This morning, as I was peacefully going through my morning routine between my daily ocean swim and healthy, filling breakfast, I heard my neighbor’s alarm clock going on and off.
I thought it was an awful noise.
I have been waking up naturally for over a month now. This is the first time in my life that I don’t interrupt my sleep every day. That I let my body rest the time it needs. And let me tell you something: it’s an incredibly good feeling, and the side effects are just as amazing.
At some point, I realized that it no longer made sense
I am my own boss. My working hours are the ones I decide. No one is waiting for me anywhere. So why deprive my body of the extra sleep it needs?
I used to wake up to the sound of my alarm clock at 7 am every morning. It was like a safety net. I was afraid that if I took it off, I would find myself jumping from bed at 11 o’clock, disoriented, having lost my morning’s work.
But the fact is, I’ve never been a late riser. So I decided to give it a try. I set an alarm at 9 o’clock, just in case, and turned off the 7 o’clock one. Guess what happened? I haven’t heard the 9 o’clock alarm yet. When it rings, I’m already at work, having gone through my nice morning routine. No rush at all.
Of course, it won’t work if you keep going back to sleep again and again. When I open my eyes, I assess how I feel, if I am sufficiently rested, and I get up — or not — accordingly. This morning, for example, I opened my eyes at 5:30 a.m. but I still felt a little tired, so I went back to sleep until 6 a.m.
I tuned into the rhythm of the sun. In Costa Rica, it rises very early. I leave my curtains open so that the sunlight gently wakes me up. I also go to bed early, around 10 am. I cultivate a healthy lifestyle: I eat properly, I don’t drink alcohol, I only drink coffee in the morning and early afternoon, and I move around enough during the day. All this contributes to making me feel more balanced than ever.
I now wake up between 6 and 7 every morning, feeling well-rested, and I deeply appreciate those moments of calm and peace before I start my workday. And these are only a small part of all the positive effects I experienced.
I can count at least 6 of them
It’s only been a month. But here are the side effects I already noticed:
- I feel more connected to my body and balanced, which helps me in my overall journey to mindfulness and intuitive eating
- The day is more fluid and carries much less tension. My body flows in harmony with the rhythm of the sun, and I get more and more back in touch with my circadian rhythm
- I am less tired during the day
- I have lost fat
- I feel less rushed, calmer, more present when I wake up but also during the day
- I am more motivated and concentrated on my work
I don’t make them up. They are in fact natural and scientifically proven consequences that occur when one cultivates a healthy relationship with sleep, as this study by Eachnight shows:
This is what happens to your body when the alarm goes on
“Sound alarm clocks shock our brain and bodies into waking. If you are still in a deep stage of sleep, this will feel even more shocking to your system, to the point that it can increase heart rate and blood pressure, as well as cause your body to secrete adrenaline. This is a very stressful, and not a healthy or good way to start the day”, explains sleep expert Whitney Roban to Bustle.
This is why I feel calmer and more balanced. When I wake up naturally, I open my eyes peacefully and spend a few minutes in bed practicing mindfulness. This is when my mind is clearest. I simply maintain this state of mind as I start my day.
Also, as my body naturally wakes up, it means it has had the sleep it needs. Which is about 8–9 hours:
“The National Sleep Foundation recommends seven to eight hours of sleep for people over age 64 and seven to nine hours for ages 18 to 64.” — Health Harvard
As far as the weight loss I’ve noticed, it’s not huge, but I still feel that I’ve shed a few pounds of fat. And it happened without me doing anything: I kept eating as usual, maybe even a little more according to my intuitive eating journey, and I didn’t move more.
“It’s believed to be because sleep-deprived people have reduced levels of leptin (the chemical that makes you feel full) and increased levels of ghrelin (the hunger-stimulating hormone).” — NHS
Since I respect my body’s sleep cycle, I am more in tune with it. This naturally leads me to be more conscious in all other areas, including eating. I tend to be much more respectful of my hunger and satiety, which allows me to be more fit.
I also feel calmer, more clear-minded. Lack of sleep actually has many troubling consequences, including drowsiness and fatigue during the day, and irritability. According to Healthline, this is because our body needs sleep as much as air, water, and food to function at its best. During sleep, it heals itself and restores its chemical balance, forging new thought connections. This is why not getting enough sleep significantly reduces our quality of life.
“Nearly 50% of us sleep less than these recommendations. That’s worrisome, because the average person has worse health outcomes (including more obesity, diabetes, and heart disease, and shorter life) if he or she sleeps less or more than these ranges, on average.” — Healthline
The issues that can occur when a person does not have a good sleep hygiene are serious. This diagram shows the main ones:
But the problem is that nowadays, it’s not so simple to live in harmony with one’s body.
The way our society is built makes it difficult to live in accordance with our circadian rhythm
“One of the greatest barriers to getting enough sleep and waking up naturally is the conflict between our body’s natural rhythms, known to researchers as ‘biological time’ and the work and school schedules we’ve created as a society and are obligated to uphold, known as ‘social time’” — CBC
Living out of sync with your biological rhythm is known as “social jetlag”.
“Social jet lag is associated with a higher likelihood of smoking and consuming more caffeine and alcohol. It interferes with the timing of when your body releases hormones related to sleep, stress, hunger and feeling full, potentially impacting your eating habits and physical activity. An hour of social jet lag can increase your risk of being overweight or obese by 33% and the higher your social jet lag, the bigger your risk for type II diabetes, cardiovascular problems, certain types of cancer, depression, and anxiety. — CBC
The way our society is constructed interferes with our circadian rhythm, which is defined by Sleep.org as a set of physical and mental behaviors that respond to the body’s internal clock.
“The circadian rhythm responds to the increase or decrease of various hormones and proteins within our cells that either encourage or discourage sleepiness and wakefulness. Understanding and mapping your circadian rhythms can help you start to wake up without needing an alarm clock.”, they say.
The way our society is built does not allow for everyone to wake up naturally as we would like. Some people would wake up at 10 am, others at 5 am, and we have to get everyone together at specific times for work or school.
But we can always work on improving our relationship with sleep and being more respectful of our sleep schedules, by going to bed earlier, listening more to our body’s signals, and avoiding disrupting them. Believe me, it’s well worth the effort.
Working on your sleep hygiene means establishing a consistent routine every night and morning. Mine consists of reading a book, anytime between 10 minutes and 1.5 hours each night, and going to bed when I feel sleep coming on. In the morning, I wake up reading again with a cup of coffee, before getting some exercise before breakfast.
What also helps is to leave your curtains open at night, so you can be awakened by the sunlight. And of course, putting your phone away early enough so the blue light doesn’t trick your brain into thinking it’s still daylight.
All of this involves choices that only you can make. Going out at night, drinking alcohol, looking at a screen late, and not having a proper routine are all obstacles to waking up naturally, and thus getting all these benefits.
I’ve chosen my side.
Disclaimer: This information isn’t a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should never rely upon this article for specific medical advice. If you have any questions or concerns, please talk to your doctor.