One “Squid Game: The Challenge” Star Shares How Her Circadian Rhythm Completely Changed While Filming

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If you have seen Netflix’s latest reality hit, Squid Game: The Challenge, you are aware that it is a pretty extreme and mind-blowing show. What might surprise you is that the intense challenges depicted in the series can be recreated in the real world. Here’s the twist. Real-life fans engage in a simulation mirroring the show’s events. Among the various activities they replicate, believe it or not, is something as foundational as sleep. 

Mel, also the face behind the account on TikTok @lil_thee_boy, was a contestant on the show and she recently shared a TikTok with more information about what a nighttime routine looks like for a Squid Game contestant. (1) 

She said that the contestants fell asleep in a room filled with bunk beds. The first thing she mentioned was that even though it’s typical to fall asleep with all the lights off, that’s not the scenario in this game. She said that instead of sleeping in a completely dark room, the contestants are placed in a room where the lights are dim and never go out. 

“So yes, overnight it was like, darker in the room, but it definitely was not completely pitch black,” she said in the TikTok. 

She revealed having the light on all throughout the night definitely kept her up at night. With this, her DIY hack was to take an extra pair of underwear or a sock and layed it over her head to replicate a sleep mask

And here comes the scary part. The contestants were unaware of the time so they were told when to go to bed and wake up

“So they would just say over the loudspeaker, ‘Ok lights are gonna go off soon,’ and then when it was time to wake us up in the morning they would just play that like creepy dystopian music that they have in the original show,” she said.

She ended the video by stating the experience really made her realize how important a sense of time and how our circadian rhythm keeps us sane. She also added that after this experience she will start to appreciate her circadian rhythm that allows her to function properly throughout the day. 

After Mel shared her experience, this is definitely something we would not voluntarily go through. However, we wanted to learn more about why our circadian rhythm is essential and how even subtle alterations in our lifestyle, or more extreme experiences like becoming a Squid Game contestant, can disrupt a balanced circadian.

Why Does Our Circadian Rhythm Get Affected So Easily?

So, for some people it might take a Squid Game contestant to help them to start appreciating their circadian rhythms. 

We spoke to Cali Barenfuss, CCSH, RPSGT, and she said that this TikTok is a great example of why our circadian rhythms are essential to our overall health.  (2)

“We have cells in our eyes that detect bright light (like that from the sun), and then send signals to our brain that help regulate our circadian rhythm,” she told Sleepopolis. “When bright light is detected, it tells our brain it’s daytime and when darkness is detected, it tells our brain it’s nighttime.” 

She said that when our bodies don’t experience light and darkness, the circadian rhythms become altered and our bodies don’t know when to release which hormones at what time. For instance, our bodies know that during the daylight it should secrete cortisol and insulin while at night it needs to secrete melatonin

Barenfuss said our circadian rhythms are sensitive, so when external environmental factors come into the mix, it can become easily disrupted. 

She said that if everything is working well for our circadian rhythm, it usually just works well on its own without us thinking twice about it. However, when one part of it gets changed, such as being affected by the changes from light to dark, it can throw off the whole body. 

But don’t worry, with some quick adjustments it can be set right back to normal. Barenfuss indicated that when Mel went home from the show, she most likely exposed herself to more light during the day and went to bed with more darkness at night to get her circadian rhythm back on track. 

Don’t start thinking twice about taking care of your circadian rhythm. It can help prevent a variety of issues such as depression/anxiety, diabetes, cancer and stroke. Barenfuss said that when we don’t have a healthy circadian rhythm, we can’t have a healthy body. It’s important to start prioritizing the light and darkness we receive each day, by managing how much sunlight we get in the morning from how dark we want our rooms to be. 

30-Day Sleep Hygiene Plan

30-Day Sleep Hygiene Plan

Download your own sleep calendar here! Proper sleep hygiene is extremely important if you want to sleep better. Sleep hygiene refers to the set of behaviors and environment related to your sleep habits. The … Read more
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  • 1. Lil_THEE_boy on TikTok. TikTok. November 27, 2024. Accessed December 1, 2024.

  • 2. About our sleep and insomnia coach. Delta Sleep Coaching. August 9, 2024. Accessed December 1, 2024.

  • Barenfuss, Cali. Personal Interview. November 29, 2024.

Ava Girardi

Ava Girardi

Ava Girardi is an Editorial News Intern for Sleepopolis. She loves writing about all things sleep from viral bedtime routines on TikTok to studies on sleep quality that will help you get the most helpful information to achieve that perfect bedtime routine. Ava is currently studying at Elon University where she is a double major in journalism and media analytics. When she is not writing, Ava is spending time with friends or family, running, or trying new yummy foods.

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