Duh. This sounds so obvious, doesn't it? But thanks to new research reported in The Scientist, we in the industrial West are finally catching up to the age-old wisdom of more earth-connected cultures.
Our doctor, a board-certified internist and osteopath, who also specializes in ayurvedic medicine, shared this article with her patients to help us understand that new research is discovering why some of the ancient ayurvedic medical advice about harmonizing one's body rhythms with those of the Earth actually works. It turns out that there are a lot more complex and delicate cycles going on in the human body than we in the "modern" cultures had ever realized. Our ancient body-mind is deeply attuned to many rhythms of the Earth in a complex biochemical way -- and when we ignore this basic, somatic nature connection, we do so at our peril.
The Scientist piece focuses specifically on how eating "out of sync" with our natural body rhythms and planetary cycles can cause various illnesses, but it made me wonder what other nature-connected rhythms encoded in our bodies we modern folks are ignoring to our detriment?
Few environmental factors are as reliable as the 24-hour day, and an evolutionary argument can be made for why the diurnal rhythms of the Earth's rotation are so coupled with human metabolism. Our behavior, our physiology, and our biochemistry reflect the daily cycles of the planet, and people who fall out of sync with these cycles are more likely to suffer from diabetes, obesity, and heart disease.
When our doctor advised my husband and me to improve and deepen restorative sleep by letting our bodies follow Earth's day-night cycles and shutting down the TV at 8 p.m., we were initially shocked. What modern person harmonizes their sleep cycle with the setting of the sun? Thanks to electricity and the communications revolution, we live in a 24/7 world -- but unfortunately our bodies evolved for millennia before these recent "improvements."
So we tried shifting our wake-sleep cycles so they were more in sync with the rest of nature. We slowly switched most evenings to quiet reading, meditating or relaxing before sleep rather than seeking out the stimulation of computers, hyperkinetic TV and films or other media before bed. Unsurprisingly, in light of what this new research reveals, we feel better and find ourselves much more energized when the sun peeps its head up in the morning, reminding us of our small place in the huge universe.