How Sleep Works - Part 2

Updated: Oct 14, 2020

The Biological Clock

There is a clock in your brain that keeps track of when it's time to go to sleep and when it's time to wake up. It's called the Suprachiasmatic Nucleus (SCN). 

The two hands informing this clock are sunlight and darkness. Sunlight in the morning tells the brain to be awake and sets the clock's timer for sleep 16 hours or so later, or a few hours after darkness, whichever comes first. 

I like to compare the SCN's role in calling for sleep to your role in calling for an Uber.

Just when exactly you call for your Uber, of course, depends on when you want to arrive to your destination and how far away the closest driver is. 

The way the SCN calls for its Sleep Uber is by getting blue light from sunlight through the eyes.

The average wait time for a Sleep Uber though is 16 hours, so for the SCN and sleep to be on time, the SCN needs blue light from the sun around 16 hours in advance. 

Then, once the SCN is picked up, a comfortable Sleep Uber takes it on an 8 hour roundtrip, comprised of 2 phases. 

As you can see by doing the math, if everything is on time, the SCN will end up exactly where it started, roughly 24 hours later. This includes waiting 16 hours for its Sleep Uber, followed by an 8 hour roundtrip.   

Of course, the only things that could throw off this cycle is if the Sleep Uber was late. 

All the SCN has to do to ensure its Sleep Uber is on time is keep the app open and running. This is done by getting a minimum amount of sunlight and avoiding a minimum amount of blue light after the sun goes down. 

But if this doesn't happen, the Sleep Uber will be late... in other words, if the SCN was stuck inside all day or exposed to a lot of blue light after dark, then the Sleep Uber will be delayed, stopped in its tracks for a relative period of time. 

Now, here's one thing to keep in mind. Sleep Ubers are programmed to drive for about 8 hours in order to complete their mission, depending on their passenger.

So, when a Sleep Uber arrives late and then prepares for an 8 hour roundtrip, the SCN is presented with 2 big challenges. 

Challenge #1

If the Sleep Uber completes an 8 hour drive after showing up, let's say 2 hours late, the SCN will be dropped off about 2 hours past it's original destination. Now, the SCN is 2 hours off course and needs to get back home in 14 hours, but the closest Uber is 16 hours away. 

Challenge #2

In order to get back to its original destination 24 hours after it started, the SCN will need to jump out of its Uber 2 hours early, before the mission was accomplished. 

Now, the SCN will either return to where it started from, sleep deprived to start its day. Or it will have established a new home base, where it isn't as comfortable or efficient. 

Bringing this back to you, to get your sleep on track, you need to start by setting the timer on your clock, by getting sunlight through your eyes when you wake up, preferably as close to sunset as possible.

Your SCN runs most efficiently when programmed as close to sunrise as possible, followed by avoiding blue light after dark as much as possible, but doing this whenever you wake up will be helpful. 

Getting your clock in sync always starts with light, the clock must be set first. You cannot use darkness to make sleep get their faster. Darkness works best when natural light was used as a stimulant first.

Please remember this, blue light from electronics when it's dark causes sleep to be delayed, just like the Uber analogy. This is why it's so important to block blue light using Dormi's Glasses. 

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