In modern day we live in a culture of jet lag, modern business and shift work. It may have its advantages, but at what cost, Jessa Gamble asks.
Life evolved under conditions of light and darkness with plants and animals developing their own internal clocks in order to be ready for changes in light. The body clock is an often overlooked driver of culture. Species which evolved near the equator are naturally adapted to twelve hours daily of darkness and twelve hours of light. Northern aboriginal cultures, which have almost 24 hours of darkness in winter, tend to spend much of that season engaging in family activities.
In an ideal sense, without artificial light, our natural sleep cycle is like this. People would go to bed at about 8pm and wake at midnight. Between midnight and 2am there’s a meditative quiet time in bed, before the second sleep between 2am and sunrise. In between the two sleeps is a surge in prolactin which isn’t usually seen in daily living. People who’ve experienced these natural cycles report feeling so awake during the day that they’re experiencing true wakefulness for the first time.