We all know people who get up with the first rays of the sun. Some people wake up even earlier, bouncing out of bed before there is even a glimmer of Homer’s famous “rosy- fingered dawn” in the eastern sky. In contrast, for many people leaving the confines of their comfortable bed is a daily exercise in frustration. They know they “should” get up, they know they should “be on time”, but each day they find themselves pushing the Snooze Button “just once more”. “Really, this is it,” they declare to their spouses and children. “I’m getting up. Just five more minutes.”
What is the difference, the distinction, between those who are able and willing to throw off the covers at an early hour and those who struggle mightily to respond to the summons of the buzzing or tootling clock-radio? The nature and organization of your biorhythms – your body’s set of internal timepieces – provide a large part of the answer.
The field of chronobiology – the study of biologic time – investigates various physiologic biorhythms. In animals these rhythms are associated with sleeping,1 eating, metabolic and hormonal regulation,2,3 cellular regeneration, and mating. In plants biorhythms are associated with photosynthesis and movements of leaves and stems. Circadian rhythms describe 24-hour cycles. Diurnal and nocturnal rhythms are active during the day and night, respectively.
There is good news for those who would appreciate the benefits of getting a head-start on the day’s activities but nevertheless consistently get out of bed 30 minutes late, an hour late, or even later. Circadian rhythms can be changed. It takes commitment and effort, but it can be done. Good health is required in order to successfully cause a shift in one’s basic functioning. Will power is not enough, as anyone who has tried to force themselves to get up earlier on a day-to-day basis can attest. A healthy diet and regular, vigorous exercise are key to making any long-lasting change in our biorhythms. Add a strong desire to the mix and long-term positive results can ensue.
1Priano L, et al: Non-linear recurrence analysis of NREM human sleep microstructure discloses deterministic oscillation patterns related to sleep stage transitions and sleep maintenance. Conf Proc IEEE Eng Med Biol Cos 1:4934-4937, 2010
2Kalsbeek A, et al: Hypothalamic control of energy metabolism via the autonomic nervous system. Ann NY Acad Sci 1212(1):114-129, 2010
3Eisenberg DP, et al: Seasonal effects on human striatal presynaptic dopamine synthesis. J Neurosci 30(44):14691-14694, 2010