It is a fact that millions of people the world over wake up every morning to the shrill sounds of their alarms. They have no idea how much harm they are causing themselves. If I ask you your age, and you reply that you are 20, 35, 55, 60 whatever years old – you would be wrong. You see, your body in its present state is a gift of an agonizingly slow evolutionary process that happened over the millennia. Keeping that in mind, let’s talk about alarm clocks.
As we were evolving, the one thing we needed to do to survive as a species was – obviously, stay alive until we managed to make pizza and go to the moon. This meant that we needed to be ever alert in a supremely hostile environment. We had made a choice of brain over brawn. We are incredibly squishy, and, at least for most predators bigger and stronger than us, amazingly tasty. We needed systems in our bodies that could gear us up to fight when danger threatened at a moment’s notice. Or run – as fast as we could away from the threat.
Our bodies are brilliant at doing this – a chemical soup released by the brain, alerts every system of the body that there is danger and that the entire system needs to prepare for a decisive fight or a quick flight to safety. Digestion is halted, heart beat and blood pressure is increased to pump blood into the extremities – the hands and the legs to get ready. The pupils of the eyes dilate, you can see much clearer when your brain registers a threat. And so on… The adrenaline and cortisol that’s squirted into your blood on the command of the brain makes all this happen. You ready to fight or flight are a totally different person from you at rest and being social.
Towards morning, say there is a small sound that shouldn’t be there. Your brain would then rouse you from your slumber – battle ready in moments… and keep you that way for a long period after, just in case the threat would reappear. This is the way we as a species didn’t habitually end up as breakfast. And lived into our present Age of Technology. However, evolution and your brain have not yet caught up with tech. You have a brain that’s millions of years old which has now been suddenly transported into a wonderland of electronics and gadgetry. Think about the timescale – millions and millions of years compared to the last few decades.
And now let’s go to the bedroom of most people on Earth in the morning. They are fast asleep. And then it’s 6:00 am. Time to wake up and get going. So that they can get to work or get the kids to school or make lunch or catch that early morning flight…
The alarm beeps. Or sings a melodious tune. Doesn’t matter.
Your brain registers a sound that shouldn’t be there. The evolutionary programming of your brain of millions of years only registers this as danger and yanks you awake. Ready for a fight or flight. Your blood pressure shoots up, your heart beat increases, blood is pumped to your extremeties… You awaken tensed, with fear welling up deep inside you, realise that there is no danger and become irritated and angry. The chemical party of adrenaline and cortisol is in full swing, and now you are on the edge – first thing in the morning.
Waking up with an alarm in the morning is at best going to make you feel unpleasant throughout the day. You will have mood swings. You will feel irritated at small things. You may have brain fog and the inability to take good decisions. Habitually using an alarm and getting your blood pressure to shoot up and heart beat increased every morning will – you guessed it – lead to dramatically increased chances of developing hypertension and cardiac issues. At worst, routinely waking up with an alarm, however pleasant sounding it is, may lead to a stroke in the brain – which could potentially kill you.
If there is one thing in sleep hygiene that you should implement, it is this – get rid of the morning alarm. Stop using an alarm to wake up in the morning. You will close the doors to a host of extremely unpleasant health conditions. Get into the habit of awakening naturally – without an alarm
When you awaken naturally, all the systems of your body a gently put into awake mode… and you slowly come out of slumber. The few minutes as you are waking up are truly precious. Frequently, you may get ideas and insights about stuff that you may be struggling with in life. The alarm denies you these flashes of genius.
As your body naturally adjusts to daylight, just the right amounts of cortisol are secreted. Enough to get you up and going and to keep you in a great mood. If you happen to be sleeping with a partner, this is the best time to cuddle. The serotonin and oxytocin happy hormones will be released by that and will keep you feeling bouyant through the day.
Yes, for the first few days you get up without an alarm, your schedule will be haywire as your body settles into it’s natural rhythm. Once the waking time becomes set (it will take a few days – possibly a week), you can plan the rest of your day around that wake up time which is natural to you. This will ensure you are cooperating with evolution rather than fighting with it and you will be rewarded by crazy good health, a great mood, better decision making, healthier relationships, dramatically improved health, enhanced productivity and creativity… the list of benefits goes on and on – all by letting go of the annoying early morning beep beep beep.
So should you throw away that alarm clock then?
No. Use it to set the time for sleep! And just as you used to wake up every morning to its incessant beeping, have the discipline to shut down work, get off your gadgets and get ready for a hot date with Sleep.
The Beep Beep Beep should now reprogram you into wanting to surrender to Sleep’s restful embrace.