The following post was written by TaraMarie Perri, the Founder/Director of The Perri Institute for Mind and Body. Her professional work is dedicated to yoga education and research, holistic health therapeutics, and the integration of mind/body practices with the arts and sciences. TaraMarie holds an MFA and serves on Faculty at NYU Tisch School of the Arts. She maintains private practices in New York City and Brooklyn.
I have always had a proclivity for the early-to-bed-early-to-rise lifestyle. Perhaps it was the physical demands of days spent dancing or my over-functioning brain needing to reset, but sleep would often overwhelm me, sometimes at most inconvenient times. Pulling an all-nighter to write a paper in college or grad school was virtually impossible. I rarely made it to the bitter end of 90s NYC nightclubbing excursions, concerts, and other assorted gatherings with friends. Clearly rock star status was not in my future. It is difficult as a New Yorker of 22 years not to feel a small pang of failure when I realize I will never be one of the city’s dark, sexy set of night owls.
Most nights I go to bed by 10pm and rise, without an alarm and well-rested, at 6am. Friends who witness my eyes getting sleepier by the minute can sometimes misunderstand my intentions. I do want to stay up and spend time with them. I am not anti-social, and my days are filled with adventures and encounters to prove this. But my body is telling me to go to bed—sending me the signal. I can’t argue with its internal clock…
The confession: I genuinely prefer being a morning person. I love the morning—the light, the quiet, the clarity of mind. I feel better too. To prepare for the work I do, I cannot afford to show up feeling less than optimal. My students and clients depend on me to be sharp and focused and grounded. The other gain is that I do not feel rushed when I wake without an obligation to immediately step into the pace of the workday. When I wake at 6am, the morning is mine. No one is expecting an email response or texting to distract me at that hour. I paint; I think; I read; I write; I meditate and stretch; I pack my bag for the day; I sit in silence, and I eat breakfast. I slowly move about my morning doing the activities I am inspired to do, so that I can honor my needs before I honor the needs of others. The most welcome result of the early-to-bed-early-to-rise routine? I end my days with a sense of unwinding, relaxing, and processing, and begin my days with calm, presence, and focus.
As I dive deeper into studies of Ayurveda and Tibetan Medicine under the tutelage of my mentors, I’ve discovered that what my body already knew is also supported by ancient wisdom. One of my lamas, Cary Twomey, recently shared the following explanation:
In Ayurvedic & Tibetan Medicine we know 10 PM is the time to have our head down on the pillow. At 10 PM, the fire element begins to rise and the body kicks into a deep and gentle detoxification while we are sleeping. There are several important metabolic actions going on during this time, and if we are not asleep when fire element rises, these rejuvenating actions don't occur and we miss out on a natural balancing and revitalizing process that happens each night between 10 PM and 2 AM.
Secondly, if you are up past 10 PM, you will surely get a second wind as fire rises, because fire is stimulating. You'll likely stay up until around 2 AM, when the fire finally begins to wane. When we stay up instead of getting to bed, we are likely to commit what Ayurveda calls Prajnaparadha—crimes against wisdom. Prajnaparadha are actions that generate imbalances rather than balanced health.
Crimes against wisdom? Well, now I have yet another reason to stick with my routine! I take the pursuit of wisdom very seriously.
Even if you are a proud night owl, I encourage you to try this earlier bedtime routine for a couple weeks during spring, while your body needs the most support for digestion, healing, and cleansing as it prepares the body for the entire year ahead. To join the early morning revolution, here are some tips to help you hit the sack by 10pm:
1. Turn It Down
Lower the lights and sounds in your home space and begin to lower the brightness ratio on your computer and devices around 8pm. Not only will the light changes coax you into a less-stimulating environment, it will allow your brain and body to notice the darkness outside which lures you into a natural desire to rest. You will get to bed on time and be ready to fall asleep!
2. Soak it In
Warning: Once you start doing these luxurious self-care rituals, you may never want to skip them again! Before bedtime, soak in a bath and sip calming tea. Light a candle, unwind your mind, and soothe your body. I also give myself a sandalwood/sesame oil massage (Abhyanga) on most nights before I get into the tub. Again, the environment of warmth and water allow us to call upon our natural sleep cycles.
3. Gear Down
I know this one is tough because modern world habits are in place, but give it a go. Browsing Instagram or Facebook during your last hours before bed is not really the best use of your time (nor is it the first thing you should be doing when waking…but that is another topic entirely!). Not only will the light keep you over-stimulated, it causes the mind to be restless. We all speak of wanting more time to relax or to feel less busy. Instead of Netflix nights, snuggle up on the sofa with a pet, good friend, or loved one and enjoy time alone or together in conversation. Maintaining in-person means of connecting with yourself or those around you will give you real grounding in this fast-paced world where we often feel unsupported and alone.
4. Gear Up
Make sleeping fun. Choose materials for bedding that allow you to breathe and regulate temperature for your personal sleeping comfort. Pick pajamas you like to put on with layers that allow for ample movement as you sleep (yes, sleeping in your birthday suit counts!). If you like the environment you create in your bedroom around sleep, you will want to go there.
5. Go “Old School”
Get an alarm clock that is not your cell phone. Ideally you should not have a TV or computer or phone device in your bedroom at all. By nature of your dwelling situation you may have to keep those items in your bedroom. If so, turn them OFF (sleep mode doesn’t count) and put them away in a drawer or closet or cover them with a beautiful tapestry. These devices are always sending out unfavorable electromagnetic frequencies that radically disrupt your Prana, your healthy life force energy. The result is dried-out body tissues and immunity depletion. I think we can all agree that we already live too many hours led by computers and devices. Use bedtime to balance.
When you wake from a good night of sleep and rise early, you are given a rare gift every day—a quiet, spacious morning all to yourself. You may even notice you no longer say you have “no time” to yourself. You’ll discover plenty of time to think, dream, wander, wonder, and be.
One of the city’s night owls I will never be. I hope you’ll take my contemporary advice, supported by ancient wisdom, and try out the 10pm – 6am sleep cycle this spring (and maybe forever). Early riser rewards are real and yours for the taking!