choices, way before tracking down and compiling this research.

 

Read more:

“Early to Bed, Early to Rise, Makes you Healthy, Wealthy and Wise” by Simon Asquith

 

 

 

 

 

1,218 thoughts on “The Science of ‘Early to Bed’

  1. What a fun way to present biology and physiology. It makes much more sense.
    I go to bed early too and have done for some years. I find it hugely supportive in my every day, being able to get up early and use that extra time well has made such a difference to my life and energy levels. I am no longer exhausted which is a massive bonus.

  2. Absolutely love your sharing on the topic of going to bed early, it makes so much sense scientifically as well a practically. I have been going to bed early for the last 5yrs and my health has improved so much. I have so much more energy, i am able to work longer days and be more productive.

  3. So true Dianne… “Go to bed early! It can change your life.” Such a simple thing, and yet the impact on the body is enormous, especially when you add that up 365 days of the year, for 70 odd years of life. Understanding the science behind it is very helpful too. In my experience and observation, when kids grow up with this basic daily rhythm of being in bed and asleep early, their health, their demeanour, temperament and their ability to cope with life is enormously advantaged.

  4. I have been my own experiment with going to bed at 9, easily and naturally waking at 4. 30 ish. My body loves it and many things have changes as a result…. I feel it’s the most amazing support in my wellbeing and vitality, energy levels, even temperament, sparkle and general willingness to be as interested in and involved with all that is presented. It doesn’t mean I climb mountains or extreme anything, but just having the clarity to respond with a depth of connection and support I feel from honouring the natural rhythms the body loves. When I do have a late night occasionally, my body lets me know with a dense head, heaviness in the body, no feeling of sparkle and vitality, so then I can’t wait to get back to my early to bed early to rise.

  5. Your scientific research backs up what I have always known is best for me, and that’s an early night really suits me, but what if – like many – they are ‘ night owls’? I have observed this also and the long term results do show many of the mental, and bodily symptoms you have listed. Why is it then not a recommendation that we hear of this cycle being vital to our well being and generally the health of the nation.

  6. My experience has been the same Dianne, going to bed early has ensured that I feel refreshed and able to function from 4am, attend meetings before work across many volunteer projects I am involved in, work a full work day, then be social and experience great relationships that I hold in my life. I attribute a lot of this to going to bed early.

  7. I agree Dianne going to bed early is life-changing. The more we are willing to listen to our body and what it is communicating the more we can truly support ourselves and honour our body’s natural rhythm.

  8. I used to be someone that would stay up late, wanting to get the most out of the day – be it TV, reading or chatting with people on the phone. The problem came the morning after, tired, irritated and wanting to sleep in. My day felt like I was always behind. Bring in sleeping when my body asks and it has transformed my life. The mornings I am full of zest and aliveness, I would recommend this experiment to everyone.

  9. I love this, it is a great understanding of why our body breaks down when it doesn’t have enough sleep, and early sleep. As you have shared, this actually confirms what my body says – the many nights falling asleep on the sofa now translate to taking myself to bed earlier and feeling much more vital in the morning.

  10. Our sleep cycle is hugely important in giving our body time to adjust, repair, and cleanse itself ready for the next day, I have found that simply going to bed earlier around 9.30pm has given me more vitality than I had before when I was running on exhaustion.

  11. Dianne you have made the science of sleep so easy and simple to understand that it makes total sense to go to bed early. What you show is that going to bed late is like turning up late for work and having to cram things into the day, only it never works because we are out of sync and out of rhythm with the day and putting ourselves under unnecessary stress.

  12. You are the best science teacher around! I wish you were mine at high school. You make it so simple and easy to understand and so so fascinating. Thank you.

  13. It’s interesting how we often say to grumpy or emotional children ‘you should get to bed earlier’ but we adults seldom do it for ourselves! Yet it makes such an enormous difference to how we are the following day.

  14. It makes so much sense how our body is impacted by staying up late and how it responds when we listen to when our body is tired and go to bed early. There is simplicity in how our body communicates and the little practical things we are able to support ourselves with that contribute in a big way to our overall health and well-being. Knowing the science to it all confirms our responsibility even more for ourselves and how we are with everyone around us.

