Early bird or night owl? Either way, it’s your body’s built-in clock that determines when you feel most alert.
Called a Circadian rhythm, this internal clock regulates key processes such as sleep, digestion, hormone levels, body temperature and more. Harmonizing with your body’s clock isn’t just important for mental alertness during the day. Your Circadian rhythm also impacts areas such as stress, mood, immunity and other body functions.
When you feel out of whack with your body’s clock, you may suffer interrupted sleep and even health issues. Let’s go through why your Circadian rhythm is so important and how to get it back in sync.
Health problems resulting from poor sleep
Poor sleep feels awful, but it goes beyond just tiredness. After a night of tossing and turning, you’ll also experience trouble focusing and performing cognitive tasks.
In addition, an unregulated Circadian rhythm can lead to more serious health problems over time because your body undergoes important processes during sleep. Here are some ways your health could be impacted:
- Mental health, such as stress and anxiety
- Mood disorders
- Sleep disorders
- Metabolic disorders
- Heart disease and high blood pressure
- Increased risk of cancer
Common sleep interferences
The main influences on your Circadian rhythm include light and food. However, other aspects can impact your sleep as well, including physical activity, body temperature and social interaction.
The good news is that you can improve your sleep by getting rid of common interferences with your body’s natural working order. Some aspects that may negatively influence your sleep include:
- Sleep-disrupting substances, such as alcohol, caffeine and nicotine
- Erratic sleeping hours, including too much or too little sleep
- Shift work
- Traveling across time zones
- Blue light from your devices or TV
- Eating late at night
- Exercising late at night
- Uncomfortable sleeping space
- Medications and/or other health conditions
Steps to getting your Circadian rhythm back on track
It’s essential to get your Circadian rhythm in working order so that you can get back to sleep and enjoy the health benefits of rest.
1. Discover your energy levels
Figure out your peak energy levels, so that you can plan your sleeping schedule accordingly. For example, whether you’re more alert in the morning or the afternoon will determine when you should go to bed. The average sleep-wake cycle is 24 hours, but early birds have a slightly shorter body clock and night owls have a slightly longer one.
2. Eat meals within 12 hours
Eating too late at night can stimulate digestion, which can keep you up and delay the release of the sleep hormone melatonin. A good rule of thumb is to eat your meals within 12 hours of the day, so that you prepare your body for sleep.
3. Set cut-off times for alcohol, caffeine and nicotine
Another way to get ready for bedtime is to avoid sleep-disrupting substances, such as alcohol, caffeine and nicotine. Set cut-off times to help you avoid this type of stimulation. You can even set calendar reminders to keep you on track.
4. Turn down the lights, especially blue light
An hour before bed, start turning down the lights so that your body knows bedtime is near. Instead of overhead lighting, turn on table lamps so that you reduce light exposure. You’ll also want to stay clear of blue light an hour for bed, as it can trick your body into staying alert.
5. Go analog at night with wind down activities
Creating a wind down routine at night is a great idea. Opt for analog activities that don’t require screen time. Some options include reading, taking a bath or listening to music.
6. Create a routine of activities
Ideally, you should create a routine of activities, so that your sleep schedule stays within a range of two hours. While it’s natural to want to sleep in on the weekends, try to keep it within two hours of your normal wake-up time, so that you don’t completely change your body clock. If you’re still tired, try taking an early afternoon nap to recover energy.
7. Get light therapy during the day and exercise before nightfall
Light stimulates your Circadian rhythm, so try to get plenty of light during the day. One good way to do this is to go for a walk in the morning or exercise in the afternoon. You can even get bright artificial lights to help you wake up in the mornings, too.
In addition, try to avoid late-night exercise, as your body will stay stimulated. Ideally, you should exercise in the morning or mid-afternoon.
8. Create a sleep sanctuary
Your bedroom should be quiet, dark and calming. Keep your bedroom off limits for activities other than sleep and sex, so that it remains a sleep-friendly space.
9. Try melatonin supplements
If you’re still struggling to regulate your Circadian rhythm, you can try taking melatonin supplements. Typically this should be a last resort. Talk to your doctor before starting a melatonin regime and try getting into good sleep habits first.
Naps: yay or nay?
Waking up at the same time every day is great for your body clock, but you may find yourself sleepy in the afternoon. If you need an energy boost, you can take a nap in the early or mid-afternoon to recharge. This shouldn’t negatively impact your evening sleep time. However, avoid naps that lapse into late afternoon or early evening, or you might find it difficult to get to sleep later that night.
Get back to bed with Polysleep
Getting your Circadian rhythm in sync may take some trial and error, but it’s essential for getting quality rest at night. Polysleep can support your sleep journey, as we offer comfy mattresses and pillows that can make your bed 100% sleep-friendly. Check out all our super cozy products here.
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