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Waking up earlier has many health benefits

By Christie Melhorn, February 28 2017 —

During the majority of my undergraduate degree, I was the student who stayed up until 3:00 a.m. pounding through readings, snacking on whatever was available and tumbling out of bed in a disheveled heap to sprint to class. But in the last semester of my degree, I’m now the student who rises before the sun without moaning and groaning.

There is something peaceful about waking up with the rest of the world. While I was on a study abroad trip in Trinidad and Tobago, an anthropologist told our group that waking up early in the morning and taking a moment to acknowledge your natural surroundings is one of the kindest practices you can do for yourself — it reminds you that the world is in constant transition and you are a part of a larger whole.

While not all of us struggle in the morning, this type of wisdom can be easily buried by the hustle and bustle of student life. Even the temporary  routine of staying up late, drinking another coffee and maybe sleeping in the next morning after submitting your paper messes with your internal clock and your head. Now that we’re back from reading week, this is a great chance to adjust your schedule and reap the benefits of waking up earlier. 

Improved sleep:

Before developing a consistent sleep schedule, I forgot what a good sleep was. Going to bed or crashing for a nap at all hours of the day left me in a constant brain fog. Four hours of sleep was considered a decent rest. A stunted sleep schedule hinders your decision-making skills, weakens your immune system and increases cravings for sugar and caffeine. Collectively, these consequences are not only rough on your body but can damage your academic performance.

Forbes magazine explains that going to bed and waking up earlier helps your body sync with your circadian rhythm — your internal biological clock that structures when you feel most alert or sleepy throughout the day. While not everyone’s circadian rhythm is the same, when in closer alignment with the sunrise and sunset, we secure a deeper sleep that leaves us feeling more present and content.

Time to work out:

Starting your day with an early workout boosts your mood and your metabolism. The endorphin pump from a run or weight-lifting session leaves you feeling positive and optimistic. This comes in handy when you’re frustrated by a suffocating workload. As an added bonus,
bodybuilding.com explains that working out earlier cranks up your calorie burn throughout the day, keeping your body engaged and meriting an extra snack break while studying — just try to snack on something nutritious, like a handful of nuts or a banana.

Boosted grades:

The relationship between better sleep and higher grades is obvious. An alert mind and stable emotional state enhances our ability to listen, retain and explore new information. Coupled with exercise, greater sleep can solidify your focus and help you develop improved retentive and introspective skills. According to the American Sleep Foundation, strong sleep habits help us effectively memorize material and also help us to bridge and synthesize knowledge learned in different platforms. This fosters originality and creativity, which can not only translate into higher grades, but a higher sense of personal fulfilment.

More free time:

Beginning your day earlier means you have more time later in the day for recreation. Being a student means free time is in short supply. However, by developing a consistent early sleep schedule, your mind can work more effectively in the minimal time that you have. Ideally, the more efficiently you can study or get through assignments, the more time you can spend catching up on your favourite show or grabbing a bite with a friend. Having the time to sit and enjoy this time without a million things looming over you allows you to be more present in those moments, enriching your relationships with others and even yourself.

Once in awhile, we have to endure a night of frantic typing and endless double-doubles clouded by a sense of impending doom. I would not be so committed to or grateful for my new schedule had I not experienced a slew of traumatic all-nighters as a student. While it is impossible to adhere to a strict schedule every day, waking up earlier has offered me greater peace of mind and improved my
academic performance.

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