The Inner Clock – Reality or Superstition?

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2 years ago
Topics: Sleep, Inner Clock

The melatonin system determines our pattern of sleep. It defines us as day-active creatures who should sleep at night when it is dark, and be awake and active in the daylight. Yet it is not that simple.

Good sleep is essential; we need it for continuous healing and rejuvenation, consolidation of learning and memory, digestion and metabolism, and many other known and unknown processes. When sleep is bad, physical, mental, and emotional health is quickly deteriorating and ageing is accelerated. The repairing functions are not getting time to heal everything you damage during a day's activity.

The best must be to sleep well in the night then. Or not? Does it matter to the body if we sleep during the day or at night? Do we have an inner clock or is it just a convenient theory, as most theories correct in some points and wrong in others?

It is not possible to answer that question with a straight yes or no. The concept poses some problems and contradictions.

I'm by nature night active. It is not dependent on climate or anything else. It doesn't mean that I can always live like that, because it is necessary to adapt to the social environment to some degree. But how does it show?

I'm creative only at night. That is obvious. Whatever form of intellectual or creative work I'm doing, I can do it well only in the evening and at night. If I try it at 8 in the morning, I'm just wasting my time. And whatever I'm doing, also very routine-sort-of-things, it takes me twice as long to complete it in the morning or forenoon than in the evening and night. Roughly I can say that during the night I can do 8 hours of work in 4 hours.

If I'm up early, I'm going for a walk or something, an activity that suits my mind at that time of the day. I'm not trying to do serious intellectual or creative work, it would be a waste of time and energy. It's only if co-operation with others requires it, I sometimes have to push myself through it.

I'm not the only one who is like this. So, what inner clock is that?

Evolutionary we have the problem that we, along with all mammals, probably descend from nocturnal animals who developed during the Permian (approximately 290-250 million years ago) and then survived during the Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous periods in the shadow of the dinosaurs. They must have left something remaining within us.

Then we have the melatonin system that defines us as day-active, and that must have developed later, because only few mammals have it - most of them are nocturnal (active in night) or crepuscular (active in twilight). Our sight also defines us as diurnal (active in daytime), but sight and the melatonin cycle are interconnected parts of the same main system.

Third; we have our liver which really works like a clock, so regularly that it is amazing - and it seems to be synchronised with all humans. Its schedule is best suited by sleeping for an hour around 4 am, during the peak of the liver's hard cleansing work, which doesn't mean sleep should be limited to that, but whenever you sleep, it should include this hour. (Normal time, determined after the sun, not necessarily the same as politically standardised time.)

We have shift-workers, who are more disposed to almost all diseases as well as mental problems. This is often used as an argument for "up early, to bed early". But if this statistics is really examined, one finds that the reduced health comes with constant changes of living and sleeping patterns. No such problems are observed in those ALWAYS working at night. It is regularly changing of the pattern that is dangerous, not having one deviating from the majority.

The talk about an inner clock is not just talk. I think there is one, but it is not the same for every individual. The promotion of the idea of conformity here might very well be attempted societal engineering, a way to control the masses and adapt them to a politically created society. Many factors (and I'm sure we don't know all of them) are involved in creating the inner clock, and these factors are differently balanced with different individuals. Exactly how, no one knows. The best practical approach is to try to find one's own inherent patterns and live according to them. I'm sure that best provides the conditions for optimised living.

There is one very puzzling and interesting detail: an inner human day is longer than an earth day - except for the day of the liver. If sleeping is let free from societal restraints, almost everyone tends to sleep a little later every night and wake up a little later every morning. That means that the period of sleeping would wander around the day, completely out of phase with it.

Why are we so badly adapted to this planet that we don't share its rhythm of day and night?

What first comes to mind is that perhaps the rotational speed of the earth (which determines the cycle of day and night) has changed since we developed as physical beings. Just as our body fluids keep the level of salt that was in the original sea, perhaps we are stuck with a day as it was when we emerged as a species?

Indeed, the rotational speed changes all the time. The only problem with this hypothesis is that the original speed was higher and is gradually slowing down. That means that we were even more out of phase with Earth's day in the past!

This, combined with our mysteriously high need of molybdenum (not shared with any other species), which is extremely rare on Earth, causes many questions about the origin of mankind. It even supports the controversial idea that it might be extra-planetary.

Related article: Blue Light, Blindness, Sleep Disorder & Cancer

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Avatar for Mictorrani
2 years ago
Topics: Sleep, Inner Clock


Everyone has their own weaknesses and strengths but some tends to be lazy I think. Sometimes time will tell when you can do it because your mind relaxes and refreshed but when your mind is stressed it's hard to think or do it easily.. It bothers right. Great article

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2 years ago

Laziness is a curse, of course, and stops many from being productive. Anyone suffering that weakness has to try to overcome it.

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2 years ago