First off, what is a circadian rhythm?
A circadian rhythm (/sərˈkeɪdiən/) is our bodies internal biological clock which is responsible for almost all of our bodily functions and their timing! It is the reason why we rise with the sun, eat through the day, and tend to tire when its dark. Circadian Rhythms influence hormone release, hunger and digestion, and our body temperatures. These rhythms connect us to our environment and help us thrive. The most commonly talked about rhythm discussed is the sleep-wake cycle because it is connected with all other rhythms. Disturbances in our circadian rhythm sleep-wake cycle have been linked to insomnia, hypertension, obesity, diabetes, depression, and seasonal affect disorder. Unfortunately, many peoples rhythms are disrupted from modern day lifestyles.
Here are several common reasons for our sleep-wake rhythms to be out of sync:
- Falling asleep and waking up at different hours every night
- Eating too late and too much
- Gene mutations and certain expressions can affect our biological clocks
- Traveling to different time zones and experiencing jet lag
- Alternating day-night shifts
- Light pollution and from electronic devices at night can confuse our biological clocks.
So what can you do to regulate and ensure a good sleep-wake cycle?
Reduce and dim your lights!
Cortisol hits its peak the moment we wake up, which is how we wake up. Although it is commonly known as the ‘stress hormone’, cortisol is actually a sex hormone and is essential for life. When the sun sets and darkness occurs, it stimulates our brain to produce melatonin. Melatonin can only be released when cortisol is low enough. Light is a huge disruption to our circadian rhythm as it stimulates cortisol and inhibits the release of melatonin. This is why many people feel ‘tired yet wired’ well into the evening hours. Using salt lamps are great for avoiding bright overhead lights.
Have a consistent nightly routine
Using dimmer lights, turning off electronics, and doing an act of self care is a great foundation to a night routine. The act of self care could be taking a relaxing bath or shower, yoga or stretching, meditation, prayer and devotional time, journaling, reading a book, or writing in your planner. Upgrade your bath or shower with bath salts or drop some essential oils on the bottom of your shower for a steamy aroma!
Some people do find that having the TV on helps them wind down and fall asleep, and to each their own! What works for you is going to be different than what works for others. If being on electronics is helpful for you, then you may want to opt for blue light glasses. These help block the cortisol stimulating light that can make it harder to fall asleep AND stay asleep.
Exercise earlier in the day
Strenuous exercise also ramps up our cortisol which can make falling asleep tough. Save those sessions for a time before 7 pm. When working out at night, choose lower intensity exercise such as a walk after dinner or yoga!
Create a relaxing, sleep sanctuary
Cluttered space can make the brain run wild with anxiety. Make sure you love the setting you spend 1/3 of your life in! Always invest in your mattress and your shoes because when you’re not in one, you’re in the other. While you are sleeping, it is best if your bedroom is a dark, quiet, cool temperature room.
Expose yourself to morning light
Exposure to the mornings red light within an hour of waking helps to stimulate regular cortisol production to provide us with energy for the day. This helps set the stage for our sleep-wake cycle and regulate sleep patterns. In colder months, even sitting next to a window will have similar effects. Utilizing red light therapy is a great option to help you sleep better.
Start somewhere! Challenge yourself to pick up one of these habits to make your sleep time BETTER! You deserve it.
If you need additional aid in sleep, supplementation can be a lifesaver. Here are our top three recommendations:
Davidson’s Sleep blend provides the stability that the mind, body, and emotional state need in order to unwind and prepare for a restful night’s sleep
Sleep may help insomnia, anxiety, and headaches. It helps sedate the central nervous system to slow down the mind and body. Best taken at night.
Chamomile acts as a gentle sedative for the central nervous system. This makes it a great supplement for those who experience mild insomnia, anxiousness and stomach upset from nervousness. It will not make you sleepy so you are able to take it though the day to help soothe the digestive track.