Why Your Circadian Rhythm Matters
If you’re like most people, you probably think of the circadian rhythm (CR) as something that governs your sleep cycle. And while that is true, it is also responsible for regulating much more than just that. In fact, the CR plays a role in everything from our mood and energy levels to our metabolism and immune system.
What is your Circadian Rhythm?
Put simply, it’s a 24-hour internal clock that is mainly controlled by light and darkness. It’s what tells your body when it’s time to wake up, eat, and sleep. When your CR is in balance, you feel energetic during the day and sleepy at night. But when it’s out of alignment, you may feel tired during the day and wide awake at night.
How To Tell If You Need a Reset
Nowadays, most of our CR’s are out of whack. We start our days dragging in the morning to then be “wired but tired” at night. So what is the culprit here? Why are our sleep and wake cycles all mixed up? Hmmm… where do I begin? Well, first off, modern day society has put most of us indoors, under artificial lighting and hooked on caffeine so that we are pumped up for the go-go-go, task-oriented day ahead. To put it simply, we are overstimulated and overworked.
Some other culprits worth mentioning range from over consumption of stimulants, such as, alcohol and again, caffeine, not getting enough sunlight, to excess blue light from screens such as cell phones, TV screens, computer screens, tablet screens, you name it screens. This is all affecting us in a BIG way.
But one of the most common offender’s is stress. When you’re stressed out, your body produces too much cortisol, a hormone that when released at the wrong times or in excess, can interfere with our CR and its normal functioning.
How to reset your Circadian Rhythm
Although modern day human nervous systems are over-stimulated now more than ever, there are a number of things we can do to support our CR back to its normal tempo and balance.
Get Plenty of Sleep
This one may seem obvious, but it’s worth repeating because it’s very important. When you’re sleep-deprived, your body doesn’t function as well as it should. Shocker, I know. Making sure you’re getting seven to nine hours per night is ideal. If you find that you are wide awake when it’s time to hit the hay, try adding a calming night time routine. Some examples are taking a hot steamy bath or shower, catching up on a good book, restorative slow yoga poses (cat/cow, child’s pose, legs up the wall), a soothing skin-care routine, self lymphatic drainage massage (search lymphatic drainage videos on YouTube or social media), or taking a low impact walk around your neighborhood.
Limit or Avoid Caffeine
Did you know that it takes roughly 10 hours to completely remove caffeine from your system? That means if you have a cup of Joe at noon, there will still be caffeine floating around in your bloodstream at 9 pm! In order to keep our CR in balance, limit caffeine and try to avoid it roughly 10 hours before bedtime. If you find yourself in dire need of an afternoon pick-me-up, reach instead for a cup of matcha, chai, black or white tea, or a mushroom caffeine alternative from brands like Teeccino, MUD\WTR, or Ryze (I’ve been loving MUD\WTR’s in the flavor rise lately). These mushroom teas are formulated with gentler stimulants such as cacao and assorted herbs blended together with powerful adaptogens. Adaptogens help our body’s ADAPT to less caffeine as well as support the nervous system. Although mushroom coffee alternatives and caffeinated teas contain less caffeine in comparison to coffee, I would still be mindful of your consumption after 12pm.
Sync Up with Nature’s Light and Dark Phases
Sunlight helps to regulate the production of melatonin (the sleepy hormone). Ensuring you are getting sunshine first thing in the A.M., within an hour of waking up is ideal. This will help balance your hormones and release cortisol in the morning (when it’s supposed to be released). Some days this might look like taking a walk around the block or other days it’ll be eating breakfast or sipping on a beverage in front of a sunny window. The simple act of physically looking at that early morning sun first thing, does wonders for regulating melatonin, cortisol and overall resetting our wake/sleep cycle back into its natural rhythm.
Secondly, avoid artificial light at night by turning off electronic devices two to three hours before bedtime. Artificial light of any kind, once the sun has gone down, will block melatonin production and not to mention stimulate your nervous system when it’s trying to wind down. After the sun goes down, I will dim the lights plus utilize my pink himalayan salt lamps. People have also found great success with using blue light blocking glasses at dusk until bedtime.
Some other hacks to try: setting all your tech screens to the warmer display setting, going old school and using an alarm clock instead of a phone, sleeping with a sleep mask over the eyes, and buying some black out window curtains to encourage the deepest of deep sleeps.
Exercise has numerous benefits for overall health—and one of those benefits is helping to regulate the CR. Working out first thing in the day or early on will help support your natural production of cortisol as well as encourage better and deeper sleep at night. This also means avoiding intense exercise near bedtime. High intensity work-outs will release cortisol from our body’s because we are putting ourselves in a state of stress. This intentional state of stress is good for maintaining a healthy body and longevity, however, can be disruptive when it is done too close to bedtime.
If you are looking for less intense but effective exercise check out Feed Your Soul Fitness for either Small Group Training or Personal Training.
Eat a Balanced Diet
Eating nutrient dense, balanced meals and snacks help support, you guessed it – our CR’s. Make sure to consume high quality protein, healthy fats and complex carbohydrates from vegetables, fruit, and grains at every meal. Limiting processed foods and refined sugar will also improve blood sugar regulation and prevent spikes and dips in blood glucose levels that disrupt sleep patterns. Put simply, add more balance, and consume highly palatable foods (processed, sugar, fatty/fried foods) in moderation.
Eat at Regular Meal Times
Our bodies thrive off of consistency and routine. Eating at regular meal periods daily, especially at breakfast is key to supporting our bodies natural rhythm.
Support your body’s sleep and wake cycle with herbs such as valerian root, passion flower, ashwagandha, chamomile, and lemon balm. These herbs can be enjoyed as a tea, liquid, or in powder form. Try adding a nightly tea time regimen with these CR loving herbs to prepare your mind and body for sleep.
Resetting Your Circadian Rhythm
Getting enough quality sleep these days seems to be more and more of a challenge. Luckily, there are many hacks and avenues we can take to reset our bodies internal clock and get us back to feeling energized and alive by day, while calm and relaxed at night. Syncing up with nature, along with using the tools mentioned above, is a sure way to get some much needed zZz’s, so that we are feeling super rested and fine in no time.