“Sleep is that golden chain that ties health and our bodies together.”
Thomas Dekker – Actor
Over the past year and a half I have developed the bad habit of staying up late. Really late. I rarely get to bed before 2am as I am up working on my business. And since I developed this bad habit I’ve noticed some of my other good habits fading away like dew in the sunshine. I don’t meditate as much, I am less patient and my health is not as strong.
In this post I want to give you a few reasons as to why staying up late is a bad idea and why we should all endeavor to go to bed a bit earlier.
What constitutes “staying up late”
So how do you know if you are staying up late? Is 10pm late? Is 1am late? Actually, it depends. You know you are staying up late by one single signal. You are tired. If you are up late enough to be tired you know that you are going past your body’s bedtime. And this bedtime is different for everybody. Some people need to be in bed by 8pm. Others can stay up all night studying and not feel tired at all.
Why we should go to bed earlier
If you find that you often stay up late it might be worth while having a read over these points. I truly believe that people these days stay up far too late and that going to bed earlier is a key to many successes in your life.
If you know of any other reasons or perhaps you don’t agree with what I have written please leave a comment and discuss it. I am very interested to learn more about the issue of sleep.
1. Humans aren’t used to staying up late
Something that I have come to realize in the past few days is that humans are not used to staying up late. In fact, up until about 100 years ago most human beings would go to bed at a little after sundown. This is an interesting point as it indicates that staying up late is a very unnatural behavior.
Before electricity and light bulbs most people went to bed as soon as the days chores were finished and dinner was eaten. Sure, they had candles and fires but for the most part people did not stay up reading. They certainly weren’t up writing blog posts or watching Letterman! And going to bed early often means waking up early – until about 100 years ago everyone got up at dawn.
So perhaps staying up late is not healthy because we aren’t used to it yet. Perhaps humans are supposed to go to bed early and get up early – just like every other creature on Earth. And this leads me to my next point…
2. Staying up late is not nature’s way
I recently saw a video where the great Buddhist master Tai Situ Rinpoche said that staying up late and getting up late was not in tune with nature. I think he is 100% correct.
Think about the world. Think about nature. Everything rises when the sun rises. The flowers start to open, the birds start chirping and so on. With the exception of nocturnal animals everything on Earth wakes up as the sun does. And in a similar vein everything goes to bed as the sun does. Flowers close, birds nest, etc. But humans stay up watching television or reading blogs. Does that sound right?
If something or someone goes against nature it usually has bad consequences. For example, if you spend your life eating unnatural foods it usually means you end up getting fat, diabetes or even cancer. So why is bedtime any different? Is it really a good idea to disturb this natural rhythm?
3. The morning is the best time for meditation
Throughout the ages, since the time of the Buddha, meditation masters have been telling us that the morning is the best time of the day for spiritual progress. For many of you reading this article your spiritual progress is the most important aspect of your life. So why are we sleeping in?
In the morning the mind is clearer, sharper and more at ease. It is easier to rest in the natural state of your mind and you have a lot less disturbing emotions such as desire, anger and attachment (apart form attachment to sleep!). Furthermore, Chinese medicine shows us that the internal energies (chi) of the body are ideal for meditation during the early hours of the day. Perhaps this has something to do with the natural rhythm that we talked about above?
If you want to become a great meditator or at least start to take your meditation practice more seriously I strongly urge you to start going to bed early and waking up early. You will find that progress comes a lot faster.
4. The morning is the best time for exercise
Last night as I was sitting on the computer eating a packet of crisps and drinking a chocolate milk the news lady told me that Australia is now the fattest nation in the world. I couldn’t believe it! My home country was now fatter (per capita) than the USA. And there I was up late eating junk food and depriving my body of sleep.
If you are trying to lose weight the best time of the day for exercise is first thing in the morning. Why? It is simple. If you exercise before breakfast your body will start to burn your fat stores for energy as there is no available energy from your food. This means you lose weight a lot faster than if you were exercises after a meal.
But weight loss is not the only reason. Exercising before work is also a great way to tackle depression and leaves you feeling fit and alive the rest of the day. You will have a lot more energy and work won’t seem so draining. This I can guarantee.
5. Being tired usually means being grumpy
Here at The Daily Mind we are very interested in personal growth. And as we all know one of the most important ways to grow as a person is to start behaving in a more loving, compassionate and patient manner. But tiredness sometimes makes this aspiration difficult.
Think about the last time you were sleep deprived. You might have been up all night working on an assignment and then had to get up at the crack of dawn to get to work. Think about how mean and irritable you were that day. You got angry at everyone around you and you felt extremely agitated. Then you went and downed five coffees to wake you up and instead made yourself more depressed, anxious and uptight. That is what tiredness can do to you.
If you are trying to work with your mind and become a more loving person you need to give yourself all the help you can. Going to bed early is one way to do this. A fully rested and fresh you is a lot more loving than a tired and grumpy you.
6. Late nights aren’t that productive
Something that occurred to me very recently was the fact that I am not very productive during the later hours of the night. My mind is usually foggier and I am less likely to get things done. So perhaps staying up late to do more work is not the best idea?
If you are staying up late to get work done perhaps you need to rethink you strategy. Start to become aware of your late night work hours and find out if they are really as productive as you think. For example, if you have a report or an article to write see how many words you get done in an hour and then compare it to the writing you do during the day. I bet it is less productive.
Perhaps a better strategy would be to get a good night’s sleep and then wake up early and work when your mind is fresher and more alert? I am considering trying this at the moment. What do you think? Has this worked for anyone?
There is a strong case to be made for early nights and early mornings. It seems that the only reason we don’t do it already is because we are up watching bad television or because the bed is too hard to part from at 6am. However, once the habit of staying up late and sleeping in is conquered I honestly think that we will accomplish more, become better people and feel a lot happier. What do you think?
Originally posted on March 9, 2009 @ 2:30 am