Not getting enough sleep is a complaint heard of around the world. It seems too many people are burning the midnight oil and staying awake when they should be deep in sleep and their bodies functioning at the lowest ebb. In this state, the body’s immune system can restore what is slightly out of order, can assess the overall competency of the physical body and can make needed repairs.
Newer research show evidence on the gene map of the effects of clock genes and how they regulate, or fail to regulate the circadian rhythm or the natural sleep pattern. The word circadian is a Latin derivative that relates to the 24 hour sleep pattern—circa meaning around and dies for day—making up a complete day. This rhythm occurs even without light.
Generally the thinking is that eight hours is to be set aside for sleep, eight hours for work and eight hours for play. While that neatly puts all twenty–four hours in place, it does not take into consideration the whims of the person who would rather work or play than sleep.
Seen in another light and not wholly without significance is the way daylight and darkness is formed. Since supposedly people react to light and to darkness differently—did not the creator of the heavens and the earth designate light as an active time and darkness as a time of rest— sleep is about the most important thing people can do to ensure wellness.
On a lighter note: Poets especially, known to be somewhat foolish at times, may go so far as to insinuate that night and darkness is nothing else but God closing the blinds telling overly active youngsters it’s time to rest. That thought will not fly in light of ingenuity that created entrepreneurs that insisted on finding ways of lighting darkness for their own folly or at least for their strong wills that told them to keep on working despite the lack of light.
The first of these was Prometheus, according to Greek Mythology. Whatever, the discovery of how to make fire and how to burn twigs and how to stay awake during the night, the discovery of fire altered the circadian rhythm of organisms. This is especially true of humanity.
Discovery of how to make fire and how to burn twigs and to revel in their light gave way to digging for oil to burn in lamps. And on and on went the quest for more and more daylight hours. The Greeks with their imaginative minds and preference for light over darkness, enjoyed the light but blamed Prometheus for stealing the fire that made it possible .
Furthering this frolic in prohibitive light,
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe wrote a poem asking Zeus to spare earth, and yes his house:
“Cover thy spacious heavens, Zeus, / With clouds of mist, / And, like the boy who lops The thistles' heads, / Disport with oaks and mountain-peaks, / Yet thou must leave My earth still standing; / My cottage too, which was not raised by thee; /Leave me my hearth, / Whose kindly glow / By thee is envied.
Where genetics and nature meet
Genes that react to light are nature’s ways of telling the birds it’s time to fly south, telling creatures it’s time to mate, and it awakens the sap in the trees and spurs on new growth. Fruit fly studies show mutations that occur when light sources are altered in these highly studies. These were the first studies that alerted scientist to study the effect on mammals.
Jet lag is the first evidence of disharmony. This is caused by a disruption of a person’s normal sleep habit. You fly into a zone that is regulated clock wise from that of your departure site and the effect is the same as lack of sleep. In other words your genes say are programmed to your newer destination, but with a good night’s sleep nature has adjusted the situation. Clock genes regulate the level of proteins and these ‘rise and fall’ according to how the gene is programmed.
Functions regulated by circadian rhythm.
The circadian rhythm regulates body temperature, heart rate, metabolism, blood pressure, oxygen intake, and other bodily functions. Nerve cells originating in the hypothalamus of the brain regulate the clock’s rhythm. Scientists call these genes period, clock, cycle, timeless, frequency, doubletime, and some others.
Therefore knowing that a little sleep will cure many of life’s frustrations should make more people aware that an afternoon nap, an earlier bed time, and keeping to a strict amount of sleep is going a long way in helping the immune system restore the body’s vitality. A little bit of sleep deprivation may not be life threatening, but to expect to do perform at peak performance day after day will require a good night’s sleep.