We spend a third of our lives sleeping...
Circadian Alignment: Your Sleep Medicine
Sleep is not something that can be short cut or neglected; it is an essential part of good health and well-being.
But constant exposure to artificial light and fast-paced living has left the average human with chronic sleep problems and worryingly low sleep hygiene levels.
Not only do 62% of adults worldwide report that they don't sleep well when they go to bed, but over a third of the population gets by on only five to six hours a night.
Luckily, the secret to getting a good night's sleep is much simpler than you think.
It all boils down to your circadian rhythm function; the internal biological clock that regulates your sleep-wake cycle. If your circadian rhythm is out of whack, you can't expect to fall asleep faster or wake up feeling refreshed and energised.
In this article, we'll explore how to create healthy sleep habits to optimise your circadian rhythm using consistent sleep patterns, sunlight, red light, blue light, body temperature, and a good sleep environment.
1. Consistent Wake Time
One of the most important sleeping habits you can adopt is maintaining a consistent wake time.
I understand this might be a daunting prospect for those party-goers and hard workers who just want to lie in on the weekend... but it is guaranteed to help you sleep better at night. This means waking up at the same time every day, even on weekends and days off.
The regularity helps to establish a stable circadian rhythm, making it easier for you to fall asleep and wake up naturally.
Even if you had a poor night's sleep or went to bed late, try to make this a habit that you follow throughout your life no matter what. It can single-handedly change your life.
2. Morning Sun For A Good Night's Sleep?
Getting sunlight within the first hour of waking up can help reset your internal clock and support your circadian rhythm.
So, yes, it will make going to bed and waking up so much easier.
Exposure to natural light in the morning suppresses the production of melatonin, a hormone that promotes sleepiness, and promotes a healthy increase of cortisol which boost alertness and mood.
Therefore, it is recommended to spend at least five to ten minutes outside in the morning, and up to fifteen minutes if it is cloudy. Avoid trying to get your sunlight through a closed window as it limits ultraviolet light and makes it difficult for your body to absorb sufficient vitamin D.
This is the perfect hack to help regulate your sleep-wake cycle and to optimise the release of the naturally occurring hormone cortisol.
3. Get Cold and Move
In addition to getting sunlight, it is also beneficial to use cold showers and exercise to increase your core temperature for wakefulness.
Cold showers have been shown to increase alertness and boost metabolism, while exercise improves overall mental health, and helps to regulate sleep. This can include a short walk, skipping or going for a run - anything to get the blood pumping and adrenaline raised.
By using these methods, you can improve your overall energy levels, boost your mood, and enhance your sleep quality.
4. Hydrate and Nourish
Another important factor in optimising your circadian rhythm is hydrating and nourishing your body in the morning.
When the body consumes food in the morning, the digestive process begins, telling the brain that you're and increasing alertness as a result. