The secrets of morning larks
It’s interesting how we all think that we are either ‘morning larks’ or ‘night owls’, isn’t it? Whilst there is some truth in the fact that we are genetically predisposed to do better either in the morning or in the evening, I do think that, often, the underlying problem of not being able to perform well in the morning is lack of sleep.
I accept that often – due to life circumstances – it is hard to be able to get enough sleep, however, I also believe that most of us have adopted behaviours that are not helping our circadian rhythm in the long run. We often have random eating patterns and we get exposed to light at the wrong times of the day through screens and lights inside the home.
Why is sleep important for health?
Having a good night's sleep is so important for our health – the effect of lack of sleep should not be underestimated. The effects of lack of sleep on the body are very similar to those of long-term stress, including:
- difficulty making decisions
- bad memory
- reduced attention and cognitive function
- higher inflammatory markers
- insulin resistance
I follow the work of Dr Satchin Panda on circadian rhythm and health, which I find fascinating. Dr Panda discovered that we have 'light sensors' in the body as well as cellular timekeepers that regulate our bodily functions.
In a study conducted on mice, he discovered that rodents that ate within a set amount of time (all food consumed within eight to 12 hours) remained slimmer and healthier than those who had the same number of calories in a longer time-frame. This shows that when we eat may be as important as what we eat. He discovered that there is a link between our circadian clock and the immune system and how poor sleep is linked to higher levels of inflammation.
I believe that – whilst there might be some truth in the fact that some people perform better later in the day – the differences are not huge and, sometimes, we are just masking a sleep deprivation problem by calling ourselves 'night owls'.
Have you ever tried to change your behaviours to influence your sleep patterns? Do you know what it takes to get a good night's sleep?
A few years ago, when I lived in a forest in India for a few months, I noticed how everyone in that community was very much a morning person – probably because we had just tuned in with the rhythm of the forest, where all its inhabitants woke up early in the morning and became quieter at night.
Maybe that is what we need to do more of: tuning in to the natural rhythm of day and night, light and darkness, instead of thinking that mornings don’t really work for us.
Whilst I know many out there disagree with the theory that a good night's sleep is all it takes to be able to be more active in the mornings, I hope you found this piece interesting and thought-provoking.