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Reset Your Circadian Rhythm For Better Sleep and Better Mornings

Do you want to have a better sleep? Are you ready to wake up feeling more refreshed?

 

Your first step doesn’t need to be reaching for sleeping pills. A simpler and more natural solution is reconnecting with the natural rise and fall of the sun. Dimming the lights and ditching the screens before bedtime can lead to better sleep by helping reset your circadian rhythm.
 

Back in our primitive days, we naturally woke up and went to sleep with the rise and fall of the sun. That consistent schedule helps regulate the circadian rhythm.
 

What is a Circadian Rhythm?

 

The Latin word “circa” means “one” and “diem” means “day”, so circadian translates to “one day”. Your circadian rhythm is the internal 24-hour clock that regulates your sleep/wake cycle.
 

For adults, our greatest energy dip happens between 2am and 4am -when we’re usually asleep. Another dip occurs between 1pm and 3pm.[1]Do you consistently crash in the afternoon? This is likely why.
 

Not everyone is on the same clock -variation makes some people morning people and others night owls. That said, even night owls and morning people will realize the health and mood benefits of more sleep. How much sleep do we need? Roughly 7-8 hours is the recommended average.
 

How Does the Circadian Rhythm Work?

 

Your circadian rhythm is controlled by the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus is a group of brain cells behind the optic nerves.In the morning, light passes through your eyes to the hypothalamus. This signals the start of your daily hormone production schedule, ensuring the properly-timed release of hormones that control energy levels, digestion, blood pressure, immunity, fat burning, and more. Inconsistent and inadequate sleep disrupts that schedule.[2]As the sun sets, red wavelength light passes through your eyes to your hypothalamus. This stimulates production of sleep inducing melatonin. When the sun rises, your eyes take in more blue wavelength light. This stimulates production of your “get up and go” hormone, cortisol. This is why our internal clocks align with whatever timezone we live in, and why shift workers tend to have difficulty adjusting.
 

Circadian Rhythm Disrupters

 

We’ve all had our clocks thrown off from time to time. Travel, social events, or adjusting to newborn sleep habits can all disrupt your circadian rhythm. When this happens, we tend to experience more energy dips throughout the day. When it happens consistently, we can experience longer term consequences. Some of the mental consequences can include moodiness, lack of mental clarity, and lower stress tolerance. Some of the physical consequences can include: weight fluctuation, weakened immunity, and even a greater risk of heart disease.
 

The invention of the lightbulb affected more than the candlestick business. It’s affected our ability to wind down before bed. Dim bedtime lighting helps transition us into the relaxed state we need for sleep. False “sunlight” can fool your brain into producing sleep inhibiting cortisol. This throws your circadian rhythm off track.
 

The lightbulb was only the beginning. Today, we’re inundated with screens from sunrise to sunset, and into the dark hours of the night.
 

The biggest culprits? Bright lights, smartphones, tablets, and TV before bed[3].
 

What Can You Do About It?

 

Dim the Lights and Ditch the Screens Before Bed.
 

Keep your circadian rhythm running smoothly with the following better sleep hacks:
 

1.     Mimic nature and dim the lights at least 90 minutes before bedtime. That means turning off your overhead lights at around 9pm to get the minimum recommended 7 hours.
 

2.     Be mindful of alarm clocks with bright lights that glow all night. Consider an alarm clock that mimic a natural sunrise by waking you up with a natural orange glow.
 

3.     Get your digital devices out of your bedroom. Ban blue light and set a digital bedtime at least 90 minutes before bed. Pick up a book instead.
 

4.     If you simply must watch the season finale of your favourite show, minimize blue light. You can buy “blue blocking” glasses for as little as $10. They range from super geeky to kind-of cool, but if you’re serious about sleep, it’s worth it. For all other devices, you can minimize the amount of blue light emitted after the sun goes down with apps. iOS comes with one already installed that you just need to activate. For your other screens, check out the free f.lux app.
 

5.     Invest in black out curtains. If you’re on a budget, try black out paper shades. They’re justas effective and retail for around $30.
 

6.     Get outside. Even 30 minutes a day can help establish a healthier sleep/wake cycle.


[1] https://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-topics/what-circadian-rhythm; Accessed January 30, 2018
[2] Sleep Smarter by Shawn Stevenson, p. 10
[3] Chapter 3: Avoid Screens Before Bedtime, Sleep Smarter by Shawn Stevenson

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