Isn’t it awesome when you can treat yourself to waking up naturally, whenever YOU feel ready to gradually and blissfully begin your day? For most of us, the days of the working weeks are started by alarm clocks, which can be stressful and jarring—even to the point of causing anxiety. But what if you’re one of the lucky people who have no trouble sleeping, and you have the option to let your body awaken naturally at its own pace?
The process of transitioning from sleep to wakefulness is a multi-stage process as fascinating as drifting off to the land of dreams. In the best case, here are the phases you go through as you return to waking life.
- The biological “master clock” in your brain gets the ball rolling. A small cluster of nerves in the center of your brain, called the , regulates your circadian rhythm—which is like your body’s daily 24-hour timetable. About one to two hours before it’s time to be awake, the suprachiasmatic nucleus signals for the circadian changes that bring about wakefulness to begin.
- The effects of your “natural tranquilizers” start to wear off. Levels of the sleep hormone, melatonin, begin to decline, while the production of cortisol increases. Cortisol is the hormone most commonly associated with stress, but it is also important for alertness, and it helps mobilize your body’s resources for action.
- Your adenosine levels reach their lowest, signaling that it’s time to rise. Adenosine is a chemical that builds up in your blood while you are awake and contributes to a feeling of needing sleep. The concentration of adenosine in your system drops sharply when you begin sleeping, and when it reaches its lowest level, this chemical influences how ready your brain feels to wake up again.
- The increase in cortisol fires up your body’s “engine room.” Cortisol makes your blood pressure and body temperature increase; meanwhile, various other hormones and neurotransmitters in your system gradually adjust to their waking levels.
- Your brainwaves start to speed up. If you awaken naturally, the combination of factors above culminate in “waking” brainwave activity (alpha and beta waves), and you regain consciousness of your environment. This typically happens at the end of REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, or during stage 1 or 2 sleep—the “shallowest” phases of the sleep cycle.
As our awareness increases of how important it is to get a great night’s sleep, products to help us awaken gently and comfortably are becoming more popular. Some of these include light alarm clocks and apps that attempt to calculate your lightest stages of sleep, during which inducing a transition to wakefulness is not so “alarming.” Many of the high-tech inventions designed to help you sleep also include systems such as built-in sound and light sequences to help you wake up feeling fresh as a daisy.
Letting your body awaken naturally is definitely the best option. But even if this is not realistic for you, understanding what happens as you wake up can enable you to choose an alternative method that helps you get the best possible rest.
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Published on Friday, May 4, 2018
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