Does the early bird really get the worm?

It’s a good question, and you can probably think of a few people who adamantly argue they are better when they wake up late in the day. Similarly, it’s not hard to find those who prefer to wake up early, saying sleeping in can throw them through a loop during the day. So which is right?

The truth is, based on your own body clock – formally called one’s circadian rhythm, which regulates physiologically processes in the body in a 24 hour period – you may be able to wake whenever you please, and still feel good during the day. However, Ayurvedic principles, as well as modern research, waking up earlier can lead to better physical and cognitive functioning. That means better performance during work or school, being sharper minded, and feeling better!

According to Ayurveda: 7 Steps to Perfect Your Day

To begin, it’s important to understand that Ayurveda argues that the behaviors and choices we make during our daily lives is what strengthens or weakens our health, as well as our mood throughout the day. In Sanskrit, this is called one’s Dinacharya – your daily routine. Ayurveda encourages you to rise early, specifically due to how this daily routine can benefit your body the rest of the day. Doshas – the energies that govern your being – also have natural counterparts, that are stronger and weaker throughout the day.

What to do:

  1. Wake up before 6am. During these hours, the Vata element is dominant. As a reminder, Vata governs movement in the body and the nervous system. By waking up during the time Vata energy is naturally dominant, your body becomes in tune with nature. The morning is also sattvic, meaning it is a time for the mental temperament of sattva – the poised, mature temperament.
  2. Because what you consume in the morning can dictate your mood for the rest of the day, Ayurveda suggests starting your day with a warm glass of water with a slice of lemon. The water stimulates the stomach, and the lemon loosens ama, the toxins in your digestive tract.
  3. Stimulate your sense of smell by breathing the air of medicinal herbs or essentials oils. This helps to freshen and clear the senses, mind, and lungs.
  4. Activate your body by lightly massaging your head, temple, hands, and feet.
  5. Practice yoga! Physical exercise is a critical part of a healthy lifestyle. Practice a few sun salutations every morning.
  6. Bathe, and put on warm, clean clothes.
  7. Eat a warm, wholesome breakfast!

According to Modern Research: Waking Up Early Improves Success and Mood

Modern science also echoes the benefits of waking up early, though it offers less in terms of a specific schedule or set of steps.

According to a study at University of Toronto, waking up early correlates with more positive emotion. Part of the reason may be due to “social jet lag,” whereas late risers are on a different, lagged schedule to the rest of society. Because late risers are faced with adhering to the schedules of often earlier rising people (think work or school), they experience a less positive mood throughout the day.

But it’s not only social pressures and mood that be affected by the time you wake up.

In a  University of Texas study, researchers found that students who consistently woke up early showed higher GPAs, up to a full letter grade higher. Research postulated that later sleep schedules often mean more irregular sleeping schedules, which int turn affects the body.

The takeaway: by simply adjusting your sleep schedule to be more normalized an waking in the morning, you can both improve your mood and intellectual performance (think back to Vata!).

Get the Worm!

It can certainly be difficult to change your sleep schedule, but the beautiful thing about the human body is how apt it is at adjusting and tuning itself with rhythms, both natural and those controlled by you. Slowly adjusting your sleep schedule, maintaining the hours you sleep each night. If you usually go to sleep at midnight and rise at 8, work backwards by half hour or hour segments – 11pm to 7am, then 10 to 6am, then 9 to 5am. Performance this adjustment over a few days, or weeks – whatever’s comfortable. In time, you’ll find yourself better aligned with the world around you, and that encourages a healthier, happier life!