Wake Up on the Right Side of the Bed
Imagine a weekend away at a cabin or a sunny beach. You wake up early to watch the sunrise over the water, then play outside all day, soaking up the sun. Then you enjoy the perfect golden hour as the sun sets. When you crawl into bed that night, even though it’s not your own bed or usual routine, it is the best sleep. You fall asleep immediately and when you wake up, you’re completely refreshed.
Why doesn’t that happen all the time? Seeing the sunrise signals your body to wake and seeing it set signals you to sleep. Your body’s internal clock has naturally aligned with Mother Nature’s day and night cycle. Your circadian rhythm is in check!
Circadian Rhythm and How it Works—Your circadian rhythm is your body’s 24-hour sleep-wake cycle and your internal clock. If it’s in check, you feel tired at night before bed and awaken ready for the day in the morning. Your body aligns with the earth’s 24-hour cycle by using body functions including your temperature, your cells, your hormones, and your metabolism.
At night, your temperature lowers to conserve energy while the body is restored to rest. In the morning, your body temperature rises again. Your cells respond to changes in light captured by your eyes. This is why watching the sun rise and set helps you sleep so well. Artificial light is much different than sunlight, so seeing the sun first thing in the morning, getting outside during the day, and dimming the lights at night are essential to support your sleep cycle.
When your circadian rhythm is aligned, the natural hormone melatonin increases at night to promote sleep. In the morning, another hormone, cortisol, increases to make you feel awake. Other hormones involving your fluid balance, muscle contraction, energy balance, and blood sugar also contribute to maintaining your circadian rhythm.
When Your Circadian Rhythm is Off—Many things can disturb your rhythm including daylight savings time changes, caffeine, alcohol, inconsistent sleep and more. When your circadian rhythm is off, it’s likely you’ll struggle to get enough hours of quality sleep. Quality sleep is important. It helps you feel rested so you can enjoy your day. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to how poor sleep can impact you.
Short term inconsistent or irregular sleep can lead to delayed healing, digestive issues, hormone changes potentially impacting fertility, and increased cravings. Long term dysregulated or poor sleep can lead to health conditions in your skin, heart and lungs, gut, and your metabolism. You may also become more susceptible to diabetes, obesity, insulin resistance, and mental health conditions.
Negative things aside, there are many benefits associated with regular, consistent, and quality sleep. A balanced circadian rhythm helps in:
- Restoring organs
- Maintaining healthy weight
- Regulating blood sugar
- Improving mood and mental function
- Maintaining immunity Management and relief of stress
How to Support Your Circadian Rhythm –Ways to support a healthy sleep cycle can be easy and worth trying. Just try a few!
- Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day
- Synchronize yourself with the sun
- Watch the sunrise and sunset
- Look at the sky to let light in your eyes FIRST thing in the morning
- Get outside throughout the day
- Embrace the nighttime darkness
- Wind down with a nighttime routine – drink tea, listen to soft music, stretch or meditate
- Use only soft or dim lights
- Put away screens and electronics at least an hour before bed
- Create a sleep environment that is dark and cool
- Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine in the evening
- Get daily exercise
- Avoid afternoon naps
- Eat an early dinner
- Wait at least 60 minutes before drinking coffee after waking
- Go to bed by 9-10pm and find out why: Sleep Before Midnight
- Read more about sleep hygiene here: Sleep Hygiene and a Better Night’s Sleep
Lastly, it gets darker and colder as each day passes in the fall. Embrace the changing of the season. Allow yourself to slow down, watch the sunset, read a book, go to bed early and focus on getting the sleep you deserve.
Lila Tully, CHES
Health Education Specialist, ViaroHealth
For questions or comments, please contact email@example.com .