Fortunately, certain regular external cues — the alarm clock, dinnertime, the cycle of day and night — seem to naturally turn back the hands of the clock to keep our inner rhythms in synch with the hours of the geophysical day.
But for some folks, including guess who, the reset mechanism doesn't function; as a result, we drift further and further out of step with the world around us, as we wake and sleep faithfully to the inner rhythms of the 25-hour day.
A Faulty Sleep Switch
And that's the final piece of the puzzle: a faulty reset button. And a fascinating piece it is, because it could be the first cause in the genesis of my slumber problems.
Imagine, first came my naturally late sleep/wake cycle, which kept me awake all hours and left me wasted when I forced myself out of bed. Second, as I struggled to change by turning in at "normal" hours, I'd only toss and turn, a frustrating routine that ruined my faith in my ability to sleep and spawned the "psychophysiological insomnia" I talked about earlier.
And finally, as if my sleeping life were not enough of a shipwreck already, I developed a breathing problem that disrupts my sleep and drains its restorative powers.
(You thought I was kidding when I said earlier that as a slumber artist, I'm something of a washout.) But now, thanks to Dr. Clerk and his cronies, I'm armed with the knowledge I need to change my sleep for the better. Lose a little weight, he says, and the breathing thing should ease; practice some common-sense sleep habits, and the insomnia should dissolve. As for the glitchy sleep clock? He wants me to stare at a light box, glowing at 10,000 lux (bright enough almost to give you a tan) for 30 minutes every morning. This brilliant bombardment, he says, should do what subtler cues have been unable to manage and shift my natural bedtime to an earlier hour.