|“Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise,” said Benjamin Franklin. And he was most definitely onto something.
What you see and hear and feel during the first 20 minutes that you are awake–and in the state between Theta and Alpha brain waves–sinks in and sets your mental acuity and energy patterns for the day.
When I was young my father was a Pennsylvania State Park superintendent, and I grew up living in the superintendent house on the parks.
When I was in elementary school, we lived close enough to the park swimming pool that in the evenings I could hear people laughing and splashing in the pool until it closed. Thanks to my mother’s wisdom, my brother and sister and I were not at the pool at closing time–we were in bed. That was tough in the summer when it was still light out and other children were screaming joyfully within earshot of my bedroom window.
As a result of establishing the discipline of an early bedtime, we, of course, formed the habit of getting up early. From my teens into adulthood, I’ve been in a pattern of going to sleep around 9:30 p.m. and waking up around 5 a.m. I may not have understood the method to my mother’s (what seemed to me at the time) madness, but now I get it and appreciate this valuable life skill she gave me.
An inordinate number of billionaires get up in the very early morning hours. So do the world’s most extraordinary leaders and thinkers and elite performers.
Is that a coincidence? I think not. What do they know that others don’t?
Consciously or unconsciously, they understand how the brain works.
Your brain operates on electrical patterns, often referred to as brain waves. The interesting thing is that everyone’s brain wave cycles and states are remarkably similar.
Two of your brain waves are labeled Theta and Alpha. When you are sleeping you are usually in the Theta brain wave state. It’s during this state that your internal systems that have been wearing down all day rebuild and refresh themselves. In order for your brain to orchestrate this rebuilding, you must be in a deep sleep.
Your natural sleep cycle is closely aligned to the daylight cycle. Generally, by about 9 p.m., your body starts producing melatonin, which tells your body and mind to slow down. Melatonin helps prepare you to enter deep or Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep. If you don’t get into that REM sleep, you hinder the rebuilding process that your brain and body need.
Under this theory, you have to be ready to enter REM around 10 p.m. Why 10 p.m.? Because Theta brain wave activity takes place between approximately 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. That’s when your little “brain cell elves” do their magnificent rebuilding work.
Starting around 2 a.m., you begin coming out of the Theta phase. It takes a while, but around 4 a.m., you enter the Alpha brain wave state. This is when exceptionally high performers recognize that their brains are starting to operate at optimal levels.
Your brain wave activity peaks around 4 a.m. at 10.5 hz or cycles per second. Anything between 8 and 13 hz is considered your Alpha brain wave state, frequently called the “gateway to the subconscious mind.”
Simply put, this is when your brain is most impressionable. What you see and hear and feel during the first 20 minutes that you are awake and in the state between Theta and Alpha sinks in and sets your mental acuity and energy pattern for the day.
During the Alpha state, you don’t have to work as hard to create and learn and do. High performers use these early morning hours to write, read, meditate, and strategize.
In order to rise early, it is, of course, imperative to get the right amount and quality of sleep. Obviously, in order to get up while your Alpha brain waves are clicking at max efficiency, you have to get to bed early.
Because you start entering the Theta state around 10 p.m., your brain is ready to work. If you are still awake, you may experience what some people call “a second wind.” That’s a good thing in sports, but it’s not good in the sleep cycle for your brain or body. You need all that energy going into the repair job, not into another episode of Scandal or another round of Guinness.
Here are the practices I live by and discuss with my clients:
- Start to slow down earlier in the evening.
- Get off your screens by around 8, so that melatonin can begin to work.
- For night owls, try backing up your bedtime incrementally. You may see benefits immediately.
- Wake up during the Alpha state, if not 4 a.m., then 5 or 5:30.
- Do not look at your phone or computer until closer to 8 a.m. when your Alpha state is dissipating.
- When you wake up, move your body, create, meditate, study, plan, or work on your mindset.
Here are a couple of other morning activities that can kick start your day:
- Take a shower. Showers have been shown to create positive ions that fill us with energy.
- Get outside when the sun rises. Sunlight hitting the back of your retina helps your body to create serotonin, which is believed to play a role in regulating mood, emotions, appetite, and even digestion — not to mention fighting off seasonal affective disorder.
I know that none of this sounds as nice as snuggling between the sheets for an extra hour or so in the morning, but I challenge you to experiment with and adopt these high performance habits. Your day will be better. I promise.
[If you experience sleep disorder symptoms, please address them with a qualified professional.]
When you are ready to create a high-performance strategy for your sleep and your daily schedule, message me.
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