If there were to be a single-word motto of today, it would have been opportunity. Opportunity for self-improvement, opportunity for entertainment, opportunity for endless socializing, opportunity for professional growth – so much opportunity and so little time to materialize most of it…. So, in order to compensate for this, we naturally try to extend our wake hours, at the expense of sleep. But what are the benefits of going to bed early, and do they outweigh all of the opportunity for everything else? Well, today we are about to find out.
As generations change, it becomes increasingly difficult to convince people of the benefits of going to bed early. After all, many have witnessed firsthand that it is completely doable to reserve only 6 hours for rest, and still have a somewhat ordinary life, not being burdened by health and mental maladies.
So, when it is super tempting to resist falling asleep, and the downside is not immediately noticeable, there is hardly any incentive to increase the amount of sleep at the expense of everything else.
The dangers of going to bed late
Staying up late is tempting for all sorts of reasons, and for a time your life feels rich and filled with pleasurable activities. However, there is more to life than immediate gratification and the effects compound over time.
So let’s see a list of the benefits of going to bed early, and waking up early. Many have to do with our circadian rhythm, metabolism, melatonin production and type of lifestyle, which ultimately affect our physical and mental health.
Therefore, in order to list the benefits of going to bed early, we have to understand the dangers associated with going to bed late.
Decreased melatonin production due to lack of sleep
To sleep on regular basis requires a predictable schedule. Our circadian rhythm is adamant that we go to bed and get up in the morning at the same time, so biological processes can follow their cycles.
Therefore, going to bed early also means getting up early, which establishes a frame where your get exposed to sunlight.
Melatonin is a hormone that affects many processes in our body, and is naturally produced when we get enough exposure to sunlight, and enough time without any light whatsoever.
Melatonin is very tightly linked to our immune system, our mood, and quality of sleep, affecting mental health as well.
But when we stay up late, we tend to interact with our devices. This means more artificial light at a time of day that is supposed to be spent in darkness.
Arousal from discussions on social media, movies with demanding plotlines and stories, text and news can be overly stimulating right before bed. If the pattern of such content consumption persists, it is very likely that anxiety will start to develop over time.
The nervous system needs rest, and additional stimuli at the expense of rest can put a tremendous stress leading to all types of anxious manifestations.
Staying up late usually translates into more interaction with screens across a number of devices. On one side, you have to make sure to dim most lights in your house in order not to offset melatonin production, whereas on the other dimly lit rooms create a more pronounced contrast between light screens and the dark background.
When we go to bed early, we usually cut down on screen time, which is very important for maintaining good eyesight and reducing the risk of headaches.
Going late to bed can often mean more hours spent hungry. So, in order to address this hunger, we tend to open the fridge and take a bite.
However, eating late at night is almost always a bad idea since we have very little time to prepare proper food. This results with unhealthy, overly processed snacks that have the caloric equivalent of full meals.
Considering how we also tend to spend time in front of the TV or glued to the computer, smartphone or other sources of entertainment, such a heavy caloric intake will most certainly pile up over the course of weeks and months.
It is no wonder that people who have trouble sleeping, and record fewer hours of sleep per night are also at increased risk of being overweight.
Impaired immune system
Going to bed late creates an imbalance in the melatonin production system, which affects our immunity.
Moreover, going to bed late translates into lack of sleep, which further jeopardizes our health by decreasing our immune strength. Cytokines and T-cells are produced when we get adequate hours of rest each night, and this means going to bed early so that we can at least have 7-8 hours of total rest.
The amount of sleep is equally important as timing, so we have to make sure to rest as much as we can, especially during stressful weeks and periods of exhaustion.
Benefits of going to bed early
When we establish a healthy routine of relaxation and rest, it turns the list from above upside down. So, instead of maladies, we end up with a number of health benefits.
Such is the case with sleeping patterns, that you could eat healthy and exercise, but still struggle with numerous problems if you don’t pay attention to timing and duration of sleep.
The things already discussed above point out to the benefits of going to bed early. They include:
- Proper melatonin production
- Decreased risk of anxiety and depression
- Decreased risk of weight gain
- Good metabolic rate
- Strong immune system
Moreover, other processes in the body get severely affected by lack of sleep, or poor and inconsistent timing. One of them is insulin production.
Proper Insulin production
One study, published in Science Translational Medicine, had participants shorten their sleep duration progressively, as to mimic working in shifts and more serious cases of jet lag. The results indicate that lack of sleep can create a severe imbalance in both the metabolic rate, as well as the rate of insulin production.
They measured the metabolic activity and the pancreatic secretion of insulin after a meal, concluding that both have the predictable tendency of diminishing notably.
Therefore, it is no wonder that people who do not sleep on a regular basis, are at an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes and the entire set of health problems associated with metabolic syndrome. For this reason, those who struggle with sleep disorders, and sleep deprivation, should monitor their blood glucose more carefully, and adjust their diet accordingly.
Good mental health as one of the benefits of going to bed early
According to Harvard Health Publishing poor sleep quality is observed more in people who also experience psychological turmoil.
Chronic sleep problems affect 50% to 80% of patients in a typical psychiatric practice, compared with 10% to 18% of adults in the general U.S. population.
This sets a clear and undeniable relationship between sleep quality and mental health. Therefore, if you want to maintain your mental health, one of the best habits would be to go to bed early.
Going to bed early regulates blood pressure
One study, published in the American Journal of Hypertension, concludes that
…lack of sleep in hypertensive patients may increase sympathetic nervous activity during the night and the following morning, leading to increased blood pressure and heart rate.
Therefore, it is important to note that a good night’s sleep will regulate blood pressure, whereas lack of sleep will certainly elevate both BP and pulse readings.
How to experience the benefits of going to bed early?
In order to fall asleep at a consistent schedule, you should remember few things that might help.
First, turn off most of the lights as early as two hours before going to bed. Then, make sure to reduce smartphone and laptop use, and perhaps cut down on TV viewing as well.
Never exercise 2-3 hours before going to bed, which is a timeframe that applies to eating as well. You can have some vegetable and fruit snacks, but this is certainly not an excuse to overeat.
Bananas and pineapples are foods that naturally increase melatonin production, one hour after consumption, but you can also consult your doctor about taking 1 mg of melatonin in the form of a supplement.
Going to bed early benefits – Conclusion
It is no wonder that older folks have many sayings such as “early to bed early to rise makes a person healthy wealthy and wise”. The key for getting quality sleep is to go to bed early, and get up early in the morning. That way, you can be well rested and more productive throughout the entire day.
It is safe to say that instead of investing heavily in expensive memory mattresses, it is far more important to invest in a simple alarm clock, as you ditch the smartphone out of the bedroom, so you can have a good night’s sleep.