Sound Sleep Guru

Sleep and Time Keeping

Let’s imagine you’re an astronaut and you’re returning to the Earth from a #yearinspace like @stationcdrkelly. You arrive not knowing the date or time. If you didn’t have access to a watch or calendar how would you figure it out?

First you might notice the temperature or the aroma in the air and sense it is spring. Next you might notice the blooming and Specifics like when the daffodils bloom could tell you it’s the end of February or beginning of March depending where you live. Then you might notice that the sun is directly overhead, very intense and bright and you could conclude it is midday, close to noon. Continuing on you might remember the length of day that time of year and be able to predict the sunset. The ability to make these predictions is critical to survival for knowing when to plant crops, when the salmon spawn, and when to prepare for a cold winter.

In our modern world I think a lot of people have sleep problems because they’ve lost this connection to nature. Intrinsic clocks exist with a concentrated locus in our brains in an area called the suprachiasmatic nucleus, the master clock. They evolved because using time to make predictions is critical for survival.

I think one of the reasons being in nature is so powerful is because that connection will always exist no matter how advanced our technology becomes. This observation is one of the reasons I have personally made an intentional effort to only exercise outside (sorry not sorry peloton) and I’ve fully embraced season specific sports because they serve as a touchstone to these seasonal variations that are part of our intrinsic physiology.

In sleep, we focus so much on sleep and nighttime when some of the answers and solutions for living better are found in how we live during the day. I see these patterns clearly when I look at actigraphy and see light dark distributions. But it’s more than light-dark, it’s activity, feeding, resting, and temperature changes that play a critical role.

How do the seasons influence the way you go about your life?

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