By Anil Bhatnagar February 1997 Are you a ‘morning person’ or do you function best after dark? Learning about your special timings will help enhance the quality of your life and get you in sync with the universal biorythm Are you a ‘morning person’ or do you function best after dark? Learning about your special timings will help enhance the quality of your life and get you in sync with the universal biorhythm Everyone’s catchall advice about how to cope with life today follows the same lines: ‘Be Regular, Understand how your Bodyclocks and Trust your Instincts.’ Okay, you say, but everything in the whole wide world is conspiring against our trusting our instincts, trusting our bodyclocks, trusting anything at all in this universe. The ‘universe’ (as Dr Wayne Dyer puts it in his book You Will See it When You Believe it) means one song (unit is one, ‘verse’ is song). It is a song that is well orchestrated, and anything out of step with it is an anomaly that will eventually fall by the wayside in times inexorable forward journey. The problem is that the blast of cacophony in the celestial symphony—the anomaly—is us. As the years go by, we fall into human error and out of sync with the universe biorhythm. The problem is compounded by the fact that we can’t stop the heartbeat of the universe. But we can try to get back into step with it. For, like it or not, you are on your own when it comes to fixing your bodyclock—you are either a morning butterfly or a night moth. Morning persons are beloved of parents as well as homemakers. ‘Early to bed and early to rise/Makes you healthy, wealthy and wise’ is their anthem, perhaps boring to the extreme but certainly the best for health. Morning persons are introverts by nature. Their lives are said to be functional and conservative. You won’t find adventures here. In many societies, a night person is considered dark and unfathomable. Dracula wore night like a cape around his shoulders, Mary Shelley allegedly wrote her novel Frankenstein by the light of a candle of whale tallow. Most Greco-Roman tragedies reached their crescendo at night. Almost all aesthetes—artists, thespians, the whole creative zoo, in fact confess that they work best after dark. Serial killers, sociopaths, politicians and vampires are creatures of the night. Most wars all down human history began after eight p.m. In contrast, most wars down human history were concluded at mid morning. Florence Nightingale did most of her rounds and saving lives by the light of the sun, not as legend would have us believe—by her trademark lantern. The one way you can discover which part of the day is your natural ambiance is by marking, on a scale of 1-10, your temperature every four hours and alertness levels every hour. Morning people, whose temperature begins to plummet before 8 pm, are anatomically inflexible, reaching a body temperature and alertness peak on the dot in the early afternoon. Night people are more adaptable and also to conquer the demands of the body. We tend to fall asleep when our body temperature is on the decline and wake up when it begins is mercurial escalation. What is good for us is that neither category is fanatical about its identity; the truth is that the difference between morning and night people is never more than two hours. But your body knows the subtle difference; which is why it is always safer to take second or even third opinions—at different times of the day when it comes to measuring your blood pressure. Here’s another mystery demystified: Why are Monday mornings called ‘blue Mondays’, Simple: over weekends, many of us tend to splurge on pleasure—saying up late, falling out of step with our inner rhythms, leading to a disruption of our sleep-cycle. Waking up on Monday Mornings thus entails getting up in the middle of our sleep-cycle, an incompleteness that dogs us throughout the day, rendering us lethargic, irascible, physically challenged and generally mean minded. Only senior military officers love what Monday mornings do to soldiers; they put them in a frame of mind where they are courageous, to the point of being foolhardy. The wily Napoleon, in fact, is said to have noted that even if he had a ragtag, unruly army and if every day were a blue Monday, he could win any war, anytime, anywhere. As for that biggest bogeyman and mass murderer of the second half of the 20th century, stress, the main culprit is the desynchronization—read ‘messing up’—of our daily life cycle. THE BODY METRONOMEFive different rhythms govern our bodies: ultradian (less than 24 hours); circadian (about 24 hours); circaseptan (weekly); circatrigintan (monthly), circa-annual (yearly). Ultradian:Heartbeat (almost one per second), breathing (4-6 seconds) brainwaves (fractions of a second) and 90-minute cycles (hunger, attention