November 03, 2020 5 min read
Who doesn’t want to start a day with boosted performance? Probably all of us want to wake up in the morning refreshed and reenergised to face the day’s physical and mental challenges. This is especially important if you’re an athlete who doesn’t want to finish last and low... It all starts with good night, undisrupted sleep, and waking up as naturally as possible, feeling truly rested…
Athletes need to be optimally recovered heading to the track, gym, or training room. Waking up is as important as the quality of sleep and the training itself. It is as important as fuelling your body with the right foods for our daily activities. Waking up naturally and gradually will keep the energy flowing as smoothly as it could and help calibrate our circadian rhythm, fully optimized to regulate our body’s biological clock.
SleepFoundation.org defines circadian rhythm as the 24-hour cycle that influences the physiological processes and functions of the body, including athletic performance, and an important and well-known example is one that involves the sleep-wake cycle. Circadian rhythm is in sync with our brain's master clock, which is influenced by environmental signals, like sunlight and temperature, and thus by the day-night cycle. It is not the biological clock, but it is actually a byproduct of it. Our master clock in the brain regulates all biological clocks.
According to one study, peak athletic performance may depend on the athlete’s circadian phenotype or configuration, which is classified as either early, intermediate or late, and varies in the course of the day (Facer-Childs & Brandstaetter, 2015). Such classification may determine the best time when an athlete can deliver their best effort based on their circadian rhythm, and more particularly on the quality of sleep when rested and how they wake up from it. A study demonstrated that exposing an individual to light via dawn simulation can improve alertness, cognitive and physical performance (Thompson et al., 2014). Athletes should be aware of their sleep cycle and should seek to adjust their sleeping and waking up time (habits) to enhance sleep quality and quantity and maximize the circadian-rhythm concept for optimal performance. This is also particularly important when traveling to another place for competition and to prevent the terrible consequence of jet lag. One way to do this is being awakened by a Sunrise Alarm Clock.
If you wake up feeling tired, it's more likely that you're not getting enough goodquality sleep, which often leads to poor concentration, irritability, fatigue, and clumsy performance – YOU'RE AREN’T AT YOUR BEST!!!
Sound-based alarm clocks can jolt you up and shock you out of sleep, and this can be bad for your heart as it can cause higher blood pressures and faster heart rates. Apart from these, it may leave you in a bad mood, feeling disoriented and confused, which can significantly increase your stress levels.
Sunrise alarm clocks allow you to gradually, smoothly awaken with a wake-up light that simulates a natural sunrise (dawn simulation). Exposure to dawn simulation was found to keep the body's biological clock in sync with the environment, suggesting that a gradual change in light intensity, such as the one experienced during the early morning sunshine, is a strong circadian signal (Danilenko et al., 2000). The use of sunrise alarm clocks prepares all our bodies' processes and functions by gradually controlling the amount of light our eyes’ pupils (and brain) can perceive, the way a natural sunrise in the morning does when rousing us up progressively.
Melatonin, the sleep hormone, is an integral part of the body’s sleep-wake cycle. Darkness increases its production, promoting quality sleep, while light decreases its production, preparing our bodies to be awake. In contrast, cortisol, stress hormone, increases with increasing light, making us more alert and active. Sunrise alarm clocks provide a smooth transition between the production of these two hormones, keeping our circadian rhythm oriented. Dawn simulation through wake-up light may help improve the quality of sleep, especially in those people with sleeping disorders (Leppämäki et al., 2003).
Optimal levels of mental toughness and alertness delivers superb overall athletic performance. As mentioned, dawn simulation has been known to increase the level of cortisol (Gabel et al., 2013; Thorn et al., 2004), the body's primary stress hormone, giving you that quick burst of physical energy and mental alertness. Evidence suggests that high cortisol concentration improves mood and overall well-being (Gabel et al., 2013).
A research conducted on the effect of dawn simulation on performance demonstrated quicker reaction time with various cognitive testing and faster time-trial testing among the subjects who awakened with light as compared to those that were awakened with dim light (Thompson et al., 2014). Further, the participants who had better effects with dawn simulation 30 minutes prior to waking up woke up feeling more refreshed and alert with less tendency to experience sleep inertia (Giménez et al., 2010; Thompson et al., 2014), the feeling of still-half asleep and lethargic (grogginess).
Danilenko, K. V., Wirz-Justice, A., Kräuchi, K., Weber, J. M., & Terman, M. (2000). The human circadian pacemaker can see by the dawn's early light.Journal of biological rhythms, 15(5), 437–446. https://doi.org/10.1177/074873000129001521
Facer-Childs, E., & Brandstaetter, R. (2015). The impact of circadian phenotype and time since awakening on diurnal performance in athletes.Current biology : CB, 25(4), 518–522. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2014.12.036
Gabel, V., Maire, M., Reichert, C. F., Chellappa, S. L., Schmidt, C., Hommes, V., Viola, A. U., & Cajochen, C. (2013). Effects of artificial dawn and morning blue light on daytime cognitive performance, well-being, cortisol and melatonin levels.Chronobiology international, 30(8), 988–997. https://doi.org/10.3109/07420528.2013.793196
Giménez, M. C., Hessels, M., van de Werken, M., de Vries, B., Beersma, D. G., & Gordijn, M. C. (2010). Effects of artificial dawn on subjective ratings of sleep inertia and dim light melatonin onset.Chronobiology international, 27(6), 1219–1241.
Leppämäki, S., Meesters, Y., Haukka, J., Lönnqvist, J., & Partonen, T. (2003). Effect of simulated dawn on quality of sleep--a community-based trial.BMC psychiatry, 3, 14. https://doi.org/10.1186/1471-244X-3-14
Thompson, A., Jones, H., Gregson, W., & Atkinson, G. (2014). Effects of dawn simulation on markers of sleep inertia and post-waking performance in humans.European journal of applied physiology, 114(5), 1049–1056. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00421-014-2831-zThorn, L., Hucklebridge, F., Esgate, A., Evans, P., & Clow, A. (2004). The effect of dawn simulation on the cortisol response to awakening in healthy participants.Psychoneuroendocrinology, 29(7), 925–930. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psyneuen.2003.08.005
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