When I made a promise to a friend that I’d get my sleep schedule back on track to do 6am walks, I did it with a bit of a pause inside. You know that feeling of speaking in aspiration. I mean, I want to get up at 5am again every day… but given the fact that three cross country trips in a row have me up until 12:30 or 1am, the idea of 5:00… well… it’s a very great idea.
Determined to make it work- these 6 or 7 mile morning walks are miraculous for my whole world- I decided to find a way to make this work.
What I found is the life-hack that I am going to say isn’t as much a hack as it is a great idea. Even Traditional Chinese Medicine loves this idea.
Ready to get up earlier, avoid serious jet lag and possibly create habits that support more rejuvenation?!
I did a little research.
First off, I remembered that I can do this easy wake/sleep transition in Japan.
I go to Japan once a year and I never eat on the plane (it’s really unappealing to me to eat on planes) and I usually get in around 7:00pm and head to the hotel. By the time I’m there I’m so tired that eating seems like a chore, so I go to sleep. Funny enough, I have no problem waking up at 5:30 or 6am and staying on that schedule for the whole trip. We eat dinner there at 5pm and bedtime is 9:30 or 10pm. There’s not a lot of late-night snacking in the mountains of Japan, so I’m pretty much asleep until the morning.
Apparently, the habits I have in Japan demonstrate scientific research in action!
Clifford Sapper led research at Harvard in 2008 that uncovered what seems to be a “Food Clock” in mammals. You know how we all have an internal sleep clock? We do. That clock is deeply affected by our exposure to light, like the sunrise that typically starts the day if you are in sync with nature. Well, in fact, there’s a secondary clock… the food clock… that may just be more potent than the light clock in keeping our sleep cycles on track.
Sapper explains in the Harvard Gazette how this food clock is triggered by our survival instincts to find food… and to be up in time to find it. If you stop eating completely 16 hours before you want to wake up (or you want to re-set yourself if you are traveling) you will be more in sync with wherever you are on the global clocks. For traveling on long flights, it looks something like this:
“A period of fasting with no food at all for about 16 hours is enough to engage this new clock,” says Saper. “So, in this case, simply avoiding any food on the plane, and then eating as soon as you land, should help you to adjust – and avoid some of the uncomfortable feelings of jet lag.”
In everyday non-travel life, it’s been exciting to test this out in action as I gear up toward my 5:00am routine.
To get up at 6:30am after being on this weird sleep schedule it means eating dinner at 2:30pm one day and then… ride out the day and go to bed. Since I have seen this hack in action and have had it work wonders, it’s now exciting and easy to know how to make the switch back at home!
If 16 hours is a bit too far out of your league (as it was mine), 12-hour fasts are also effective for lots of people to make a sleep shift. So, to get up at 5:00am, the idea is to be done with dinner at 5:00pm.
It’s really wonderful. I also wake up feeling more refreshed when I don’t eat late at night. So smart, all-round.
Of course, there are lots more feng shui sleep tips, many HERE that work wonders.
The food-clock, though… it’s amazing.
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