He refined the device over a two-year period that included a 2014 residency at the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation in Florida. The synthesizer’s drone not only relaxed him personally, but a blind friend shared his own struggles with the circadian rhythm disorder known as non-24 sleep-wake disorder.
“And then it slowly kind of unveiled itself to me that this could be possibly helpful in accompaniment with all the other things that are helpful, to people who are sight-impaired — or at least an interesting listen,” he said.
Light controls the body’s production of hormones like cortisol and melatonin, which keep your body’s sleep-wake cycles in rhythm. Anyone who’s worked a graveyard shift or flown across oceans can tell you how breaking that rhythm can throw off your sleep and leave you feeling foggy.
But when your eyes don’t transmit light to the brain, the rhythm can be disrupted completely, affecting not only sleep but metabolism and digestion.
“Before you wake up, your bodily system is already beginning to charge up your system to make you go for the day,” Schwab said. “Your blood sugar begins to rise before you awaken. Your cortisol begins to rise before you awaken. You have no conscious part of it.”
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The nerves that carry those signals are different than the rod-and-cone assemblies in the eye that help your brain turn light into images, and they have evolutionary roots in some of the simplest animal species. But even today, their role isn’t fully understood, said Ivan Schwab, who teaches ophthalmology at the University of California, Davis.
Schwab sounds a dubious note about the benefits of the Weather Warlock. Circadian rhythm disorders are usually treated by a psychiatrist or with drugs prescribed by an expert in sleep disorders. However, it’s possible people could use it to condition their bodies.
“If you do this enough times, the body will get the hint that this is going to be a time to wake up, and this is going to be the time to go to sleep, and these sounds coordinate with that,” Schwab said. “The brain is quite plastic, even at older age groups, the brain can relearn things and rewire. But I’d be very skeptical until I saw some evidence.”
Quintron said his device is “not curative, but helpful,” and stresses that he’s not making any medical claims for the Weather Warlock.
“I leave the cures and the actual research to people who are more equipped to do it,” he said. “I see it more like a service that’s constantly there and constantly changing, but reliably sort of the same.”