“Life is a dance between heaven and earth, the ebb and flow of life.” 

Maurice Spees

Sleep & sunlight

This Yin Yang symbol represents male (white, day);  it represents the fight-n-flight sympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system.  The female (black, night) represents the rest and digest parasympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system. In Tai-Qi the line in the middle of the Yin-Yang circle is called the line of Tai-Qi and in Taoism it symbolises the concept of “the middle way” or in the West “moderation”. The violet inside circle represents the deep spiritual practice of sleep - where all consciousness with the world is suspended. The orange outer circle is the colour of restoration. 

If you are not getting eight hours of sleep per day then you will not be getting enough recovery and your body will be stressed and swimming in cortisol.

Cortisol is the stimulating hormone that wakes us up as the sun rises in the morning and helps mobilise energy for fight and flight reflexes. Melatonin is the sedating hormone that rises with the moon to help us sleep. Electric light tricks our brain into thinking it's daytime and the brain responds by releasing cortisol and inhibiting melatonin, which delays our sleep. Worse still, as the light is still on we are tricked into thinking it's summer so we reach for sugary snacks to keep us awake and because we are probably not exercising we pile on excess fat onto our hips. If we are exercising at a high intensity late at night, then we are also releasing fight and flight hormones to keep us alert, which again delays our sleep. All this sleep delay means we do not get enough sleep. We need eight hours per night between the hours of 10pm and 6am with the hours from 10pm and 2am being attributed to physical recovery and 2am- 6am being necessary for mental recovery. Sleep is the highest form of recovery and, when direct sunlight is added, is the starting place of stress reduction.

15-20 minutes exposure to direct sunlight on our skin stimulates Vitamin D. Vitamin D acts with cholesterol to produce a feel good neurotransmitter called serotonin that in turn is a precursor to melatonin. The Vitamin D and Cholesterol mind map below outlines the importance of sunlight and high quality fats in our lifestyle.

The bottom line is that we need sunlight to sleep and sleep is the first place for stress reduction.  All other strategies are marginal gains. Top athletes in the world train, eat, sleep, and train, eat sleep a couple of times during the day. When you think of the time demands sponsors make on world class athletes every day you can see the priority they place on recovery. The priority of most top athletes is to be injury free: that means recovery.

As a whole the sleep and sunlight symbol represents time - your daily 24 hour schedule, and the 24 hour cycle of the sun - also known as the Circadian Rhythm.

The next activity may be the most important one in terms of going forward with your life. It's called “what do you do all day”? and gets you to reflect on how you spend this valuable commodity.

Activity 18: What do you do all day?

  1. On the left circle fill out your typical 24 hour weekday, and on the right fill in what you would do on an ideal day if money were no object. Include:
  • Sleep time
  • Meal time
  • Commute
  • Work
  • Exercise
  • T.V, social media
  • Create other

B) Enlightenment: reflect on how different the current versus ideal day look like and ask:

  1. How different are the two days?
  2. How much time are you doing what you love and are good at? (Ken Robinson's definition of being in your element)
  3. Often making the most of what we have is perception and attitude but sometimes activities and the way we spend our time no longer serve us.  Ask “Where can I easily lighten the unproductive time from my day” (any activity not contributing to my health, fitness and performance) and swap it for more positive changes/attitudes to build towards the ideal day.

The Pineal Gland and Enlightenment

The pineal gland is the 7th endocrine gland is located in the brain and has a large overlap to our mindset and spirituality. The pineal gland influences our nervous system and our sleep. The pineal gland is related to enlightenment (enlighten-me, or lighten my load) and carries with it a Dawkins score of 1000. 

Enlightenment comes from developing a mindset that includes humility, reverence and consideration for all - the Dali Lama consolidates this in “compassion”. Enlightenment involves opening your mind to the possibilities of other philosophies, free from judgement and responsibilities, and includes actions to help others just for the reward of helping others - or altruism. Enlightenment is listening to your heart or intuition above rational thought, and intuition is developed from experience, introspection and meditation.

And insomnia

Insomnia is the inability to sleep and will eventually lead to an autoimmune disease if not corrected. Insomnia comes from obsessional thinking about stress and tension in life, deep seated guilt and feelings of fear and anxiety, or thinking about the future too much - reacting to potentially threatening situations or worrying about being not being able or good enough to do what is needed.  This type of thinking chokes a person into inaction or overarousal on our Life zone curve.

Pineal Disease

The pineal is related to our inner seeing and hearing (intuition).  Diseases can manifest in this area when one refuses to receive understanding and enlightenment or misuses faith i.e. uses faith for personal gain over altruism.

And exercise

The pineal is related to calling on all your movement capacity, ability and skill and to call upon them without thinking - or you can call this “play”.  Play is the culmination of skill acquisition and fitness training. 

The restoration exercise attributed to the pineal gland is the Savasana or Corpse pose where you suspend thinking of the human doing and become a human being. This pose is usually done as the culmination of a yoga class, but can be done any time you want to introspect or meditate.


A summary of the endocrine pineal gland is illustrated in the mindmap below.

Sleep is when we shut of all consciousness and is our highest spiritual practise. It is through sleep and the Circadian Rhythm (or 24 hour cycle) that we set our rhythm of life. Humans need to be inactive during the night to recover from the stress of the day.  To the degree that we miss out on a regular eight hours sleep per night is the degree that our life feels out of sorts and our health suffers. When travelling internationally through multiple time zones it takes one day per hour to adjust your equilibrium to the new sun rise and set cycle. Until then clarity of thought, ability to perform exercise, elimination and eating cycles will be out of sync.

Stress Reduction Starts with Sleep and Sunlight

Sleep is the number one weapon to combat stress. You know when you are stressed because you do not sleep or you have to to use alcohol, or medication to make you sleep. Alcohol dehydrates the liver and lowers the blood sugars, resulting in disturbed sleep and waking between 1am-3am to go for a pee.

Sunlight facilitates sleep especially when you eat good quality animal fats. The animal fats help produce the sex hormones, cortisol and cholesterol. Cholesterol and sunlight help manufacture Vitamin D. Vitamin D is a precursor to the feel-good neurotransmitter serotonin, which in itself is a precursor to the sleep hormone melatonin. Without those chemical processes and the recovery you get from sleep body health, especially fertility, will suffer.

If you don’t have a regular routine it is very difficult to create a habit and life may feel out of control or just meanders along without any purpose.

Daily Rhythm Action Items

To reset your rhythm of life you need establish a regular daily schedule.

  • Rise with the sun (earlier in summer later in winter) around 6-630am.
  • Sleep with the moon at around 10pm.
  • Eat breakfast, lunch and dinner at the same time.
  • Seek 20-30 minutes of sunlight in the middle of the day.
  • Exercise at the same time.
  • Keep other daily habits to a regular time as much as possible.

Complete and Continue