The BBC recently published an article about the effects on the body as a result of working the night shift. It is no surprise that the overall conclusion was that it is not good for us, but one result of the research was that the “speed and severity of damage caused by being awake at night was a surprise.”
Night shift workers are a more extreme example of what happens when we move away from natural cycles, which have developed with the rhythms of the sun. All of life moves according to the sun’s movement. The most harmonious order for our health is to rise early, eat at regular times, settle down in the evening, and sleep deeply at night. We have the best ability to get deep, refreshing sleep between midnight and four, which correlates with the time when the most stars are visible.
Our natural rhythm is of intake and discharge. During the day, our bodies take in for activity and at night, our organs and nervous system recharge, repair, and gather excess, which is eliminated in the morning. Upon rising, we go to the bathroom and do our morning routine.
According to Oriental Medicine, different parts of our body are nourished at different times of the day. The activation of our organs also follows a rhythm. Our kidneys and bladder– the seat of vitality, balance, and elimination– are most active at night when we are in a horizontal position. Our liver and gallbladder are more active in the morning to do the job of fat metabolism and detoxification. The heart and small intestine is activated by being upright and vertical around noon. A nourishing lunch starting before 1 p.m. activates our lymph and immune systems, harmonizes our blood sugar and resets our biological clock. Walking outside during a lunch break is a very heart healthy practice. Settling down in the evening helps to regulate our lungs and large intestine. Our various organ systems work in accord with natural cycles daily as well as seasonally.
Another result of some studies was that “shift workers getting too little sleep at the wrong time of day may be increasing their risk of type-2 diabetes and obesity.” We have the greatest ability to release excess early in the morning and at night our body repairs itself. When we are awake at night and continuously taking in during these hours, we accumulate and are unable to normally release the accumulated excess. If we sleep during the day, our organs get out of sync. If we take a nap sometime after lunch, however, we align with the receding energy of the day.
For ex-night shift workers or the sleeping impaired, the best thing you can do to re-align with natural cycles is to start rising by 7 a.m. and eat a regular lunch by 1 p.m. A daily walk outside helps us to reconnect with nature as well.