The day dawns

by Lorin Michel Saturday, April 16, 2016 8:07 PM

There is evidence that waking up gradually as the bedroom fills with natural night is more pleasant than waking up to a screaming alarm clock, which makes tremendous sense. According to researchers at MIT, waking up to dawn’s light also increases the body’s level of cortisol, a neurohormone that helps prepare the brain and the body to handle whatever it encounters during the day. MIT says this helps people deliver peak performance. In their research, they found that people who give themselves about 30 minutes of morning light as they wake to greet the day are more likely to feel alert all day. 

The part of me that used to love sleep would love to take issue with that remark. After all, it wasn’t that long ago where sleeping in on Saturday mornings was one of the things I most looked forward to at the end of the week. I always thought it was a good way of recharging my battery. 

But I’ve come to realize that MIT researchers are probably right ­– it is MIT after all – and here’s why: I wake up to natural light every day and I actually feel better because of it. 

In Oak Park, we had nice vertical blinds on the sliding glass doors in the bedroom. They served to block out quite a bit of morning light. The big window in the bathroom, behind the bathtub, had blinds, too, mostly because our neighbors were so close that they could easily look in. Not that I’m prone to soaking in the tub. But the glass shower stall was right next to the tub. It stayed fairly cozy and dim in the room until I opened those blinds, making it easy to sleep in. But I often slept almost too much and then I’d feel actually worse. Foggy, with a dull headache. 

Our house now is not close to anyone other than the birds and the deer so we have no window coverings anywhere. The only thing we have is a deck with a roof that extends out at least 12 feet, providing shade but not necessarily diminishing the light. We face almost directly south so when the sun rises in the east each morning, it comes up over the mountains to our left, gently, almost quietly. And we wake up equally gently. We can stretch, watch as the sun floods the valley below, turning the day from a purplish gray to bright, the sky blue, the desert green. 

Photo to the east of the house at dawn, courtesy of Roy Guzman

I have found that I’m up early every day now, even on the weekends, even my precious recharging Saturday. Up with the light. This morning, a Saturday, previously my day to lounge and sleep, I was up at 6:50, walking the dog by 7:30. As the summer comes ever closer, I’ll be up even earlier. The light will flood the room, I’ll stretch and look to the south, out the wall of glass, past the railing on the deck and welcome the day. It’s hard for me to actually believe that I now enjoy getting up. That I can and do enjoy the earliness, every day.

We have coffee, we walk. We’re back to the house, usually before 8, just as the day is heating up. We still go to bed at the same time so we should be more tired, but we’re not. We’re – dare I say it? – energized.

The day dawns and so do we. If MIT says it’s good, who are we to argue?

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live out loud

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