Ultradian Rhythms: Why You Need to Unplug Every 90 Minutes!

man hand on forehead stressed thinking looking at personal computer
by Self Reboot LLC

I was taught the model for success was to hunker down for long and continuous hours in front of a computer, answer emails late into the night, and work until I drop. That model failed me big time! After years of chasing back-to-back deadlines at a New-York-minute pace, I was rewarded with severe chronic migraine headaches, which over time manifested into insomnia, depression, and autoimmune diseases.

We are humans…not computers and this is the reason why stress-related problems account for up to 90% of visits to the doctor. The human body is hard-wired to pulse. To operate at our best, we need to renew our energy at 90-minute intervals—not just physically, but also mentally and emotionally. When we work at high intensity for more than 90 minutes, we begin to draw on these emergency reserves to keep us going. Effectively, that means we move from parasympathetic to a sympathetic arousal—a physiological state more commonly known as “fight or flight.”

Stressed at a computer

More than 50 years ago, the pioneering sleep researcher Nathan Kleitman discovered something he named the “basic rest-activity cycle”—the 90 minute periods at night during which we move progressively through five stages of sleep, from light to deep, and then out again. Although it’s much less well known, Kleitman also observed that our bodies operate by the same 90-minute rhythm during the day. When we’re awake, the movement is from higher to lower alertness. Other researchers have called this our “ultradian rhythm.” An ultradian rhythm is a recurrent period or cycle repeated throughout a 24-hour circadian day.

When we need a rest, our bodies send us clear signals such as fidgetiness, hunger, drowsiness, and loss of focus. But mostly, we override them. Instead, we find artificial ways to pump up our energy: caffeine, foods high in sugar and simple carbohydrates.

If you want to see changes in yourself and your employees’ productivity and performance—encourage them to take at least two or three short renewal breaks throughout the day.

time to refresh

Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Reboot with a 5, 10 or 15 Minute Self Reboot Signature Class (videos link below):
    5 Minute Self Reboot
    10 Minute Self Reboot
    15 Minute Self Reboot
  2. Head outside for some fresh air and sunshine
  3. Take a walk around the office and socialize with your coworkers
  4. Get up and get a glass of water
  5. Listen to a guided meditation at your desk or somewhere private

Change starts with leadership, please join the revolution in making corporate America a healthier and happier place to work. I’m beyond grateful to be part of the wellness revolution, not only is it my mission to empower others with simple tools to manage stress and avoid stress-related illness, but it’s also my passion.

To learn more about needing to unplug see: Stress Management

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