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Sun Sleeper

Hope you’re well. I am, thankfully, always grateful. I never take my health for granted. My mind helps as it likes to spontaneously reflect, even during the most mundane tasks. Fumbling with my keys at the door. Taking out the trash. Chopping an onion. Pulling the shades open. When I least expect it, my mind surprises me with a slow-motion movie of life. Not just my life, but the collective images from around the world. All of it – the good, the bad, the ugly – in little clips. My movies truly move me. No popcorn needed.

I've noticed this reflecting sneaks up when I'm simply being present. The mere awareness of my actions opens space for my mind to wander and see. Rather than being busy and distracted, I’m present and tuned in. That connection takes me on my little movie journeys. It’s hard to put words to what we’ve all been through this year, so my short films help fill in the gaps.

I welcome this wandering eye during the day, but at night not so much. Just like I was born with migraines, I was also hard wired with sleep issues. The two are brain buddies. Health experts recommend eight hours of sleep, but "how," I ask? As a light sleeper, I fall into the 50% of the projected world's population who have sleep issues. As a kid, I relied on my sister's back tickles to help me doze. As an adult, I’ve journaled, meditated, stretched, medicated, breathed, bathed, read, herbed, stared, counted, mantra-ed, hypnotized, and visualized. Sleep is big business, and I've consumed it all.

So when I happened upon a podcast offering a simple practice to solve sleep issues, I was all ears. In this episode, Dr. Andrew Huberman, an ophthalmologist, neuroscientist and professor in the Department of Neurobiology at the Stanford University School of Medicine, explains how light, not dark, is critical for good sleep. As humans we need the sun to sleep. It’s how we’re programmed, but we’ve lost touch with this basic need and not even the blazing bright light in the sky can get our attention.

This goes beyond circadian rhythm, and not just any old sunlight will do. According to Huberman, CliffsNotes version here, we need the contrasts of blue and yellow light from sunrise and sunset, also called low angular sunlight. He explains that this light triggers retinal cells to communicate with an internal clock that exists above the roof of our mouths - yes, he said that. This internal clock communicates with every cell in the body and triggers the release of cortisol in the morning and melatonin at night. In lieu of watching the sunrise and sunset as we may have done, he recommends staring at the sky (not directly at the sun) within 2 hours of sunrise and within 2 hours of sunset outside, not through a window, for 2-10 minutes a day. Then, after 8pm, turn your house into a cave. This is a stretch, but the sun intrigued me.

Eager to try, I parked it on my stoop, leaned against my door with a hot drink in hand at 7:45am and again at 4:15pm for 10 minutes each time and simply stared at the sky. I can't see the sun from my house, but I bathed in the yellows and blues. Eagerly, I hopped into bed that night to sleep. And... nothing. Just wide-eyed and wondering.

Maybe I was a bit too excited. He said it could take 2-3 days to reset, so in the morning, I did it again. But this time, the sky was as white as the snow covered roofs. Chicago skies weren’t mentioned in the podcast.

Despite my uncertainty, I have stared at the sky every day since because I love it. And, indeed, last night I slept a whole eight glorious restful hours. What I do know for certain is that connecting to my basic human instincts always feels good and raw. How exquisitely beautiful that we humans are designed to find the quiet darkness of sleep with light. It makes perfect sense. We rise and rest with the sun, not just because, but because of an intricate and deep connection. With the company of the woodpeckers somehow still pecking and little birds flying by, I will continue to gaze up. I’m amazed by it all, and I take it all in. I’m awake and present, and for this, I’m so very grateful.

Give it a try and let me know how it works for you. If you need an assist for daytime reflecting, this song (first song on Daytime Reflections playlist) stirs my soul, and on cue my movies begin rolling again. This song (second song on same playlist) does the same, but best to listen in the car with all windows rolled down.

With much gratitude and heartfelt intention...



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