Our body is at its lowest during the depths of night, during the small hours of the morning. It's at this time that our bodies are literally less inclined to do their best performance.
Our mood and alertness are at their lowest. Hormones aren't naturally producing themselves like they do during the day.
Our body temperatures are at their lowest throughout the night with the nadir point eventually being reached at half past four in the morning. It plummets from seven o'clock in the evening, the traditional hours of rest and sleep, and two hours later a chemical called melatonin is released at nine o'clock in the night and is a part of the sleep-wake cycle the body naturally has.
Melatonin production and release stops at half past seven in the morning in the human biological clock; this is when we're expected to wake. When cities run regardless of the human biological clock, your body won't function as well as it can. You're hard-wired to be sleeping in bed, and no amount of caffeine can change that. It's a number of factors that play a role in the body's submission to the land of nod.
Warmth plays a factor, comfort plays a factor; even light and darkness play a factor. It's all a part of a sophisticated interlinked system perfected over thousands of years of evolution.
For example, how many of us failed to a get a good night's sleep one night, only to find the next morning while the Microsoft PowerPoint presentation was on we slept?
Modern life and its effects on the human body, such as the presence of brightly powered light-bulbs haven't changed it. We still want to fall asleep early during the winter months when the sun is in the sky for six hours, maximum.
We've been around for far longer than awfully artificial lights and our bodies simply won't stand for it. The bright lights of modern life may attract our mind but we physically can't do it.
Without a decent night's sleep, without our body being basically equipped to deal with the day, how can we expect to go about our day's work? Stress hormones are released naturally by the body; in turn causing irritability, a lack of concentration and a groggy state.
No Sleep, No Show
Students who regularly fail to get the sleep they need indeed fall behind and are more likely to conditions such as depression and to have worse test scores than their well-rested counterparts. Athletes who play away games are at a disadvantage owing to travel and time zone's negative effect on the human body. With this in mind, how many gravely ill-made decisions have been made by say, politicians who haven't had that much sleep? Football players who were tossing and turning?
Yawning is contagious; some scientists believe that yawning keeps the body cool, whereas others say the reflex of yawning is directly related to a sudden influx of oxygen into the blood stream.
One in five accidents are caused by a driver whose abilities are deprived; because they have not had enough sleep. Going without sleep for a whole day results in the same reaction time as being legally drunk in the UK.
Four in the afternoon and six in the morning are the times where most car crashes occur; 4pm is when our bodies are naturally attuned to having an afternoon nap and 6am is still when the body is producing melatonin to regulate the sleep pattern. It's not crashing as much as it was from the hours of 12am to 4am as it rises slightly, but the body temperature is still lower than it is at our prime, when afternoon tea is served at four pm: caffeine when our bodies begin to crash.
As bizarre at is may seem, an afternoon nap does not effect the body's sleeping cycle. In some countries, such as Spain, an afternoon siesta is the norm; no matter what we do, we are slaves to our bodies. Can some countries sleep better than others? If Spain and Mediterranean countries have siestas whereas say, we drink large amounts of coffee and just 'get on with it', defying mother nature.
We drink 2.8kg of coffee in a year, ranking 48th internationally, it's a far cry away from Finland' 12kg a year, but still… that's a lot of coffee. Dry weight wise, tea has more caffeine than dark-roast coffee: we drink 2.1kg of tea every year, coming second only to Turkey. A main contributor to a lack of sleep is caffeine use and stress.
After the US and Germany, we in the UK have the highest amounts of insomnia. Women are more prone to the condition than men, and sleep is wired into our genetics. A study a few years ago showed that the 'minimum' amount of sleep that all people needed was eight hours a day; so we'd slept a third of our day.
However, sleep itself is genetic. Like our hair, eyes, colour of our skin, body shape, it's genetic. How much sleep our parents need will be mirrored in our own genes, either through environment or through genetics. A later report later came out proving the first report futile, saying that if you sleep and you feel fine when you wake up, then that's good.
Different people sleep in different ways, different people need different times in which to sleep; everything's different and it's different all the time. How on Earth can you begin to regulate something as individual as sleep?
I don't function well without a lot of sleep. I shut off, my mind races uncontrollably. I get a loss of appetite. My reaction times are so slow during the daytime I feel detached from everything around me: I snap at people, I feel sick and I even feel that my brain moves slower, the feeling that my brain synapses are so fried that it hurts my brain to think. I have bloodshot eyes and a listless stare.
Even as I type this my eyes travel across the page and objects come in and out of focus. It feels like there are drills on either side of my head. Eyes glaze over in front of screens, car screens, cinema screens, laptop screens, computer screens and TV screens until I actually want to scream at all the screens. Chuck Palahniuk , author of cult book-turned-film Fight Club wrote that when you can't sleep or when you suffer from insomnia “everything feels like a copy of a copy of a copy”.
On my mother's side, everybody's an early riser and can't stay up past midnight… but it's during the night I really take off. I read the best books, I have the best conversations. Food tastes better. Conversations are better. Music sounds better. Books seem more intense. Bands sound better. Even the air tastes and feels better.
I like the feeling of being one of the only people up, it's like the world has died and I'm the only one left. I like the silence, and I like the peace of it. I'm the only one, the silence is overwhelmingly perfect and the moon looks better in the sky than the sun, in my opinion.
I'm not sure when it began. I arose early as a child, like most do. I spent my years split between my mother's and my father's house; in my father's house the family worked in the restaurant business. It was common for them to rise at noon and sleep at four or five in the morning. I can't entirely remember my first series of sleepless nights, but I remember staring out of the window to the view of the river while my Mother slept in the next room. I remember writing in notebooks, sneaking around the house and reading.
My problem is I either don't sleep until an absurd hour in the morning, or I go to sleep at a normal hour and I wake up at sunrise or when I can hear birdsong. Even when I stuck to a routine in high school, I still went to sleep at around three and woke up four hours later. It's gotten to a point where friends and family just won't ring before noon unless it is absolutely necessary on my days off.
I don't turn off. I just don't turn off, doctors are reluctant to give me sleeping tablets owing to my age. I might be of little use to anything or anybody during the daytime with my sleeping pattern, but when I come awake during the night… the grey monotony of the day and its duties redeem themselves.
I operate during the day under a thick blanket of deflated fatigue. Going out during the night I feel more exhilarated than I do during the day: dreamtime is better than daytime, because dreamtime lasts forever.
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IMAGE: Free 2 Be