Do you ever feel like your body clock is out of whack? Resetting your circadian rhythm is important for getting your internal body clock back in line. What makes this so important is that an imbalanced circadian rhythm can have knock-on effects on numerous aspects of health and wellbeing such as more frequent bouts of illness, blood pressure dysregulation, hormonal imbalances and more.
What is your circadian rhythm?
Your circadian rhythm is a series of biological processes that impact various aspects of human functioning but is especially important for good sleep. According to research, there are particular proteins that are more abundant at night and decrease during the day. These proteins are linked to the production of hormones such as melatonin (which helps you to sleep) and cortisol (which is present in higher amounts when you first wake up).
When your body clock is in sync, you’ll naturally go to sleep around the same time each night and wake up at a similar time every morning. If this isn’t happening for you, it’s a sign that your circadian rhythm is out of whack and needs a helping hand to get back on track.
Things that can disrupt your circadian rythm
Normally, our bodies are designed to go to sleep when it gets dark and wake up when it gets light. Our bodies are extremely photosensitive to light and dark exposure. Even the simple act of exposure to an overhead light at night can suppress the release of melatonin, which can have an impact on our sleep. Your own personal body clock is pretty unique to you but there’s one thing that’s true for all of us, and that is that certain factors are guaranteed to disrupt your body’s natural circadian rhythm.
One of the biggest disruptors is being exposed to blue light from phones, laptops, tablets, televisions and other devices. The blue light emitted from these devices has the same Kelvin level as the midday sun, which confuses your body and fools it into thinking that it’s still daytime. More specifically, it affects production of melatonin, which is crucial for good sleep. The end result? Your body doesn’t go through the same motions of winding down and preparing for sleep. It also upsets the natural rhythms relating to sleep, appetite and temperature.
This is one reason why sleep experts advise you to switch off electronics before bed. In addition to avoiding light exposure in the hour before bed, it is important to understand that rebalancing the circadian rhythm starts with what we do first thing in the morning, and your daytime activities, along with your nighttime routine.
Resetting your circadian rhythm
Expose yourself to sunlight in the first hours of the day
During the daytime try to get out into natural sunlight to trigger the release of the hormone melanopsin, which helps us feel awake and alert, but is also involved in resetting our daily rhythms.
Try to keep your sleep wake pattern consistent, even on weekends
When we vary our sleep/wake time routine too often, such as late nights followed by sleep-ins on the weekends can lead to ‘social jetlag’, making it harder the following days to wake up feeling refreshed.
Aim to keep meal-times consistent during the day and eat only during daylight hours where possible
Eating regularly, at around the same time each day, sends cues to our body which can also help regulate our circadian rhythm.
Create a relaxing evening routine and prepare your body for bed
A warm shower or bath can help your body to prepare for bed. The rise and fall in body temperature sends cues to your body to prepare for sleep.
Use lighting to your advantage
According to researchers exposing yourself to non-natural light in the evenings affects your ability to go to sleep by hindering the release of our get-ready for sleep hormone, melatonin. Dimming your lighting in the evenings helps your body to recognise and prepare for sleep. Additionally, when you go to bed, try to get your room as dark as possible. Consider block-out blinds if outdoor lighting shines into your room. And don’t forget that blue light from your devices also counts as non-natural light!
For more ideas to help you get a good nights sleep, check out my blog post on improving your sleep.