span, urination rhythms, sleepiness). Each sleep-cycle consists of 5-6 ultradian cycles that last for 60-90 minutes each. The first cycle begins with REM (rapid eye movement, or dream sleep) of 5-15 minutes, then drifts through phase I to IV, where it stays for 10-15 minters and returns to the basic REM, which keeps getting longer as the night progresses. Good for us: Nature has guaranteed that if we don’t dream adequately, we end up psychotic. Circaseptan:The common cold, heartbeat, blood pressure, body temperature and hormone levels are circaseptan rhythms. Even the probability of the rejection of a transplanted organ increase after every seven days. Circatrigintan:The menstrual cycle, including the so-called Dormitory Effect, a rhythm discovered by chronobiologists that is most evident in the fact that the physical bodies of women sharing the same room tend to adjust their menstrual cycles to each other till they start menstruating at the same time. The average menstrual cycle duration is 29.5 days, well in match with the lunar cycle. Circa-annual:Cases of mental depression peak during winter. In fact, people often suffer from the common cold, flu and viral fever at almost the same time each year. In terms of the ‘soma-climate’ calendar: children grow faster in summer. Suicides peak in May and accidents around late summer. Cases of arteriosclerosis hit the highest around January. Circadian:The daily cycles are the commonest and the best known of all rhythms. We all become sleepy at about the same time every day. Unfelt by us, our body temperature, blood pressure, cell division, ability to perform different types of activities—all follow a repeated daily pattern. What is interesting is that our daily cycles are slightly longer than 24 hours and vary from 25.6 hours (an average for a person 20 years old) to 24.3 years (60 and above). Of all rhythms, the circadian is the one that demands immediate corrective measures, because it is what we live by minute. Correcting the circadian rhythm:Spend 15-20 minutes in the sun every day, because sunlight can reset and normalize your rhythm. • Learn your rhythm by observing yourself and then make your daily chart accordingly. •Be aware of your 90 minute cycle• Take an afternoon nap if you wish, but be up and about by 3 PM• Be as regular and rigid as a clock For happier days, read on: • Never skip breakfast • Ingest low fat milk, cooked oatmeal, raisin and cinnamon for breakfast. Don’t even dream of fatty foods like doughnuts, pastries, buttered toast, fried eggs • Do not extend lunch beyond 2 PM • Take the day’s quota for calories by noon because food is less likely now to turn into fat • Stuff yourself with proteins (cheese, etc) first and carbohydrates (sweets, break rolls, etc) later. Remember that in the stock market, fortunes are lost usually during the afternoon slump when the brain goes into neutral. • Keep lunch light: low fat cottage cheese, low fat yogurt, skimmed milk, peas, beans and soybeans • Think lighter and eat lighter as the day progress • Cut down on tea and coffee; they keep you awake but dysfunctional; your blood sugar level drops, triggered by insulin which is in turn triggered by caffeine. You feel like to could eat anything that comes your way; this in fact, is the time you raid the fridge or the larder. The next thing you know is that your flat as a washboard stomach is straining the buckle of your belt • If you want to be awake on a particular night, have a high protein dinner (but never ever over stuff yourself) which is also low on fats. Wind up the day with a cup of strong coffee and you will be awake enough to welcome the sunrise. • If you want to call it a day, try carbohydrates. No milk or cocoa; contrary to popular belief, they will keep you awake. And if you want to tuck into bed, take these steps: • Ascertain your sleep requirements—number of hours, threshold of sleeplessness and so on • Do aerobics for at least 20 minutes during the late afternoon • Remove external stimuli such as light and sound • Resort to taking sleeping pills only during emergencies Don’t drink alcohol or coffee or smoke after 6 PM • Calm down—try not to sleep with stress as a bedmate • Stretch your muscles for a minute before sliding under your blanket Never sleep hungry • Avoid coffee in the morning—if you can’t make sure you limit yourself to a half-cup. If you are a nightbird, splurge with two cups, no more • If you have already sinned, take a cup of tea or coffee after lunch to guard against the afternoon slump • A morning butterfly is allowed a second cup mid-to late afternoon. • Alcohol might help you fall asleep but not before fragmenting your rhythm and rendering it dysfunctional • Drinks the evening before are guaranteed
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