  15. “Answer: Go to bed early! It can change your life.” Sometimes the best answer is the simplest one but we override it because we are wanting a more complicated solution.

  16. Thank you Dianne this is super informative and so supports going to bed early. I know that when I go to bed at 10pm I do not feel so rested for so long the next day. I usually am late to bed because I am trying to squeeze extra things into my day and not allowing enough spaciousness for me to feel really appreciative and loving of where I am at.

  17. I am passing this email link straight on to someone, it makes such perfect and complete sense of sleep issues and how to work with them.

  18. I love hearing and talking about the hippocampus…. Once you get over the initial image of a large mammal in a tent, then the wonder of the universe is there within us… thank you again Dianne.

  19. There is so much in what you have shared here Dianne, when we listen to what our bodies are saying, actually going to bed when we feel to, there is a huge difference in our bodies the next day. I know this is definitely the case for me and I feel the benefits when I do honour what I feel.

  20. Hehe, though not funny really, I found this great blog again this morning and it is sooo appropriate. Last night I stayed up later than normal and enjoyed a conversation with a friend after a rather stimulating day. This resulted in going to bed later than usual and I was wide awake for 2 hours before I got to sleep. I can feel the effects of this right now, not fully myself and rather tired. The hippocampus has spoken and I have learned something! Early to bed tonight so the filing can be done with plenty of time.

  21. Makes sense that science can only find ‘objective’ proof of what subjectively and naturally is known by listening to the body. Interesting that the mind can dissociate so much from the body that it needs to look at it from the outside to measure what happens inside, to then consider the possibility of complying with the body – or not.

  22. Dianne, reading this today I’m struck by how we and our bodies are part of a wider rhythm and despite our arrogance in assuming we can over-ride this, our bodies show us clearly that there is a natural rhythm and cycle which truly supports us and to step away from this has consequences, not always obvious but there nonetheless. Thank you for educating me with the science here, I’ve found personally that the earlier the go to bed, the more refreshed and focused I feel in my day, and the more present I feel with myself – I am more alive in all I do.

  23. I love going to bed early, it makes a lot of sense to wind down the body and rest it fully as a wonderful completion to the day.

  24. Going to bed early really has changed my life, I have felt really rested when I get up in the morning, and my body feels much better. It has meant that I am able to cope with so much more at work, and my decision making is crisp and clear.

  25. I love the way you present the science of life with the wisdom to live life gracefully. This is an art form we all need to learn to live a full, enjoyable and healthy life.

  26. I love going to bed early, thank you for sharing the science behind this Dianne. ‘The cycles to which our bodies naturally work are tied to much bigger and precise cycles of the planet, the moon, the sun, and in fact the whole cosmos, massive energies synchronizing all living bodies…’ Beautiful.

  27. For the many aeons man has been on this planet we have slept in tune with the cycles of daylight and nighttime and then in 1879 Edison invented the electric light bulb. Not his fault, it is how we have from then onwards used this to abuse our natural rhythms that is the issue. Now in modern times, without any consideration for our bodies, we have simply migrated to a rhythm set by the people who schedule television instead of listening to what our bodies need.

  28. Loved reading this Dianne and the way you present the science so accessibly. Going to bed early makes so much sense – we know we feel amazing the next day when we do – so why do we delay it and find things to distract ourselves with before going to bed?!

  29. How often do we resist this natural flow of the body, causing mayhem that we have no idea we are doing to ourselves, especially when we stay up at night watching TV or out socialising, we take it as normal….. It begs the question are we willing to listen as this is our body communicating and supporting us to be vital, clear and present, maybe this is why we have so much illness and disease, depression, suicide, the list could go on and on but lack of quality sleep affects our ability the body has in supporting us, simple science really and I wonder what the world would look like if we all changed our rhythms to early to bed.

  30. This blog is brilliant as it simply shows that our cycles are part of a far bigger cycle which is the universe that we live in. We can intellectualise and rationalise our thinking is so many ways yet the body knows its union is primarily with the bigger picture.

  31. I used to love camping because i naturally gravitated to the cycles of nature, going to bed when it got dark and waking early with the birds and hearing the dawn chorus. Since returning to this rhythm of early to bed and early rising my body loves it. I very rarely break this pattern and often go to bed even earlier if I feel under the weather. Sleep is so healing, yet so many feel exhausted in their work day and often protest when I mention the possibility of experimenting with going to bed early. The spirit is very resistant!

