Soul Sculpting Project: Setting my Body Clock for Sleep
Eat, Sleep, Pray: Creating a Circadian Day Part 2: Sleep
The sun was rising when I boarded the first plane. Three more planes an overnight flight with little sleep, 9 time zones. My body said, “I’m tired. This is night and we should be in bed.” I stepped out of the 4th plane into a brilliant afternoon sun. My body instantly changed her mind. “Oh, look at all this light. It must be day. Let’s wake-up.” I became alert and no longer felt the urge to sleep.
- The optic nerve of my eye observed the bright light and sent a message to my master brain clock, the SCN. (Suprachiasmatic Nucleus (SCN), a group of cells in the hypothalamus that respond to light and dark signals.):
“Hey, look at all this sunlight, it’s time to be awake.”
- Then this SCN master brain clock sent signals to raise body temperature and produce hormones like cortisol to make me feel awake. And it sent shut-down signals to the hormone melatonin, which was making me feel sleepy.
The bright afternoon sunlight reset my clock.
And God said, “Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to separate the day from the night. God made two great lights, the greater to rule the day, and the lesser to rule the night. And God saw that it was good.” (Genesis 1:14, 16, 18)
How’s your sleep been lately?
The answer to that is determined in part by your relationship to light.
How does light effect sleep?
- The optic nerve of our eye observes dim light and sends a message to our master brain clock, the SCN.
“Hey, it’s getting dark. Time to shut things down and move to sleep mode.”
- The body responds by producing the hormone melatonin. This is the hormone that makes us feel sleepy. If the light stays low, melatonin levels rise all evening and stay elevated throughout the night, promoting sleep.
What happens if instead of a constant darkening light our body is exposed to a bright light ? For example, a device with screen light.
- The optic nerve of our eye observes the bright light and sends a message to our master brain clock, the SCN.
“Hey, look at this light, it’s time to be awake. Turn off the melatonin.”
A New Era of Light
We do not relate to light the way our great-great-grandparents did.
In the morning our relatives received a good dose of bright sunlight, because they spent more time outside than we do. This sunlight served them the way it served me as I stepped off the plane. The bright light set off a chain reaction of changes in their body that set their body-clocks to feel alert and ready for action.
In the evening our relatives spent time in subdued light, with lanterns, candles.
At night it was dark.
Up to the last one-hundred+ years humans have lived in lighting extremes. Bright daylight, subdued evening light and darkness.
Our world has changed. Electric light has replaced fire-light and sunlight.
Researchers observing this generational change are becoming alarmed. They are observing an increasing number of the world’s population relating to light in ways that are throwing off our Circadian Rhythm. Circadian Rhythm is the way our body was created to function. Living out of sync with this rhythm has profound health ramifications. Countless mental and physical problems are associated with a disrupted Circadian Rhythm.
At this time in human history many of us spend our days in a light that is:
- not quite bright enough to fully wake-up,
- but too bright to sleep well.
Our body clocks are struggling to figure out what time it is.
How To Help Our Body Tell Time
- In the morning Maximize light. Get into bright light. Outside,if possible.
- In the evening, Minimize light. Dim lights. Discover the off-switch.
(The blue light emitted by devices is especially problematic for our body clock.)
Soul Sculpting Project: Setting Our Body Clock
This week experiment with light.
Maximize light when you want to move toward wakefulness.
Minimize light when you want to move toward rest.
My experience of bright light as I exited the plane reset my clock for many hours and I felt wide awake and refreshed. Then rest of my body clocks got into the conversation and jet lag began.
There is clock in nearly every cell of our body. Our body runs on clocks.
My digestive system said, “Excuse me, what time of day did you say it was? I am out of sync.” Many of my body system clocks were out of sync and it took a few days to reset them. Jet lag.