Marine commando reveals to hack your body clock and sleep better

How to HACK your body clock: Marine commando reveals the simple tricks to help you beat jet lag, get more sleep – and why you SHOULDN’T go to the gym first thing in the morning

  • BBC Horizon carried out a bunker experiment with the help of a former Marine
  • Aldo Kane spent ten days in a nuclear bunker with no way of telling the time
  • Scientists were able to closely monitor his internal body clock in a series of tests
  • Discovered vital evidence and also revealed tips to hacking your own body clock 

Scientists claim to have found the secret to a better night’s sleep by ‘hacking’ your internal body clock.

BBC Horizon carried out an experiment with the help of former Marine Commando Aldo Kane, who spent ten days in a nuclear bunker with no way of telling time.

Scientists closely monitored his internal body clock through a series of tests and found that without light his body clock had no way of resetting itself and telling the time. 

In the process, evolutionary biologist Ella Al-Shamahi discovered vital evidence about how our bodies work.

She also shared her own tips for beating jet lag, getting more sleep, the best time to hit the gym – and how to work night shifts without getting tired.

BBC Horizon carried out a bunker experiment with the help of former Marine Commando Aldo Kane, pictured, who spent ten days in a nuclear bunker with no way of telling time

By stripping away the trappings of modern life, the experiment uncovered the workings of our inner clock, and uncovered some practical advice in the process.

Aldo went through three phases of the experiment over ten days – first trying to keep track of time with nothing but his own internal body clock to rely on.

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For the second phase, he was left in the dark for three days which knocked him three hours out of sync with the real world.

The third phase he had to endure jet lag – with Ella waking up him five hours ahead of his natural sleep pattern.

He was tested to his limits and the biologist said: ‘It’s having an impact on him mentally, it’s actually a little bit uncomfortable to watch.

 Evolutionary biologist Ella Al-Shamahi, pictured, discovered vital evidence in the way we work and shared her own tips when it comes to beating jet lag

The experiment highlighted the importance of the human body clock and its impact on our health, happiness and performance.

Here, Ella reveals how to ‘hack’ your clock and get the best out of your body.


If you have jet lag you can’t ‘shift’ your clock back to normal by more than one hour a day, but you can use light and the absence of light to shift it as fast as possible in the right direction. 

There are apps and websites to help you calculate the best time to catch the light, wherever you are in the world.


Sleep in rooms that have light curtains or with the curtains open, and get outside in the daylight during the morning.

Two hours of bright, natural light every day can push your clock forward by an hour; that’s an hour more sleep every night.

Make sure you cut down on blue light every night, by using the night screen settings on your smartphone or tablet.

Early birds find it easier to fit in with the nine-to-five, but if they want to sleep in later they should get light in the afternoon and evening and sleep with thick blinds or eye masks to block the morning light.

Everyone has an internal biological clock that governs their daily rhythms, including diet, general health and exercise patterns – we often fall out of sync and struggle with sleep and feeling tired, studies have shown (file photo)


If you have to work nights where your shifts change, try and follow a strict routine – it’s vital that you stick to it even on your days off.

Night shift workers should wear eye masks or blackout blinds to block out light when they are trying to sleep, and wear blue light blocking sunglasses on the way home in the day as long as they don’t drive.

Expose yourself to as little blue light as possible on your way home; it will help you fall asleep quicker. 


If you’re up early with a smile on your face you’re part of the 25 per cent of the population who are early birds.

Dread your alarm and only come to life in the evening? Then you’re a night owl like 25 per cent of the population (the other 50 per cent fall somewhere in between).

It shifts as we get older; young children are generally early birds, teenagers night owls, early twenties settle into patterns.

Around 25 per cent of people are early birds, researchers have found; this means some people find it easy to drop straight off to sleep whereas others may struggle (file photo)


To save energy, our blood pressure and temperatures dip overnight which makes us sluggish; this means early morning isn’t the best time for exercise or complicated mental activities.

Morning is a great time to eat a big meal because our stomachs are more active and our metabolism more efficient.

Late morning is the perfect time to do things that require lots of brain power like writing and planning.

Physical exercise should be done in the late afternoon, where athletes should be faster and stronger.

Big evening meals aren’t a great idea as our stomachs are slowing down for the night.

While we sleep our bodies repair any damage. These daily cycles make us better equipped to move around and eat during the day and rest at night this is the reason we have an internal clock at all.    

BBC Horizon What Makes Our Body Clock Tick airs tonight on BBC Two at 9pm and will be available to watch on the BBC iPlayer

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