You may or may not have heard of your Circadian Rhythm, and perhaps you’re not entirely sure of what it is or why it matters as it’s not the kind of thing we talk about often.
For those of you who don’t know – our circadian rhythm is like a 24-hour internal clock in our brain that regulates our cycles of wakefulness and sleepiness. It does this by responding to light changes in our environment and plays a crucial role in regulating our sleep-wake cycle and overall health.
When properly aligned, our circadian rhythm can help us have consistent and restorative sleep, this is sleep which allows for the body to repair and replete itself and for our mind to process memories and emotions.
It’s important to know that not all sleep is restorative. In fact, only the last two stages of sleep, deep sleep and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, are considered restorative. This makes up about 10-20% of our sleep. As our sleep goes through a number of phases to get to the REM stage, we want to aim for 7-9 hours of sleep a night.
When our circadian rhythm is thrown off, it can create sleep problems, such as insomnia. There are various factors which can get our circadian rhythm out of sync such as work schedules, travel, and lifestyle choices. If you find yourself struggling with insomnia or other sleep disturbances, fatigue, mood swings, decreased alertness, or problems with memory and decision-making, it might be a sign that you need to reset your circadian rhythm.
Why is the Circadian Rhythm important?
A lack of sleep, tiredness and fatigue can lead to making choices which only exasperate the problem. When we are tired we often reach for quick fixes such as caffeine and sugary snacks for a boost of energy. The thing is, this then makes the problem worse and we get stuck in a cycle – the long-term effects of disturbed sleep can lead to disease and some studies suggest, a shorter life span.
In this post, we’ll explore effective strategies to help you reset your Circadian Rhythm so you can regain a healthy sleep pattern and improve your overall well-being.
Understanding Your Circadian Rhythm
To reset your circadian rhythm, it’s essential to understand what it is. Your circadian rhythm is a natural, internal clock that regulates your sleep-wake cycle, body temperature, hormone release, and other essential functions. It’s influenced by external cues like light and darkness. If your circadian rhythm is disrupted you may be experiencing symptoms such as extreme daytime sleepiness, decreased alertness, and problems with memory and decision-making.
Create a Consistent Sleep Schedule
One of the most effective ways to reset your circadian rhythm is to establish a regular sleep schedule. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends. Consistency helps your body synchronize with your desired sleep pattern. Research shows that sleeping between the hours of 8 p.m. and midnight sets you up for the best chance at restorative sleep.
Manage Exposure to Light
Light exposure has a profound impact on your circadian rhythm. During the day, expose yourself to natural sunlight as much as possible and as early as possible. There is research that suggests morning sunlight exposure helps reinforce this synchronization. Exposure to Morning sunlight also helps regulate the production of melatonin, a hormone responsible for sleepiness. Natural light exposure in the morning suppresses melatonin production, signalling to your body that it’s time to wake up and be alert. In the evening, reduce exposure to artificial light, especially from screens, at least an hour before bedtime.
Optimise Your Sleep Environment
Ensure your sleep environment is conducive to restorative sleep. Keep your bedroom dark, quiet, and at a comfortable, cool temperature. Invest in a comfortable mattress and pillows and remove electronic equipment from your bedroom.
Be Mindful of Your Diet
Your eating habits can influence your circadian rhythm. Avoid heavy meals close to bedtime, and limit caffeine and alcohol intake, especially in the evening. Aim for a light, balanced dinner several hours before sleep.
Establish a Relaxing Bedtime Routine
Create a relaxing bedtime routine to signal to your body that it’s time to wind down. Activities like reading a book, taking a warm bath, or practising relaxation techniques can help prepare your body for sleep. Turn the lights down low as artificial light tells the body it’s still daytime.
Regular physical activity can promote better sleep and help reset your circadian rhythm. Aim for moderate exercise during the day, but avoid vigorous workouts too close to bedtime.
While short power naps can be rejuvenating, excessive daytime napping can disrupt your circadian rhythm. If you need to nap, keep it short no more than 20-30 minutes, and early in the day. If you suffer from insomnia avoid napping altogether.
Avoid Blue Light at Night
Blue light emitted by screens can interfere with your sleep-wake cycle. Consider using blue light-blocking glasses or using device settings that reduce blue light in the evening. Even better, turn off all screens a couple of hours before you go to bed.
Resetting your circadian rhythm takes time so you will need to stick to your new sleep schedule and lifestyle changes for it to happen. It’s important to be patient with the process.
As you can see, a healthy circadian rhythm is essential for optimal sleep and your overall well-being. By following these tips and making adjustments to your daily routine, you can successfully reset your circadian rhythm and enjoy better sleep, improved mood, and increased energy levels.
Remember, consistency is key, so stay committed to your new sleep habits, and your body will thank you for it.
If you need support with making these and other lifestyle changes to support your health, weight and wellbeing, get in touch via my Facebook page.