Don't hit the snooze button - Are they kidding?

Sleep is important for your mental and physical well-being.  One important aspect of good sleep habits is the part where you stop sleeping – the getting up part.  Popular advice is ‘Don’t hit the snooze button’. I confess this is very difficult for me.

The top five reasons for not hitting the snooze button are:

  1. Your sleep-wake cycle isn’t messed up;

  2. You have enough time to get everything done (exercise, emails);

  3. An early start helps you feel mentally prepared for the day;

  4. You can move through the morning at a relaxed and comfortable pace setting the tone for the day;

  5. It may be the only part of the day that you have any control over your time so it can give you the opportunity to focus on things that are important to you (gratitude, nutrition, spiritual time, reflection) before your responsibilities intrude.

If you don’t hit the snooze button and focus on getting out of bed around the same time each day you are on your way to improving the quality of your sleep. Quality sleep reduces your risk of developing associated chronic health conditions such as obesity, diabetes, depression or a long term sleep disorder.

THE SCIENCE

Your body clock (biological clock) stays in sync when you get out of bed at a consistent time each day.  Biological clocks produce circadian rhythms and regulate their timing.  These are controlled centrally by the brain (in the hypothalamus). These rhythms impact the many facets of our body which follow a daily cycle.  While some triggers for the timing are initiated within our body, the light related circadian rhythm is heavily influenced by external triggers for regulating our sleeping at night and being awake during the day.  Physical and mental health is impacted by the routine of getting up around the same time each day and ensuring that we spend 15-30 minutes in the sunlight if possible when we get up. This triggers the wakefulness required for the day ahead. The reverse is also true – turning lights off, and not using electronic devices close to bedtime supports your body in an awareness of the need to be sleepy. People who get up early manage by going to bed earlier; and people who are night owls sleep in more. As long as there is consistency and some morning sun the circadian rhythm is regulated efficiently.

WHAT THIS MEANS IF YOU HAVE CHRONIC MIGRAINES

I don’t like the light. I have a black living room - its painted black, with black curtains. I also have a fairly grey bedroom (but I’m starting to think about getting a black bedroom).  As a person with migraines, I avoid the sunlight, more often when I have a migraine, and almost always in the morning (I just didn’t realise how much I was doing that)  My office has the blinds closed (and sometimes I turn the lights out when no one is looking). I’m learning, scientifically, this is not the best start for ‘wakefulness’.  Recently I spent the weekend at a very white house with lots of glass windows. My brain shrieked when I woke up in the morning – too much sun.

I take quite a lot of migraine medications and one of the side effects is fatigue.  Most days I feel like the effort to move is like walking through snow – often just holding myself upright is an act of will. So when the desire to work kicks in I run with it often leading to late nights running into early mornings. This is not helpful for regular sleep times.

As a person with a chronic illness, I just don’t ever seem to have enough sleep, so it is a struggle for me to get up in the morning. I’m not sure whether it’s my natural tendency be a night owl, the medication or the migraine postdrome (the migraine hangover); maybe it’s a combination of all three.

GUIDELINES NOT RULES

If you are over fifty like I am, you probably already have a good idea of your best time to get things done at home; and the best time to be in bed for a good nights sleep and the time you love to get up each day. The key is to be consistent more often then not.

I really like the idea of getting up early to start my day with order and serenity, and I like the idea of getting up at the same time each day for all the scientifically sound reasons. It just isn’t always practical for me from a health or night owl perspective. My modified approach is that I have tried to start going to bed at a reasonable time on a regular basis (I’m writing this draft at 2am; try not to judge). But I do try to aim to be in bed by midnight most nights. I did work on 10pm for a while but I started running out of time to get things done.

I also have a morning routine (self-care system) that I do regardless of what time I wake up. That is helpful as a useful approach to self-care and well-being which ensures that I always take my medication and have a nutritious breakfast.  I also have a school deadline for my son so by default most days I am up about the same time to ensure life happens.

ALWAYS MOVING FORWARD

Confession time. I am trying to stop pressing the snooze button. I am hoping that making a few more changes to improve the quality of my sleep (improvements in my medication regime and a new mattress) will ensure that I am better rested, and will achieve my goal of waking up more refreshed. But I also recognise that it’s not laziness that keeps me in bed so I will take each day as it comes, improving my self-care sleep routine one step at a time.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR YOU?

Are you trying to live your life according to other people’s rules? What is impacting your sleep? What self-care sleep routine can you incorporate into your self-care system to support the quality of your long term health? Let me know in the comments below.  


Photo Credit

Photo by Rachel Nelson on Unsplash