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

 

 

 

 

 

1,266 thoughts on “The Science of ‘Early to Bed’

  1. I always had problems with going to bed on time and couldn’t sleep for hours when I did go to bed (too late).
    Since I follow the rhythm of my body and thus going to bed early and getting up early, I am asleep before I know.

  2. Yes, this is true Dianne. Since I have been choosing to go to bed early, my body clock automatically and quite naturally awakens very early too. These early mornings are precious and magical with a deep sense of a quality of stillness as a foundation for the day,
    “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”.

  3. I can see a correlation between my going to bed late and feeling low…”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.” I do not drink any more and if I ever do have late nights, which is rare now, I often wake up feeling like I have a hang over…like my body had no chance to recuperate and regenerate….bed earlier works for me, very nourishing and supportive.

    1. In my experience a late night is worse than an early night – in the beginning it may only deplete reserves but after a while it may take some time to recover.

  4. Brilliant blog Dianne – I love how you share and bring understanding to the science of the body and the smallest of details about the physiology of the body and how this is affected in different ways, by our choosing to go to bed early or late.

  5. Using myself as this science experiment, I found the results so compelling to every particle in my body and to many areas (if not all) in my life, that going to bed early is now a given.

  6. I totally get now how going to bed early supports our body to regenerate and look after all that we have put it through, throughout the the day, and when we don’t support ourselves though allowing our body enough time for it to regenerate, we can become ill through sickness and disease as it tries to get our attention in that we are not supporting ourselves, and that we need to address the choices that we have been making.

  7. Yes it’s great to see some research showing how ‘early to bed early to rise’ is not just an old wives’ tale. I have often been going to bed later in the last few months and I can really feel the difference. I am more tired in the day, am checking out more and not so generally alive and vital. I have been wanting to set the clocks straight, as it were, but not been consistent. I feel your blog will support me Dianne to get back on track. Thank you.

  8. Such great and very practical advice and explanations as to why going to bed early is so beneficial. I spent much of my younger life convinced that if I went to bed late, I could catch up on my sleep in the morning and get up late, but it is clear from your blog that this is not the case. Thanks Dianne for yet again making it easy to understand and put into practice the importance of taking true care of our bodies.

  9. True wisdom can be powerfully simple – and an appreciation of the greater order and harmony of the universe of which we are a part will help us live in accordance with its cycles, as these are equally our cycles.

    1. So true Annie, how often do we arrogantly consider ourselves to live and exist in isolation missing out on the support of connecting our cycles with the cycles of the universe in which we live?

  10. I have been following the natural rhythms of my body for about 10 years now and feel more vital than ever before. The research is catching up with the wisdom of the body, so for those who need scientific ‘proof’ of what the body innately knows and therefore feel supported to try it for themselves as a result, this is awesome.

  11. My body knows when it has been deprived of early nights. It doesn’t feel supported in the same way. Just one early night is enough to give me the spring in my step back. Why would I want to lose that?

  12. This exposes the lack of regard we have for our body and the true value of sleep, we tend to believe it is all happening when we are awake and this is the extent of what we are to live. Life is so much more. This blog shows the ‘masterpiece’ the body truly is and its inticate workings. Very enlightening and appreciated Dianne – thank you.

  13. So many people want ‘evidence’ to prove something. Yet. like yourself, my body deeply knows the importance of going to bed early. We are our own walking experiments. I have never understood why similar anecdotal evidence, especially when collected from so many different people, is not accepted as hard evidence of truth. No need for a controlled trial – going to bed early indeed changes your life.

  14. It is fascinating how something so simple can have such a profound effect on our lives. The more I see sleep as a time to rejuvinate and rebuild the more I value it. There is such a difference when I close my eyes at night to shut out the world and end the day as opposed to when I close my eyes to truly rest.

  15. The research was great to read Dianne, and as you say it can only confirm what the body is already telling us. Brain shrinkage feels good to avoid! 🙂

  16. Going to bed when our body tells us it is best to, is not rocket science. Pushing on, distracting and overriding these key messages is a form of rebellion, a rebellion that hurts not only the person choosing it but everyone.

  17. Science works! My body knows loud and clear if I stay up too late I get to feel the choices I’ve made as soon as the alarm goes off. If I make choices to listen, reboot and recharge earlier in the evening the internal clock wakes me with a more loving tone.

  18. This statement is so true and a great reminder to lovingly attend to my ‘going to bed’ rhythm;
    “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!”
    An interesting and informative blog to read thank you Dianne.

  19. Yes going to bed early is something that has been a process of getting used to, I used to love staying up late and watching tv a lot, thinking that it was winding me down from the day. I know that isn’t the case anymore, I know that when you honour when you feel tired and go to bed, you really feel the benefits the next day.

  20. I used to stay up pretty late all the time and felt very low for much of the time. Inspired by Serge Benhayon, I started going to bed by 9pm and waking at 5am and felt myself become more balanced not only in my mood but all areas of my life. Some years later I was working shifts and found it very difficult to adjust to this. I experienced the low moods again, which makes sense when I consider the science you have just presented Dianne.

