Updated: Feb 14
Have you ever heard about the old wives tale about how one hour of sleep before midnight equals two after midnight? Well as it turns out the old wives were referring to something called Circadian Rhythms.
Ask any farmer and they will tell you that nature has different rhythms and cycles - if you work against them your crops will not grow and your animals will not thrive. When you work with the cycles of nature your crop is given the best chance to grow. As we are also a part of nature, humans are no different.
Circadian Rhythms are the cyclical inner working of our body, sometimes referred to as the body's master clock. The master clock controls the production of melatonin (the sleep hormone), and is regulated by light intake via the optic nerves. As you can imagine, if you work outside these natural rhythms, like nature, it doesn't bode well. Circadian disruption has been linked to cardiovascular diseases, gastrointestinal diseases, and cancer.
If we follow our body’s natural cues regarding when to go to sleep and when to wake up, our body clock ticks over nicely, and our circadian rhythm stays balanced. But if we change our schedule, by staying up late or sleeping in, by eating certain types of food, or spending hours on screens, this can disrupt our body clock.
How can we better attune ourselves to our inner cycle?
There are many different ways we can support ourselves to support ourselves with sleep hygiene and get a better nights sleep. Try out some of the tips below!
Limit light in the evening.
Bright lights in the evenings can throw off your body clock by making your brain think it is still daytime. Find a warm tone of light or take advantage of a dimming switch to help signal your body that it’s time to relax, in line with your body’s natural rhythm. Artificial blue light (the type that laptops, tablets and phones emit) is the most potent, so try to power down tech devices at least an hour before bed. Keep the bedroom dark and relaxing, putting your phone in another room is a great way to switch off and relax.
Develop a regular sleep cycle.
For your body to have a consistent rhythm it needs to have a regular pattern of going to bed and waking at the same time each day. Everyone's circadian rhythm is different which means you might need to experiment with your sleep schedule to find the cycle that fits with your body, but generally getting into bed before 10pm is a good idea if possible.
Catch some rays.
Exposure to sunlight, especially first thing in the morning, will give you an energy boost and reset your circadian rhythm. You can go for a morning walk or simply bask in the sunlight through a window while you sip your morning beverage.
Watch out for stimulating foods.
Research has shown that diets with high amounts of sugar and caffeine can disrupt Circadian Rhythms. It is best to avoid sugary and caffeinated drinks in the afternoon, especially after 3.00pm.
Sleep is one of the first things that I look at in my clinic room when people are presenting with a lack of vitality and motivation in life. When we are out of sync with our bodies our mental health really takes a solid whack. The first steps in recovery are taking deeper care of our bodies and being more in tune with the way we live.