  32. What you share here confirms what I already feel in my body – that is – if I go to bed early – I am much more vibrant the next day. It is true that we wait around for science to prove things before we convert – but the fact is the science is already there – in our bodies. There is nothing that we can avoid feeling if we are willing to listen.

  33. Great blog Dianne . . . nobody could read this and dispute the evidence you have presented here . . . just as anybody who has already tried and tested going to bed early can vouch for the many benefits this brings.

  34. Thanks for explaining the science behind going to bed early. It certainly has changed my life. I have just completed some work this morning. That is definitely one of the bonuses for me of an early night. I am able to get a lot done without rushing and with a feeling of ease and focus when I wake early after a great nights rest.

  35. Great call Dianne, the simplicity in which our life is able to start to rebalance and realign to our natural rhythm from our choice to go to bed early opens up the opportunity to develop our awareness and a far more tender and nurturing relationship with ourselves which our body naturally responds to.

  36. Going easy to sleep is life changing in terms of the wellbeing we achieve. Doing it regularly, it is also a commitment to our wellbeing that has a cascade effect to how we live our days. It is part of a virtuous circle we create for ourselves.

  37. I couldn’t live my life any other way if I didnt go to bed around 9pm. Many times it is earlier and very very occasionally a little later though on these occasions I know it is going to happen so can prepare myself and body for a change in routine. It is confirming to read this blog as it shows listening to and working with my body is the way to go!

  38. Surely, it’s not rocket science is it to simply see that winding down and resting early will lead to a happier body? Old sayings and common place traditions show that it has long been widely known. But the fascinating point to what you share Dianne here, is just how we resist and fight the facts. We doggedly do the opposite of what common sense would seem to be. Heaven knows that if just half of us listened finally, the health and well-being of this world would probably transform overnight.

    1. There is a certain arrogance in us that thinks we can defy the laws and cycles of nature that govern us and choose instead to impose our own rhythm that does naught to truly support the expression of who we really are.

  39. I was always a ‘night owl’, I used to nap in the day and be up for pretty much most the night. On weekends I never went out for the night until at least 10pm, you can imagined what ensued from there… My favourite time to be awake was and still is the early hours of the morning, except now I approach it from the other end in the sense that instead of being awake all night to appreciate the stillness of these hours (although I do challenge you to appreciate stillness when you have been in motion for most the night!) I now, like you Dianne, go to bed early so I can wake feeling rested in the early morning quiet. I have a busy life so this time to myself is sacred and provides a solid foundation for the rest of my day. I feel the reason why we find it so hard to go to bed early, despite being so exhausted we could collapse if we let ourselves, is that we do not feel we have got the most out of our day in the sense that we have not been fully present and committed and truly enjoying the tasks we are engaged with (or not engaging with!) and it is this feeling of un-fulfilment that has us seeking fillers such as food, TV, entertainment by the time the day draws to a close so we keep ourselves up to ‘get something more’.

  40. I have found most important companion to going to sleep early is to make sure that there is no stimulation or excitement in the time before heading to bed.

  41. I have found that I have had an urge to go to bed early , and get an early night but am always finding myself in bed after I planned to, and then retrace my steps back into my evening, which was set up to not feel what the day was like, to see what I feel like and reflect. But when actually making the early night not by force but by self-love it was awesome!

  42. I was just reading the recent statistics on the alarming rates of illness related to so many people not being able to sleep. The causes and long term illnesses were endless. Why not take a leaf out of this great blog- a simple yet great start to bring the basics back to life. Early to bed and early to rise does bring vitality but so does the willingness to bring responsibility into the equation.

  43. It’s such simple advice, yet how many of us actually live this in life? Sometimes it can feel like there is force pulling us to go the other way – like a rip in a wave pulling us further away from slumber, our sheets and our bed. Before too long we can find ourselves at 11 o’clock wondering what went ‘wrong’. Yet what I get from what you say Dianne, is that life is about quality of energy and simply choosing the one that Loves and supports us, can sometimes seem hard, but is all we ever need to do. Just writing this I feel I am bound to sleep soundly!

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