It could probably be argued that as natural organisms, the invention of the light bulb has done us few favours! We are no longer dependent on the day and night rhythms in nature to create structure to our day and limit our work-time.
However, our body systems can be seen to function in a pattern of waves and rhythms, some of which are obviously designed to respond to the tempo of the natural world. We do not simply live IN nature , we ARE nature. As we increasingly separate ourselves from the flow of natural events, our body rhythms can become erratic and desynchronised.
This can be observed most easily in the rhythm of our sleep patterns.
There is an increasing interest in the study of sleep, with an acknowledgement that in order to maintain our health the right amount of good quality sleep is of huge importance. Disrupted sleep can have a major detrimental impact on our physical and emotional well being, as well making us more prone to errors and accidents.
The harmful effects of sleep deprivation are used as a form of torture, a feeling those of us who have had many sleepless nights with young children will know all too well!
The mechanisms involved in our sleep-wake cycle are complex and not completely understood. If you are interested, this little book is an up to date and comprehensive guide to the key findings and research to date.
Sleep: A very short introduction by Lockley and Russell
In this section I will look at the nature of the human body-clock, our relationship to light, and some tips for resetting a desynchronised body-clock.
Next: The Body Clock