Reconnecting with Our Natural Sleep Cycle

sleep cycle

photo: iStockphoto

Every living thing runs off of cues from internal clocks and most follow a sleep cycle. Learn more about our natural rhythms here!

Award-winning science writer Jessa Gamble believes that our internal clocks struggle against our hectic modern schedules. In today’s world, most of us can only dream of getting the recommended eight hours of sleep per night. Examining the science behind our body’s natural sleep cycle and rhythms, she reveals the substantial program of rest we should be observing.

Watch Gamble’s insightful presentation about the sleep cycle below!

All life evolved under the predictable conditions of light and darkness, leading to the development of internal clocks and the sleep cycle. These special chemical clocks are found in every living thing, from the complex to simplest one-cell organism.

Human beings, just like our animal counterparts such as the horseshoe crab, are also given strong signals by an internal master clock.

“You can see this most clearly when you take away someone’s watch and you shut them into a bunker, deep underground, for a couple of months. People actually volunteer for this, and they usually come out kind of raving about their productive time in the hole. So, no matter how atypical these subjects would have to be, they all show the same thing. They get up just a little bit later every day — say 15 minutes or so — and they kind of drift all the way around the clock like this over the course of the weeks. And so, in this way we know that they are working on their own internal clocks, rather than somehow sensing the day outside,” she explains.

Gamble links our body clock to driving our various world cultures and different behaviors. The human population has spread to every corner of the globe and now experience different realities than the standard 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of darkness cycle found near the equator.

For example, in Arctic Canada the northern aboriginal culture’s actions are traditionally highly seasonal. It’s perpetual daylight in summer and 24 hours of darkness in the winter months. This group sleeps more in the winter and mostly remain indoors. During the summer months, they kick it into high gear by spending very long hours hunting and working.

So, what would our natural rhythm look like if artificial light was completely absent? According to Gamble, we would all sleep twice every night. People would be going to bed around 8:00 p.m. until midnight and then again, sleeping from about 2:00 a.m. until the sun comes up. And in-between, we would enjoy meditative quiet in bed. Subjects in studies that have followed this sleep schedule have reported feeling very alert during the daytime, some even realized true wakefulness for the first time ever.

We’re living in a busy world where shift work, jet lag, and a lack of high-quality sleep are all real things impacting us and our sleep cycle. Gamble argues that our modern ways of doing things have their advantages, but come at a very high cost.

sleep cycle
photo: iStockphoto
Thought-provoking isn’t it? While many of us may not be able to test out the unique sleep schedule Gamble highlighted in her talk, we can work to better our sleep experience. Downloading a user-friendly mobile app to easily stream relaxing sounds created especially to aid sleep is one simple strategy that can help you catch better quality zzz’s.

While many smartphone apps now exist within this growing segment, one in particular app was created by a dedicated team of artists, developers, and scientists. The Berlin-based group developed Endel, which understands that sound has a direct impact on our well-being, affecting our heart rate, blood pressure, and state of mind.

Endel is now available for iOS users globally and generates real-time personalized sound environments to enhance sleep, focus, and relaxation. This tool makes it easy for its user to ease the mind, minimize distractions, and help capture some valuable shuteye in a more relaxed environment. The app’s sound engine incorporates specially tuned noises to make distracting sounds and harsh interruptions less audible through sound masking.

Want to test it out? Click the “play” button below to preview the Rainy Night playlist! Choose “listen” in the top right corner if you wish to view the full album via Apple Music or Spotify. View four additional sleep-promoting playlists here.

Sleep: Rainy Night Playlist Preview

Users can choose from four different sound modes based on their personal needs at the moment— Sleep, Relax, Focus, and On-the-Go. The app then automatically generates a distinct natural soundscape, which also adapts real-time to personalized inputs like location, time zone, weather, and heart rate.

Endel’s core algorithm is based on circadian rhythms, pentatonic scale, and sound masking. These carefully crafted sound environments are completely algorithm-powered and meant to gently rise and fall in line with your current conditions. This app gives your mind and body what it needs to achieve restorative deep sleep. Download Endel at the App Store here or via the following button.

relaxing sounds