Teen Ultradian Biorhythms

At the bottom of this page we discuss some ways to utilize these teen ultradian biorhythms. First we discuss these important biorhythms in

Biorhythms are biologically based regular cycles that help adapt organisms to their environment. Some examples include:

  • Annual rhythms—follow the cycles of the seasons, e.g. mating season in animals, hibernation during winter, etc.
  • The monthly menstrual cycle in women
  • Circadian—24-hour wake/sleep cycle
  • Ultradian—90-120 minute activity-resting cycles
  • menopause cycle

Biorhythms, are regulated by neuroendocrinal systems in the brain, most notably in the hypothalamus, pituitary, and pineal gland. This is true for adults too.

The Suprachiasmatic nuclei in hypothalamus function as biological clocks to regulate cycles of the neuroendocrine systems. These same hormones may be involved in regulating life and death cycles (Rossi, 1993, p 195).
These hormones are also involved in modulating state-dependent memory and learning.

The Basic Ultradian Cycle

The basic ultradian cycle’s activity and resting phases over 90-120 minutes: Basic ultradian activity-rest cycle

Figure 1. The basic ultradian cycle showing one activity peak bracketed by two resting phases.

Wave nature of consciousness

Consciousness and its various modes occur in waves. There are waves within waves. In a 24-hour period, a person would experience 8-10 ultradian cycles as shown in Fig. 2.

Wave nature of conscousness

Figure 2. Idealized ultradian and circadian cycles showing dreams, selected hormones, and sleep periods. (Adapted from Rossi 1993, Figure 9, p 197.)

Performance/Activity Peaks

These are the periods during the day when you have highest mental and physical energy. During the waking phase (Fig 2) these are left-brain dominant periods. During both waking and sleep modes of consciousness there are several ultradian cycles. During sleep, performance peaks represent the rapid eye movement (REM)/ dream mode of consciousness periods.


Psychosomatic Problems from Disturbances of the Ultradian Cycle

Behavioral disruptions of the ultradian rhythms that modulate both autonomic and endocrine functioning (see nervous system) are thought to be the underlying psychophysiological basis for many psychosomatic problems.

Endocrine system regulation

Endocrine systems function on circadian and ultradian cycles. Many hormones are released in approximately 20 minute pulses, or multiples thereof. Behaviors that disrupt either of these cycles can disrupt the normal functioning of the endocrine system. These hormones include cortisol (stress), growth hormones, ß-endorphin, parathyroid hormone (PTH), insulin, and adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH).

Autonomic nervous system (ANS) regulation 

Autonomic and cerebral hemispheric dominance work in an integrated fashion: i.e., right-brain activity is correlated with parasympathetic activation, and left-brain activity with sympathetic. (from Rossi, 1993, PP 179-185)

Hemispheric dominance shifts during the ultradian cycle, so that during the resting phase there is a shift from left-brain dominance to right-brain dominance.

Nasal activity can shift hemispheric dominance: left nostril breathing activates right hemisphere; right nostril activates left hemisphere.

Yogi’s and Eastern adepts regulate ANS via nostril breathing (Rossi, 1990)

Self-Actualizing Individuals

In self-actualizing individuals (A.H. Maslow, A Theory of Human Motivation, Psychological Review 50 (1943):370-96) there is a significant positive correlation between self-actualizing individuals, low anxiety and stress related symptom, and a regular nasal cycle.

Self-actualizing individuals in Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs are concerned with morality, creativity, problem solving, justice, peak experiences, and realizing their full potential.

Correspondingly, non-self-actualizing individuals with high levels of anxiety and stress-related symptoms show greater irregularity in their nasal cycle. (Osowiec, 1992).

Altered states of consciousness

  • Highly hypnotizable individuals have more regular nasal/ ultradian cycles when they practice self-hypnosis, but low hypnotizable subjects do not (Osowiec, personal communication reported in Rossi, 1993).

  • In experiences of enlightenment, samadhi, deep meditative states, and sexual orgasm both nostrils are open (Usharbudh, 1979).


Psychosomatic and other disorders

Genetic processes at the molecular level are the ultimate source of biorhythms as well as the wave nature of consciousness. (Rossi, 1993, p 201).

The homeostatic regulatory systems of the mind-body serve these underlying genetic processes and are coordinated by these genetic processes.

Chronic interference with these biorhythms results in stress and is a major cause of psychosomatic problems.

Most holistic healing approaches unknowingly utilize the ultradian healing response to normalize biorhythms to optimize health. These healing approaches include meditation, body work, imagery, hypnosis, biofeedback, and even ancient shamanic approaches.


  • Bulimia—disruption of ultradian cycles in rats has been shown to result in obesity-bulimia and neurodermatitis problems (Freidman, 1972, 1978; and Friedman et al., 1978).

  • Depression—disruption of circadian rhythm during depression is often characterized by early morning awakening and diurnal changes in mood (sad in morning, happy just before going to sleep).

  • Dissociative Identity Disorders: some reports of DID with alternative personalities being associated with switch in left and right brain dominance (Ischolondsky, 1955, p 8-9).

Ultradian resting phase--doorway to the integrative mode of consciousness (IMC) and healing.

Doorway to Integrated Mode of Consciousness

Figure 3. Relationship between ultradian cycle phases, the integrative mode of consciousness, healing, and integrative altered states of consciousness.

Ancient Healing Approaches

Mysterious rituals, touch, and massage have been used from ancient times for mind-body healing. Many of these work by accessing state-bound memories, learning, and behaviors, e.g., affect bridge in hypnotherapy, body memory during massage.

“Touch” does not necessarily have to involve actual touching, e.g. Reiki therapy, energy medicine, healing touch, and shamanic distance healing.

Similar “touch  therapies” are seen in animals, e.g. mutual grooming in mammals, especially primates; animal “hypnotism” in alligators by rubbing the stomach.

Recognizing the resting phase in your self and your teen

Indicators that you or your teen are entering a resting phase include:

  • Appears to move into a quiet moment of reflectiveness.
  • Becomes still.
  • Eye blinking or swallowing may greatly diminish or be absent.
  • A “far away” look in the eyes and may close spontaneously for a moment
  • Heart rate and breathing slow.

Utilizing the Resting Phase with Your Teen

OK, here's the deal. In this state, a lot of the defense mechanisms and left brain stuff is turned down. That is why when I am working in a situation with an explosive teen, I will just sit quietly with him or her. I am present, but do not engage (or minimize such), and wait for that resting phase to kick in. When the teen is in the throes of anger or meltdown, is not the time to try to reach him/her. I wait patiently.

When I see signs of the teen going into a resting phase, then I can guide the situation via suggestion or reframing to a better place. I usually acknowledge and validate their feelings, e.g. "Billy, I know that you are very angry about this. It is OK for you to be angry (or whatever the emotion). How can we solve this problem or move to a better place on this?" And, no parents, this does not mean giving into your teen's demands.

As an aside, many of my fellow therapist will try to talk them down. I have found this to be less effective. But then, they don't know about Ultradian biorhythms.



Neurogenesis and Healing

Addiction and the Teen Brain

The Triune Brain

State-Dependent Memory, Learning, and Behaviors and Trauma

Basic Genetics Series

Nature and Mind

  • Clinical Psychobiology