When I was a child, my parents always tell me “ Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man happy, healthy, and wise. In western countries, there are old sayings much like this one, such as ” Early birds get worms”. Sleeping early and getting up early is a very good habit. However I found out it is very difficult to pass down this good habit to my children. They have a million reasons to stay up late, academic and recreational. So I decided to find some scientific evidence to convince them.
The information I found surprised me. I realized that I myself should sleep and wake up even earlier.
Circadian rhythms and internal biological clock
Three scientists won the 2017 Nobel Prize for their discoveries of molecular mechanisms that control circadian rhythms. Circadian rhythms are driven by an internal biological clock that anticipates day/night cycles to optimize the physiology and behavior of organisms.
“Chronobiology has an impact on many aspects of our physiology. For example, circadian clocks help to regulate sleep patterns, feeding behavior, hormone release, blood pressure and body temperature. Molecular clocks also play critical roles locally in many tissues. Ablation of clock genes in animal models results in arrhythmic production of hormones, such as corticosterone and insulin (Son et al., 2008). Clock genes also exert a profound influence on metabolism through the control of gluconeogenesis, insulin sensitivity and systemic oscillation of blood glucose (Panda, 2016). Sleep is vital for normal brain function and circadian dysfunction has been linked to sleep disorders, as well as depression, bipolar disorder, cognitive function, memory formation and some neurological diseases (Gerstner and Yin, 2010).”
Body-Energy Clock in Chinese Medicine
Observations that organisms adapt their physiology and behavior to the time of the day in a circadian fashion have been documented for a long time. Thousands years ago in Chinese Medicine, the body clock was already known. The 24 hour day was divided into 12 two-hour intervals of the Qi (vital force) moving through the organ system. The Body-Energy Clock is built upon the concept of the cyclical ebb and flow of energy throughout the body. During a 24-hour period(see the following diagram), Qi moves in two-hour intervals through the organ systems. During sleep, Qi draws inward to restore the body. This phase is completed between 1 and 3 a.m., when the liver cleanses the blood and performs a myriad of functions that set the stage for Qi moving outward again.
In the 12-hour period following the peak functioning of the liver—from 3 a.m. onward—energy cycles to the organs associated with daily activity, digestion and elimination: the lungs, large intestine, stomach/pancreas, heart, small intestine. By mid-afternoon, energy again moves inward to support internal organs associated with restoring and maintaining the system. The purpose is to move fluids and heat, as well as to filter and cleanse—by the pericardium, triple burner (coordinates water functions and temperature), bladder/kidneys and the liver. Understanding The Body-Energy Clock, could help you to better manage your Sleep, Meals, & Mood.
5 am to 7 am is the time of the Large Intestine, making it a perfect time to have a bowel movement and remove toxins from the day before. So that is the perfect time to get up. Waking up at this time, getting out of bed and moving around, will help your large intestine excrete the waste. Personally, I have discovered that I am prone to constipation if I get up later than this time.
7-9am is the time of the Stomach, so it is important to eat the biggest meal of the day here to optimize digestion and absorption. Warm meals that are high in nutrition are best in the morning. Therefore, if you get up early, you will have enough time to make and enjoy a hearty breakfast. If you get up late, and skip breakfast or just grab some easy treats, then you don’t get enough nutrition for your whole body. According to the body clock the stomach has it’s strongest time in the morning, it secretes a lot of digestive juices in the morning. A lot of people like to eat a big meal at dinner, which can cause the stomach to be overburdened and make the it unable to rest adequately during sleep.
From the Body-Energy Clock we can see the Gall Bladder is most active from 11 p.m. to 1 a.m. The Gall Bladder excretes bile and digest the good fats, it is working hard to repair damaged cells and build new ones. And this process is better processed when you are sleep.
1 a.m. to 3 a.m. is the most active time for the Liver. During this time, toxins are released from the body and fresh new blood is made. The liver is the main detoxifying organ in the body. Our body needs to be in the deep sleep stage, in order to give the liver its full energy capacity so it can do its proper job.
Melatonin is often referred to as the sleep hormone. Melatonin level plays an important role in our sleep-wake cycle. It is well-established that melatonin produced by the body plays a fundamental role in getting quality sleep. Scientist has discovered, our body start to increase melatonin secretion soon after the onset of darkness, peaks in the middle of the night, between 2 and 4 a.m., and gradually falls during the second half of the night. Thus most people have the experience that if they stay up too late, they have trouble falling asleep. After 4 a.m. Melatonin level start to decrease, so after 4 a.m. our sleep goes into a light, shallow and dreamy state. Falling asleep during 11 p.m. to 4 a.m., we can get better quality rest from sleeping.
There are many benefits for Going to bed early and getting up early. Here are some examples:
- Early risers, whether young or old, have more positive emotions and a better sense of self-health.
- Depression is a common mental illness that affects 264 million people worldwide, according to the latest data released on the World Health Organization’s website. A new study in the United States shows that for people who are accustomed to going to bed late, if they can go to bed an hour earlier, they can reduce the risk of depression by 23%.
- Staying up late is also an important factor in gain weight, because staying up late can lead to endocrine disorders. If you rest on time, get up early and exercise properly, not only will you prevent excessive weight gain, but you will also be able to maintain a slim body. So, consider to be a early sleeper and early riser, if you wish to control your weight.
- Multiple studies have shown that sleep deprivation is associated with increased risk of morbidity. Going to bed early and getting up early can enhance immunity and help fight colds and other viruses. It can also greatly reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and stroke.
- Study confirms that early sleepers and early risers score 30% higher on anagram tests than those who stay up late.
Here is a interesting video of a navy seal who likes to go to bed early and get up early. I hope you enjoy it, and be happy and healthy.
Source: https://www.businessinsider.com/navy-seal-explains-wake-up-430-am-every-day-jocko-willink-2018-4， https://mspmag.com/health-and-fitness/chinese-medicine-body-clock-optimize-sleep-meals-mood/， https://www.nirvananaturopathics.com/blog/traditional-chinese-organ-body-clock