The invention of electricity has had a huge impact on how we sleep, separating us from the natural rhythms of sunset and sunrise and interfering with the brain chemistry much needed to help us feel tired and ready for bed.
Our hunter gatherer ancestors would have stopped work at sun down, communing together in the evening for social activities like storytelling and singing in the warm glow of firelight rather than working late into the evening. Up early at sunrise and almost a full day’s work in before lunch followed by an afternoon nap especially in the heat of long Summer days.
In Matthew Walker’s book ‘Why We Sleep’ he refers to the tribes untouched by electricity today such as Gabra in Northern Kenya or the San people in the Kalahari Desert and how they sleep in a ‘biphasic sleep’ pattern of two separate sleeps. He also mentions the island of Ikaria in Greece where the siesta is still a part of everyday life and the men are noted as nearly four times as likely to reach the age of 90 as American Males.
Our modern-day lifestyle doesn’t really fit into the pattern of our ancestors, but the biological dip in energy in the afternoon feels very much with us and perhaps part of evolutionary genetic make-up. How we get through the afternoon slump in energy can have a huge impact on the rest of the day and our sleep at night. For many it will be the perfect time for a sugary snack or cup of tea, to help get through the end of a busy day, but if you are sleep deprived or suffering from insomnia then fluctuating blood sugar levels or the hit of caffeine could have an impact on how you sleep at night. Maybe you drift off into a long afternoon nap and ease too much of the sleep pressure needed to help you fall asleep later that evening.
So what can be useful during that 3pm slump?
This is where introducing a restorative yoga pose for the right amount of time can be just right for helping you get through. If you work in an open plan office and that's out of the question, then bringing in other practices to calm the nervous system that can be done seated can be really beneficial.
As Walker describes in his book when discussing instigators of insomnia "One common culprit to insomnia has become clear: an overactive sympathetic nervous system"
We’ll be delving deeper into this fascinating discussion on sleep at the next Yoga for Sleep Recovery course starting at 6pm Sunday October 6th @studio_io. Do join me for tips and tools that can help us align more with our natural rhythms of the past in our modern day lives.
If you can't make the course then get in touch for some Yoga for Sleep Recovery support via Skype.
4 week Yoga for Sleep Recovery course: