Here's what happens when you spend ten days locked on your own in an abandoned nuclear bunker

He's on the ninth day of a gruelling ten-day experiment which has seen him locked deep underground in an abandoned nuclear bunker, completely cut off from the outside world.

Aldo, a former Commando who has completed tours of Afghanistan and Iraq, has had no human contact for over a week… and he's on the verge of cracking.

With no natural light in the bunker, he has also lost track of time, and his body clock has been left to run wild as the experiment drags on.

But that's actually the point of this unique challenge, which is part of a documentary airing on BBC2 tonight called Body Clock: What Makes Us Tick?

The test, overseen by evolutionary biologist Ella Al-Shamahi, monitors Aldo as he spirals further and further away from normal life.


Our body clocks, controlled automatically by our brains, dictate much of our lives. They determine our moods, as well as when we should wake up, eat and sleep.

However, they aren't naturally calibrated to fit the Earth's 24-hour cycle, and only stay properly aligned thanks to the routine periods of sunlight and darkness we're exposed to every day. But down in the bunker, this doesn't apply, meaning Aldo's body clock will soon slide out of kilter.

The abandoned bunker Aldo is staying in is situated on the Devon coast, and was built to shelter the entire regional government in the event of a nuclear attack.

Inside the bunker, even the temperature stays exactly the same at night, so there will be no way to track the time. It's the kind of experiment which has been known to drive people crazy.

Day 1

Aldo's phone and watch are confiscated.

"Really, I'm spending ten days in complete silence with myself," he says. "That is quite alarming."

Within four minutes of locking himself in, Aldo has already unpacked the few belongings he was allowed to bring with him.

"I actually now have nothing to do," he says, ambling between deserted rooms before eating a microwaved ready meal and going to bed bored.

Day 2

When Aldo wakes up, he spends his abundance of spare time exploring the dark lower levels of the bunker.

He finds a room with old maps peeling off the walls and a mound of rubbish on the floor. There's a long-stopped wall clock among the junk.

"That's the most ironic thing I've seen since I've been in here," Aldo says.

Day 3

Aldo tries to guess at the time, but he's already slipped two hours out. He has resorted to reading the text on the back of his ready meal packets and bouncing a tennis ball off the walls to keep himself entertained.

"I'd love to hear another person speak," he says. "Just for a few minutes.

"The sound of silence is deafening, and my own voice already is starting to annoy me."

Day 4

The researchers turn off almost all the lights in the facility to see how Aldo will react to constant gloom.

"I already feel tired just because its very dark," he says. "It feels like a winter's night at home, except its not cosy and warm.

"As soon as I sit down my eyes feel heavy. I fell asleep on the bed earlier which I never normally do during the day… if it is the day. It could be the night.

"It does give the impression, somehow, that I'm more on my own and more isolated from humanity."

Day 5

Without light to stimulate him, Aldo's body clock starts to drift like an old watch.

He has no idea what time it is, and wakes up disoriented, lethargic and confused. He has also started marking his days on the wall of his room like a prisoner.

Day 9

Aldo's sleep cycle has drifted a whole three and a quarter hours out of sync, and his energy levels and physical performance have dropped off.

He has also been filming a video diary the whole time, and the footage starts to take a disturbing turn.

"I'm bored," he shouts, standing alone in his room after a session of juggling tennis balls.

He then sits on the floor and stares at the wall, and when he tries to do some work at his desk, his head just slumps right down onto it.

Then, when he goes to yawn, a guttural scream comes out.

"It's actually a little bit uncomfortable to watch," observes biologist Ella.

Misaligned body clocks can also affect our mental health, and in Aldo's case, the toll is severe.

"This is day nine," he says. "Otherwise known as the longest day in history.

"I have a niggling worry that I may not be in day nine. This is doing my head in.

"You can see how easy it would be to psychologically unwind. And unwind spectacularly."

Day 10

Finally, Aldo's time is up, and he can mark a tenth day on to the crude calendar he has scrawled on the white brick wall.

He may have ticked off Iraq and Afghanistan, but for Aldo, this has been one of the hardest ordeals yet.

The researchers behind the experiment, however, are delighted with how it all turned out.

Monitoring Aldo as his body clock spiralled out of kilter allowed them to record exactly how well our bodies can hold it together when we are cut off from the world.

The answer? Not very well.

As for Aldo, he's just glad to be back on the surface again, where there are people to talk to and sunlight to drink in.

"Wow. It's super bright," he says. "I have no idea in space and time where I am."

 Body Clock: What Makes Us Tick? airs at 9pm tonight on BBC Two.

How to harness your body clock

Our body clocks dictate our energy and performance levels throughout the day.

You can take advantage of your natural rhythm by adapting your day to better fit your body clock.

For example, always avoid exercising just after waking up.

This is because our body temperature drops overnight to conserve energy, making us weak and sluggish first thing in the morning.

However, early morning is a good time to eat a big meal, as our stomachs and metabolisms are more active after a night’s rest.

Brainpower, meanwhile, peaks during the late morning – making this the best time for problem solving or planning.

Late in the afternoon is when our energy levels reach their peak, so this is the best time to exercise.

Then, in the evenings, our bodies and metabolisms slow down, so this isn’t the best time to eat a large meal.

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