Want to get more done? Wake up earlier and use that time efficiently. That’s the gist of today’s challenge. Stop now if you’ve heard it before: the early bird gets the worm. Blah, blah, blah. Like me, you have probably heard it a million times and maybe (still like me) are hitting the snooze button each morning. Some of you are already powerful “lark types” but many of us are “owls“. Singers are not known for getting up and practicing at 7:00 AM. If your neighbors didn’t hate you before… What on earth would make us set the alarm clock for dawn? Maybe the day 11 challenge will persuade you to wake up earlier. As Benjamin Franklin once prescribed, “Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.” Wouldn’t it be nice to feel even a bit more healthy, wealthy, and wise?
“NOBODY REALLY KNOWS why we sleep, although theories include: sleep revitalises the brain and nervous system, builds protein and restores the brain’s control over muscles and other body systems. Dreaming may help consolidate memory and aid mental activities such as learning and reasoning. ‘There is good evidence that sleep acts like a glue that holds memories together – that it’s important for memory consolidation, and the flip side, forgetting,’ says Associate Professor Kurt Lushington, director of the Centre for Sleep Research at the University of South Australia. ‘You need to wipe some stuff out and reinforce other stuff.’ Sleep also improves daytime concentration and alertness, he says. ‘When someone’s alert they can think sideways, react differently, creatively, and process multiple things at a time, while their thinking and emotions are well coordinated and interacting.'” – Peter Meredith
The best news about waking up earlier is that it is just a habit that is waiting to be formed. Many people become more larkish after having children. The schedule of others in the house are extremely influential on your sleep schedule and morning effectiveness. Try following these tips to jump-start your habit. Hopefully you have already determined how many hours of sleep you need each night to operate as your best singing self. Our bodies are our instruments and burning the candle at both ends undermines our mental, vocal, and creative abilities. Avoid slogging yourself to the coffee shop and start from a place of power each morning. If you take charge of your sleep health you will be amazed at what you can accomplish. The standard advice for sleep is eight hours but that can differ for many people. Some of you need six while others need more. Once you know that number, pick your desired wake-up time and count backwards.
Start small if your numbers are off. Want to wake up at 6:00 AM but you’re laying your head on the pillow at 2:00AM? News flash: probably not going to work. Starting small means going to bed 15 minutes earlier each night until you reach your target sleep time. Bright lights, bright screens (hello iPad), and exercise late at night are all potential pitfalls to reaching your target. Taking a bath or shower before bed can help bring down your body temp which signals sleep to the body.
“If you need a little push, a melatonin supplement may help you feel ready for bed sooner. The time-keeping hormone, which is naturally released in the brain as darkness falls, tells your body it’s time for sleep. A little extra may be all you need. Al Lewy, MD, PhD, a professor of psychiatry and director of the sleep lab at Oregon Health and Science University, recommends taking .5 milligrams or less in the late afternoon. This may fool your body into thinking dusk has arrived a little earlier. But check with your doctor first: You shouldn’t take melatonin if you are pregnant or depressed.” – Julia Sommerfeld
If you were in the Baltimore area this morning you know how hard it can be to roll out of bed, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, when it is gray, cold, and rainy outside. That’s why it is important to take in as much light as possible when you first awake. It’s easy when the sun is out to soak up some rays, but what about days like today? Flip on an extra light while making that double-espresso. Skip those Saturday snooze-fests to help cement the pattern. Even just a 30 minute change in your wake-up time can make you revert back to owl status. Stick with it! You know that sticking with a new habit for even just a month can make it feel natural.
Want to follow something a bit more structured to get your body clock on track? Here’s day-in-the-life snapshot of someone trying to break out of the snooze rut from our friends at Prevention Magazine:
- 6 TO 8 AM: GET MOVING. Within a half hour of rising and before you eat breakfast, do 20 minutes of cardio. Research has found that exercising before breakfast may help you burn fat more efficiently. If you can get outside, even better. Early morning sunlight helps your body naturally reset itself to a healthier sleep/wake cycle (regular indoor lights don’t have the same effect).
- 6:55 TO 8:55 AM: DRINK UP. Before every meal, drink two 8-ounce glasses of water. Research shows that people who drank this amount lost 5 pounds more than nonguzzlers.
- 7 TO 9 AM: EAT BREAKFAST. The alarm clock also wakes up ghrelin, the “feed me” hormone made in your stomach. Ignore ghrelin and your body will produce even more, eventually making you ravenous. To suppress ghrelin’s effect, eat a mix of complex carbs and protein, such as eggs and whole grain toast, within an hour of waking.
- 10 TO 11 AM: MUNCH MIDMORNING. Ghrelin begins to rise again a couple of hours before lunch. It turns off when you chow down, particularly on carbs and protein, so have a small combo snack, like blueberries and Greek-style yogurt.
- 12 TO 1 PM: HAVE YOUR MIDDAY MEAL. Galanin, another hunger hormone that makes you crave fat, rises around lunchtime. However, dietary fat causes you to produce more galanin, which then tells you to eat more fat. Instead, fill up with complex carbs and protein, such as chicken-vegetable soup or black bean chili.
- 2 TO 3 PM: TAKE A NAP. Instead of hitting the vending machines, find a quiet place to grab a few Zzzs. (Hint: Your parked car is the perfect impromptu sleep pod!) Just set an alarm–15 to 20 minutes will energize your body without affecting your ability to sleep at night.
- 3:30 PM: GET BUZZED. Need a boost? This is your last chance to have a cup of joe. Drinking coffee after 4 PM disturbs circadian rhythms and can keep you from falling asleep at night.
- 4 TO 8 PM: TRIM AND TONE. Now’s the time to do your strength training, plus any additional cardio. This is when your body temperature is highest, so you’re primed for peak performance. In one study, subjects who worked out in the late afternoon or early evening built 22% more muscle than morning exercisers.
- 5 TO 7 PM: TIME TO DINE. To ensure you don’t wake up hungry in the middle of the night, add a serving of healthy fats, such as flaxseed or fish oil, to your meal. If you’re a wine drinker, pour a glass now. Drinking later can delay dream (REM) sleep, waking you frequently during the night.
- 9 TO 10 PM: HAVE A PRESLEEP SNACK. Enjoy a carb-based bedtime snack, such as a serving of low-fat frozen yogurt. Nighttime carbs create tryptophan, which helps your brain produce serotonin. This feel-good chemical triggers your body to make melatonin, the sleep hormone.
- 9 TO 10:30 PM: POWER DOWN. Step away from digital devices, including the TV. They emit a blue spectrum of light that’s even more disruptive to sleep than regular bulbs (see p. 110). Do something calming-read, take a bath–in dim light so you’re ready to nod off when you hit the sheets.
- 9:30 TO 11 PM: GO TO SLEEP. Crawl under the covers at the same time each night and get up at the same time each morning, even on weekends. Having a regular sleep-and-wake schedule helps you fall asleep faster over time.
Here comes the sun, divas! What impossible mountain will you be able to climb after waking up ready and willing to start the day? Do you have any tips for breaking out of the snooze button prison? Share them below! At this point of the winter, we could all use a bit m0re encouragement.