  21. That our bodies should be in tune with the sun rising and setting makes much more sense than instead tuning it to the cycles of the TV schedulers. Just because we can have light at the press of a switch, we have chosen to ignore the cycles we are really governed by and instead allow ourselves to be governed by false manmade cycles.

  22. If I stay up later than what my body is telling me, or sleep longer than I need to, both of these things have me feeling more tired and lethargic. Going to bed early and waking up early and refreshed, is a rhythm that my body enjoys.

  23. From how you have explained the science here Dianne, it very much makes sense to make the choice to change the way in which we live and how we are with ourselves that allows the body the opportunity to deeply rest and regenerate by going to bed early that truly supports us to build a strong and true foundation for life.

  24. I love the breakdown of why sleep is important, what should be happening and what we are missing out on. It helps me understand why it is important for me to consider my choices. I have also found there is a choice about how I take myself to bed at 9pm and what I have chosen to do in the lead up to that bedtime. For example, am I slamming on the brakes and crashing to a stop, or am I slowing down and coming to a gentle stop? The choice is mine and the consequences on my sleep are mine.

  25. Wow! That’s an impressive list of conditions a decent night’s sleep (and then some) can alleviate. Going to bed consistently early really is good medicine. No, make that GREAT medicine!

  26. The findings that going to bed outside the optimum hours, even for a long period of time, really erodes the argument that many ‘night owls’ use to justify their sleeping habits. Could it be there is something else afoot, throwing out their natural body rhythms?

  27. When I focus on getting an early night, I also notice that my wind down time starts earlier. This all helps with the quality of my sleep. My work colleague has fallen into a similar pattern, I can always tell when she has gone to bed early because she comes in feeling and looking refreshed.

  28. I would love science to explain why we have the cheeky need to stay up later, like somehow, the night seems so much more appealing. I have finally broken my late to beds and I have to agree, my whole life is changing, it really does work, if you are unsure, the best idea is to try it for yourself and you will see the results clearly. Over sleeping is my biggest killer, if I sleep in, I wake up grumpy and groggy.

  29. I love how you can explain the complicated processes and interactions of the brain and body functions through metaphors that make them easily understandable. The need for sleeping between certain hours is paramount and having lived to this rhythm, after decades of the opposite, can only concur with what you have shared. Our bodies are extraordinary machines and work best when we support them in their natural rhythm rather than push them into our own.

  30. All the scientific findings are interesting but the truth is in the pattern and the effect it has on you. I have not had an alarm clock in ten years, the only one I need is already built-in. I love walking up and enjoying the stillness that always comes with the sunrise every day.

  31. I love the science of early to bed, for me I found this to be a revolutionary science, One that effects everything in my life, each day builds on the one before.

  32. Yes, the benefits of going to bed early speak for themselves in so many ways, it’s just a true support for the body and what it needs.

  33. Great analogy of how the brain doing it’s time-sensitive filing at the most supportive time can transform our health and well-being. Despite working on refining my wind down routine for several years I can still sabotage myself and end up not going to sleep between 9-10pm but I am more aware of the consequences of this behaviour and what you are presenting here is another layer of understanding for me to deepen my commitment to ensure my movements support me to take better care of myself.

  34. My body is my scientist and my body says without a doubt that going to bed early is the way to go.
    Going to bed early makes my whole life flow.

  35. I love the straight forward and easy to understand nature of your blogs Dianne. Reading the bit about the cortex and how the brain restores itself at different times of the night makes complete sense. This in itself would make me want to at least try it out, if I didnt go to bed early already.

  36. If life was as easy as ‘to be or not to be’ it would surely be a simple thing to be ‘free’. But it’s not as easy as this. For we all find ourselves at the end of a series of choices. Each choice leads into the next and builds a momentum. It’s these ‘unseen’ forces of built up energy that is at play a lot of the time. So it’s not just a simple case of going to bed tonight at 9 but arresting an ill energy that has been running the roost for quite some time. When we say no we can finally act and make common sense and the true living facts that we know, real. Thank you Dianne for presenting the beautiful science of life.

  37. For me it was late to bed with my work and then late to rise, once I made a change and started to be able to go to bed earlier then I started to feel the difference in the quality of my being and how I felt during the day. This is scientific evidence in itself because I could feel the tangible and practical difference in how I felt. Some times I have to work late but that is ok as I support myself with other things as well and make the most of the times that I can get to bed early.

  38. From my own experience I can definitely say that there are several benefits from going to bed early, I wake up refreshed and ready for the day, and I no longer feel tired and exhausted through the day either.

  39. We are the only species on this planet that are disobedient to the cycles that govern us. That is, we make a move away from the universal order we are a part of and we create our own rhythm within this, except it is not a rhythm at all but a note of discord that sounds through our bodies creating ripples that eventually manifest as illness and disease which is our body’s way of alerting us we have stepped out of tune with the divine symphony we are a part of.

  40. Great advice Dianne on going to bed early. I agree, the benefits of doing this are numerous and supporting a way of being that leads to true health and vitality.

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