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

 

 

 

 

 

1,280 thoughts on “The Science of ‘Early to Bed’

  1. I adore what you have shared with us 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, 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.”
    We are not taught as part of our education about the cycles and rhythms that our bodies are naturally synched to. It’s as though there is an arrogance about us that feels we are somehow above or immune to the cycles of the Universe, and so is it possible we are so sick as a world population because we do not take into our conscious awareness just how much we are part of these cycles and rhythms of the Universe.

  2. I am getting a lot of comments my way recently about going to bed ‘early’ (which is simply normal for me now). However the results in my health speak far more than any words can.

  3. ‘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).’ In our organised, pragmatic and functional world where we are disconnected from ourselves and from nature we look for solutions, override the body’s wisdom and dismiss what it is telling us. Understanding that we are part of a much bigger whole and that our bodies are governed by cycles it would be a positive thing to start shifting our focus in recognition of this!

  4. My body knows without my head understanding the science of it that going to bed early every night is the healthy way to go. Great to have to the confirmation though as those who override their body’s signals now have it in black and white!

  5. It would be great if information like this was available to study throughout school, what could be more important than understanding and caring for our bodies? The human body is truly wondrous, but we treat them in such an awful manner, as if they have no value, when they are something for us to be in daily awe of.

    1. Melinda I completely get what you are saying, when I read your comment what came to me was how we allow for example two people to get into a small ring with big heavy gloves on to beat each other up all in the name of sport. This is just one example of how far we have fallen from caring for ourselves and our bodies that we can be so abusive and considered this normal.

  6. Dianne, I loved your simple and understandable explanation about the science of early to bed, I got it.
    This is why despite going to bed early from time to time, we wake up worse, as our bodies haven’t caught up with the back log of processing.

    I have been in a rhythm of early to bed for a good 3 years now and it is the best thing I have done to support my body. I absolutely LOVE waking up early, anywhere between 3-4 am feels just a magical time for me. More or less everywhere around me is quiet and that stillness is what my body loves in preparation for the day ahead.

    The only way we know how our bodies are going to respond is to make the commitment to changing our rhythms of taking our bodies to bed, and then keep the consistency going. And I found when there is a day when that rhythm is broken thinking I’ll just keep going, it affects my sleep – what a confirmation of what is supportive and what is not.

  7. When I go to bed at 9pm, I wake up really rested and connected to my body. This allows me to be more aware of every movement I do, and then it’s easy to know what cares for or hurts it. It’s clear that this simple choice of going to bed early is a great support of many more loving choices I can do during the next day.

  8. When I see how tired the pupils I teach often are I do wonder at how the trend not to go to bed early has been allowed to become the norm. It is such a simple concept yet has such profound consequences on our health and mental wellbeing that it seems strange that it is not more widely adopted.

  9. Great to re-read the science behind the early to bed advice. My Gran, tho knowing nothing about the science, was true in her suggestion then. Western lifestyle with late night parties nightclubs etc together with so much electric light let alone ipads and computers in our bedrooms, don’t serve us to get the deep unstressed sleep we all need. Hence the rush for coffee on waking and the explosion of coffee shops everywhere..

    1. Sue I’m glad you mentioned the electronic gadgets, for me they are a lethal weapon for sleep deprivation.

      I’ve experimented on myself and if I watch TV or attend to any social media or text messages later on in the evening, from after 8pm, then you can kiss goodbye to the quality of my sleep. I have a disturbed night and / or I wake up stimulated well before my body is ready. You might as well have administered a stimulant, as my eyes come bing open, and yet my body feels unrested and the rest of the day I feel I’m carrying this heavy body.

      Try it and you may see and feel it too.

  10. You certainly present us with a very clear case for the benefits of going to bed early, something that so many of us fight against. It’s almost like an early bed-time is not cool and you’re acting like an old person before you need to be. Well this ‘old person’ has always loved going to bed early, but I love it even more knowing all the amazing processes that are going on in my wonderful body while I sleep, processes which are there to support me throughout my waking hours, and which I have come to deeply appreciate.

  11. I don’t need to understand how the mechanics of how a car works for me to be able to drive one, just like I don’t really need to understand the science of the body that confirms the benefits of early to bed and early to rise. In doing so and experiencing the benefits I already know the science in that it works for me. What is lovely about what you share Dianne is irrefutable confirmation of what is already a known, especially for those naysayers who want to see proof in black and white before they make different choices.

  12. Sleep is not just ‘sleep’ where nothing happens, but quite the opposite and lots is taking place. Resting is not just about a body coming to a halt, but in order for us to rejuvenate and revitalise, it needs to be given decent space and timing.

  13. When we realise that going to bed by 9pm is not going to bed ‘early’ but is what our body is naturally calling for we know this is ‘normal’.

    1. Good call Mary. I know someone who gets tired by 9 pm but won’t go to bed and instead pushes through, then can’t sleep because they become over-wired! 9 pm is the new normal for bedtime and then there is so much space on waking earlier than might be the case.

  14. It’s great to have the insight into the many jobs the body does at specific times throughout our day and night cycles. Even better were your final paragraphs about how we don’t even need to know this or read research, just listen to and honour our bodies and see the results in our health, wellbeing and vitality.

  15. “Go to bed early! It can change your life”. I have a feeling that if you shared this with most people you would not get a great response – probably something like: ‘I can’t. I’ve got too much to do’, or ‘going to bed early is for babies and old people’. Well I have been changing my sleep patterns over the last few years, going to bed early and getting up early, and I can say that making this choice has definitely changed my life – for the better. I have been my own scientific sleep experiment.

  16. Thank you Dianne for making the science of “Early to Bed’ so accessible. Committing to going to bed and getting to sleep between 9-10pm has been so supportive not just for my physical well being but also for my mental health as I find issues that are concerning me are often resolved after a rejuvenating night’s sleep and now I understand why.

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s