Part 1 - The Sleep Drive
The minute you wake up, you start falling asleep!
Your body naturally creates a demand for sleep to maintain homeostasis. One of the biggest influencers over that demand is time. The longer the body goes without sleep, the more it needs it.
In addition to time, various biological events add to that demand for sleep.
- The sunlight you see
- The air you breathe
- The water you drink
- The food you eat
- The exercise you get
The appropriate amount and quality of each of these things + the time that's passed since you last slept, determines your body's demand for sleep.
You probably know by now that many things can interfere with sleep, such as blue light and caffeine. However, this is independent of your body’s demand for sleep. Just because your body is demanding that it sleep, doesn’t mean that it is ready to receive it. This is why just just having a sleep drive isn’t necessarily enough, you have to prevent insomnia too. (We’ll discuss those factors more when we talk about the Biological Clock.)
A good indication for what is creating your insomnia is measuring how difficult it is to fall asleep against how well you prepare your body and how long it’s been since you last slept. For instance, if it’s been 20 hours since you slept last, you have given your body what it needs to sleep, falling asleep should be easeful. But if falling asleep is still difficult… this is an indicator that emotions may be playing a very big role in your insomnia.
Part 2 - 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.
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.
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 sunrise 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.
Part 3 - Melatonin
So, the sleep clock has two fundamental parts, the demand your body has for sleep plus the cues the brain receives from light. When these two parts are in sync, the sleep clock is set.
All that’s missing to make sleep effortless and sustainable is melatonin. Melatonin is the sleep hormone, because it creates that relaxing cascade on the way to sleep, and it also tells your body not to wake up until the repair your body needed is finished.
The wonderful news about melatonin is that you are the leading manufacturer in the world of your own melatonin, meaning you don’t need to get it from anywhere else but your own body.
Here’s how it’s made.
Melatonin is first made when sunlight interacts with the amino acid tryptophan in the retina, forming the pre-cursor to melatonin, the neurotransmitter serotonin. Much like a caterpillar turns into a butterfly, serotonin eventually turns into melatonin.
This transformation to melatonin happens once serotonin travels through the retinal pathway where it is eventually synthesized in the pineal gland and stored as melatonin for sleep. About 2 hours after darkness arrives, melatonin is eventually released into the bloodstream and the 3 parts of sleep begin to work together on the same job.
Melatonin production takes place in two main shifts:
- Sunlight through the eyes
- Spending enough time outside
- Not wearing sunglasses
- Blocking artificial blue light during the day, and then at night with Dormi’s Glasses.
- Computer screens actually deteriorate melatonin molecules in the eye
- Blue light at night prevents your pineal gland from releasing melatonin
What I’d like for you to know is, these 3 parts of sleep working together is possible. If they have not been working for you up until now, there is no problem with you, it's probably just your light.