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What happens to your body if you’re constantly waking up at 6am

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What happens to your body if you’re constantly waking up at 6am

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A lack of good sleep and early mornings aren’t a good combination (Picture: Getty Images)

Happy Tuesday, which as well all know, is arguably the worst day of the week.

Last weekend is now a distance memory, and there’s still three more early starts before your next lie in.

If you commute to work, it’s likely you’ve been up since about 6am, maybe even earlier.

It might just be part of your routine, but if you’re consistently not getting enough or good quality sleep, and you’re waking up early, there can be some pretty concerning side effects.

Sleep practitioner and sleep posture expert, James Leinhardt, tells Metro that while there’s a common misconception that we need the ‘magic eight hours of sleep’, this isn’t the case.

James says: ‘For most people, eight hours is unrealistic… not even one in five people manage to achieve eight hours. The main thing you should be focusing on is sleep quality not quantity.

‘If you’re getting a good quality night sleep, it shouldn’t matter whether you are waking up at 6am or getting your full eight hours every night.’

It’s not about the hours worth of sleep, it’s about the quality of sleep (Picture: Getty Images)

However, if you’re getting consistently less sleep, poor quality sleep, and you’re waking up at 6am every day – your body is very quickly going to become worn out.

Dr Anita Raja, an NHS GP and health consultant on BBC Morning Live and Good Morning Britain, shares some tell-tale signs that the commute is really taking its toll with those early mornings…

Weakened immunity

Anita tells Metro.co.uk: ‘A lack of sleep can be detrimental to our health. Did you know our body produces proteins called cytokines which protect us against infection and disease?

‘Lack of sleep means a lack of protection of cytokines which makes us more vulnerable towards infections.’

Cytokines are signalling proteins that help control inflammation in your body.

If you contract germs or an illness they allow your immune system to mount a defence, although too many cytokines can lead to excess inflammation and conditions like autoimmune diseases.

Productivity and motivation

Anita says: ‘Poor sleep is causing 23 to 45% of the population to lose more than two work weeks worth of productivity every year.

‘A tired brain is like a tired muscle that can simply not run the marathon until its rested well enough. Sleep allows your brain to recharge for the next day.’

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The National Sleep Foundation also say that 45% of the population don’t get adequate sleep, so it’s important to be conscious of this if you struggle with being motivated at work or in any other area of your life.

A lack of sleep can often mean a lack of motivation (Picture: Getty Images)

Memory loss

‘Sleep helps us consolidate our memories, which means the better we sleep, the more likely we are to make those memories stick,’ Anita explains.

‘The short term affect of insomnia or poor sleep on memory is increased forgetfulness, as there’s an element of cognitive decline due to brain fatigue.’

There are different types of memories that the human brain retains, Anita points out. There’s procedural memories, fact-based memories and episodic memories.

Anita says: ‘Procedural memories tell us how to perform things, for instance how to turn the kettle on. Fact based memories are things like knowing the population of the world. Then we have episodic memories based on life events, for instance your first day at school.

‘The process of memory formulation is based on three main pillars . One, acquisition of memory, two, consolidation of memory, then the recall of the memory.

‘Researchers believe that consolidation of memories happens whilst we are asleep.’

Therefore if you aren’t getting enough sleep, memories can’t be consolidated, meaning they become difficult to recall.

Physical health

A consistent lack of sleep over a long period of time can cause many long-term health implications.

Anita explains: ‘We have enough data to be able to say a lack of sleep causes obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.’

Why can we gain weight or get diabetes from a lack of sleep? ‘It adversely affects the metabolism of sugars (glucose) in our bodies,’ says Anita.

Symptoms of type two diabetes can include: peeing more than usual, feeling thirsty all the time, feeling very tired, losing weight without trying to, itching around your penis or vagina, or repeatedly getting thrush, cuts or wounds taking longer to heal and blurred vision.

You can find out your risk of type Ttwo Diabetes using the Diabetes UK Know Your Risk tool.

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A study in the European Heart Journal surveyed 10,3 712 participants over a period of seven days, and scientists examined the relationship between sleep onset timing and heart issues.

In total, 3172 cases of heart issues were reported during an average follow-up period of 5.7 years. Researchers concluded the sleep onset time of between 10.00pm and 10.59pm was associated with the lowest incidence of cardiovascular disease.

Journaling can really help your mental health if it’s feeling low and your sleep deprived (Picture: Getty Images)

Mood and mental health

‘When we haven’t slept well, our energy levels are low and irritability rates are high,’ Anita says.

‘We could wake up more groggy and upset if we haven’t slept enough, which can affect our performance in an academic setting or work setting.’

Psychologist Dr Meg Arrol previously told Metro.co.uk. that a great way to look after your mental health is to journal, either before you start your day or before you go to sleep.

‘I think sometimes when people think of journaling, they can be a little bit overwhelmed,’ she said. ‘But it doesn’t have to be something profound, just the act of writing. 

‘It doesn’t even have to be anything that’s particularly important, you can write about anything you notice in a day. It’s just that way to focus on making sure and now it’s a way to bring yourself into that moment.’

How to improve your sleep

If you’re someone who struggles to get the full eight hours, or any good quality sleep at all, there’s one way you can sleep a little better.

Sleep practitioner James explains: ‘The most effective solution is changing your night-time sleep posture.

‘By simply correcting your sleep posture it not only helps improve your overall sleep quality, but it can also improve your digestion and circulation, snoring, tension and pain, and boost overall energy levels and core strength.

‘Pain, mood, and sleep are closely connected. If one of them changes, it directly affects the others.

‘There are a variety of what I call “car crash” sleeping positions people guilty of when sleeping, so not only is the position you are sleeping in effecting your sleep, but it can also cause serious long-term pain and changes in your mood.’

Peaceful Woman Asleep In Bed As Day Break Through Curtains (Credits: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

The position that is most likely to improve your sleep quality is called The Dreamer.

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‘It’s a semi-foetal side lying position with your knees bent,’ James explains. ‘This is well evidenced to put the least amount of tension through your spine whilst you sleep.

‘If you struggle to stay in this position, place a pillow between your knees and ankles, this will prevent your top leg from falling over and will mean your hips won’t rotate and put your body in what we call a provocative posture, which is where your body is twisted through the night.

‘This position allows you to maintain a neutral resting spine and the best part of it is it doesn’t cost you a penny.’

Dr Anita suggests not looking at your phone or any screen for two hours before you go to bed. ‘Avoid alcohol, avoid caffeinated beverages before bed time and take a nice shower or bath before bed,’ she adds.

‘Allow your body to go into “silent mode”.’

How to make waking up easier at 6am

There’s nothing worse than the sound of the alarm going off and waking up in darkness, knowing you can’t hit snooze.

A simple way to make getting up easier is by exposing yourself to natural light.

James says: ‘Exposing yourself to natural sunlight when you first wake up is a huge factor when distinguishing between day and night time.

‘If you struggle to get out of bed in the morning, one of my recommendations is to sleep with your curtains open, as this will allow your brain to stop producing the sleep hormone (melatonin).’

Do you have a story to share?

Get in touch by emailing MetroLifestyleTeam@Metro.co.uk.


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