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

 

 

 

 

 

1,292 thoughts on “The Science of ‘Early to Bed’

  1. If we consider the whole day as a 24 hour cycle we return to each day, it makes sense to wind down each evening and prepare for a restoring sleep time each night.

  2. Dianne I love the simplicity of this blog, our whole body working to maximise the space that it is given to restore our body from our daily choices, and how if we don’t honour our body with the optimum space by going to bed early, the body ends up overwhelmed and we end up exhausted and open to illness and disease, I know from my own experiences how totally out of kilter I feel if I don’t honour my body with a regular early bed time.

  3. Not only is it great to be in bed by 9:00pm it is absolutely WONDERFUL to get up early. I often get up around 3:00am and the quality of the early morning is something very special and precious. So very much better to work gracefully and joyfully in the early morning with the stillness that is available than to stay up late.

  4. Our bodies are the best scientists, and when we really listen to what they have to say, they tell us in no uncertain terms what they want! The more I listen and respect my body, the more energy I have and the surer and steadier, and more committed I feel. It’s quite amazing how things start to change when we listen to our bodies and live from there, instead of letting all our beliefs, pictures and expectations get in the way.

  5. What is the reason we think we need to catch-up on sleep? Could it be the ill choices we have made that leads us to exhaustion and is like trying to fill a bucket that has a hole in it? What is required is a new bucket.

  6. Diane this is a brilliant piece explaining the benefits of ‘early to bed’. I have worked shift work for many years and often felt quite exhausted and would get sick quite regularly, but since committing to getting to bed early, (when I am not working shift work,) has made a huge difference to my overall health and well-being and the way I cope with shift work.

  7. Understanding the scienctific reasoning behind early nights is such a great support, I can see how complicated I make life by overriding when I feel tired to get a bit more done. It makes such a difference going to sleep between 8pm and 9pm because I wake up earlier, feeling more prepared for the day (because my internal filing has been done) and have space to prepare for my day.

  8. Last night I put my daughter to bed an hour earlier, she had the same amount of sleep as normal because I needed to wake her early but felt far more vibrant.

  9. The Ageless Wisdom has indeed being around forever, the problem is we have not being listening to it and living it and that is why we are in the mess we are today with our rates of illness/disease/suicide etc. Live the truth of the Ageless Wisdom and life changes enormously.

  10. It is totally fascinating how science can explain the intricacy of how and what happens in our body – but that must have been a lot of hard work and effort finding out those details and I am totally with you that the truth is already within our body for us to pay attention and listen to, and we do not have to wait for a research to say that is now officially the truth.

  11. What is really interesting is that we can’t really accumulate sleep and yet if we miss a few good nights sleep we can feel so depleted.

  12. Wow the consequences of constant late nights are huge. If our health can be affected in this way and it is so easily avoidable why would we not change our late night habit and opt for something that is going to help us to feel vital and more alive. A no brainer really.

  13. This is a great blog for students at University and for all of us who compromise on our sleep and push ourselves to the point of exhaustion. When we are young we want to ignore the facts you have presented here but our bodies eventually show us what we are unwilling to look at ourselves. Any continued disregard and even short term abuse can pay a huge toll on the body that if we don’t address now will resurface later to be cleared and healed.

  14. Early to bed certainly changed my life.. to the point where I went from fighting life to enjoying life. A simple change that is incredibly powerful.

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