The Foundations of Sleep Science
This week I’m taking you back to the science that informs my work to show you how I know the lessons that are shared in my book, here, and all my other platforms.
The Science of Sleep
I work in the research lab of Michael Young, a Nobel Prize winner for his work discovering the genes that guide our sleep behaviors. From our work, I know that light affects our sleep patterns deeply. But more than that, as a mother, I’ve been using this science to help my children develop sleep behaviors that will help them the rest of their lives.
What do fruit flies have to do with it?
Thirty-five years ago, my mentor Michael Young and his lab made an important discovery: the fruit fly has a gene that regulates various aspects of its circadian rhythm. This means that fruit flies have everything to do with how humans can get better sleep. Because it turns out we (and actually ALL animals and plants) have those same genes.
These genes regulate the cycle of each day we live. So we owe a lot to fruit flies, and to Michael Young and his team for discovering what we now call "clock genes."
Clock genes are reliant on light to tell us what time of day it is, and what our body should be doing. This is the base layer for my work helping parents and babies get better sleep.
Light is the great regulator of us all.
Part of our brain is known as the "master clock" (its scientific name is suprachiasmatic nucleus). The genes in your master clock tell your body what time it is and what to do (sleep, digest, feel motivated). How do they know what time it is? They get their cues from light.
A well-regulated master clock is used to being exposed to light at the same time every day. People with more regularity to their sleep patterns know this. To have a well-regulated system, everyone (young and old!) can follow these steps:
- Expose yourself (and baby) to light first thing when you wake at the same time daily.
- Remove blue light from your surroundings at the same time every night (shut the curtains, put your phone on night mode, and turn a red light lamp on in your bedroom).
Keep these up regularly, and soon you’ll find yourself waking without the need for an alarm and falling into instant comfortable sleep at night!