Marlee Boyle, Sleep Therapist on Cyno
I’m sure you can relate to having a night where sleep eludes you leaving a dark cloud over your head the following day when trying to function on no sleep at all, but what about just waking up too early?
Robin Sharma’s NYT bestseller, The 5 am Club promises to elevate your life by owning your morning routine, which if you want to get a jump start on success, you gotta wake up at 5am. However, the science of sleep may say otherwise.
You cycle through different stages of sleep several times throughout the night, spending a perfectly designed amount of time in each stage. As you go through these cycles, your REM (rapid eye movement) sleep gets progressively longer and longer until morning when your last and longest stage of REM lasts about an hour before you wake up. Therefore, if you’re waking up too early, not getting the adequate amount of sleep to get through your last cycle of REM, you’re cutting off your longest stage of that precious slumber.
Scientists in this study show that minimizing specifically REM sleep in participants is linked to them having increased negative affect the following day, giving a propensity to experience negative emotions and interact with others negatively. REM sleep suppression also showed increased activity in the amygdala, part of the brain which works to interpret emotion, but specifically the right hemisphere of the amygdala, which is associated with negative emotion.
Skipping that last sleep stage is a less severe version of complete selective REM suppression, but it’s more commonplace to see people waking early, than being awakened every time they drift into REM sleep. However, the implications could be similar when you miss out on the bulk of it by setting your alarm clock too early, truncating the cycle before you’ve reached your longest and very valuable stage of REM sleep.
This could mean waking up too early makes us more vulnerable to the unpleasant experience of social exclusion the following day; A relevant concern for our mental health with growing rates of loneliness and withdrawal from social interaction since the Covid-19 Pandemic. If getting a full night’s sleep leads to a more positive perspective the next day, and “perspective is everything”, then cutting yourself short on REM to get a jumpstart on the day, seems counterproductive. The recommended sleep time for an adult is 7-9 hours, which allows for enough sleep cycles to reap the positive psychological benefits of getting the required amount of REM sleep. Perhaps, you should only consider joining the 5am Club, if you’re also joining the 9pm Bedtime Club, giving yourself the opportunity for a full night’s sleep!
Or sleep in, your sleep therapist told you to.