#011 The Core Four: Sleep
sunrise on the ridge 2022
It’s that time again when we reset our clocks an hour. I can assure you none of the animals or plants on the ridge (wild or domesticated 🙂) are paying any attention to this practice and for good reason.
Nature is highly regulated by light exposure and disrupting this has major consequences. For example, our toads come out to hunt for insects at night and return to the safety of their burrows right before sunrise. On the other hand, our hawks begin their grocery shopping just after sunrise. If our sweet little toads shifted out of this cycle even by an hour it could make the difference between getting food and being food.
It also has pretty significant species level consequences. Wild animals time mating to light so offspring are born with the most abundant food supply. Changing the time by an hour is equivalent to moving back an entire month. This would have a dramatic effect on what food is available and their likelihood of survival.
Unfortunately, we don’t always get to go with the flow of nature. So, how does the time change affect us and what can we do about it?
To start, don’t be surprised if you (your partner, kids, and coworkers) seem a bit more moody, sleepy and hungry this week.
Scientists are just beginning to understand the vast implications light exposure and the solar cycle has on us.
Conscious vs subconscious effects of light
There are 2 types of light effects.
Conscious light is what we typically think of. It illuminates, allowing us to see the beautiful sunrise, spring flowers and the car coming up behind us.
Subconscious light has a completely different function. One of the best studied aspects of subconscious light is our circadian clock and sleep/wake cycle.
Circadian clock is linked to our photonic or light environment. It helps regulate our sleep/wake cycle.
What’s fascinating is this system is so hardwired into our brain that it works even without conscious detection of light. This phenomenon was described by Dr. Samer Hammar.
Visually impaired people often suffer from severe dry eyes which can be extremely painful. To remedy this, physicians thought that removing the eyes since the patient was fully blind could alleviate this problem. What they discovered was that it deranged their sleep/wake cycle resulting in sleep problems. The people essentially developed a chronic jet lag because they were no longer able to track light-dark cycle.
The system isn’t a conscious one of visual perception but a subconscious one. Incredible! The complexity and sophistication of our bodies never ceases to amaze me.
Your desire to eat is driven by intricate hormone cues tied to light exposure and your sleep/wake cycle. Shifts in our circadian clock impact the timing and intensity of our perceived hunger.
Instead of moving meals an hour ahead to align with day light savings time try to keep it with in 30 minutes of your previous mealtimes. Take your lunch outside to get more light exposure. These simple changes will help reduce cravings.
Mood, Anxiety and Depression
The impact of light on mood is well documented. We’ve all heard of Seasonal Affective Disorder but even a shift of an hour can have an effect. This affect can range from small to extreme depending on the person. Paying attention to any change in your mood or the moods of those around can help.
You’re not just grumpy because you’re getting up an hour earlier.
Light exposure and circadian clock have a direct impact on our psycho-physiological wellbeing. Nearly all people suffering from mood disorders have significant disruptions in circadian rhythms and the sleep/wake cycle. In fact, disrupted sleep patterns are one of the major diagnostic criteria for these disorders.
So yeah, we’ve just induced a societal wide mood disorder. Be kind and patient with one another. It’s not you or them.
Simple tools to help:
Fortunately, there are simple, no cost tools to help ease the pain of springing forward.
- Get outside and view the sun first thing in the morning
- Only move meals by 30 mins.
- Eat lunch outside, cloudy days work too
- View sunset in the evening
- Keep lights low at night and eliminate screen time before bed
- Adjust normal wake-bedtime by no more than 30 mins, gradual is best
- Pay attention and be gentle with yourself and others ✌️💕
With love and gratitude,