Day after day, it’s the same routine. You wake up for work or school at the same time every morning, and at day’s end, you go to sleep about the same time every night. So predictable and boring. Maybe so, but if that pretty much describes your daily routine, you’re already doing something sleep specialists recommend without even trying.
Admit it; your routine has you so programmed, you probably even wake up shortly before the alarm goes off in the morning feeling robbed of a few extra minutes of sleep. But waking up before an external source wakes you is a good thing! It probably means you slept well and got plenty of rest overnight. There is even science to back it up. #silverlining
According to an article in the Independent, a study done about ten years ago concluded that we have a kind of internal alarm clock that automatically sets itself before we go to sleep.
Think of it this way, for example. You need to wake up at 6:00 am, and you’ve set the alarm, but even so, your brain starts to wake you gradually about an hour beforehand. The gradual waking in advance is due to the rise of adrenocorticotropin; a hormone released any time we confront stressful situations. Evidently, our body interprets the interruption of sleep in the morning as stressful (whether or not you anticipate a demanding day).
Aside from feeling rested rather than exhausted all the time, there are genuine health benefits to regularly getting enough sleep.
While the number of hours of sleep needed differs for everyone, but the average adult needs 7-8 hours each night. People who get enough sleep are in a better mood, think more clearly, and are at a lower risk for depression over time. Sleep is a factor in almost every function our bodies perform, including regulating growth and stress hormones, our immune system, appetite, breathing, blood pressure, and heart health, according to sleep experts at National Institutes of Health (NIH). Most of us couldn’t have imagined that whether or not we get enough sleep might affect our blood pressure and weight, or how effective the flu vaccine will be for us, but it can.
Human beings need to sleep, and it’s important to get enough sleep regularly. Science has come up with many theories to explain why we sleep. Is it an adaptation that evolved to keep us safe from hurting ourselves at night by remaining unconscious and still when it’s dark outside? Is it to conserve energy and calories for a certain number of hours? Is it a time when the body restores, repairs and rejuvenates itself? Or, is sleep merely necessary for our brain to function correctly?
So far, science has not proven precisely why we sleep, but we’ve learned a lot about the importance of sleep and the consequences when there is a lack of it.
If you aren’t sleeping well regularly, waking in the morning feeling like you haven’t had enough sleep, are sleepy during the day, or wake up in the middle of the night choking or having trouble breathing, you may have a sleep disorder such as insomnia, sleep apnea, or something else. Please schedule an appointment with your provider for a medical evaluation.
Hopefully, if you don’t already, you’ll soon find yourself waking up before your alarm feeling well-rested, full of energy, and ready for whatever the day brings.
The information presented here was reviewed by Cate Buley, MD (April 2019)
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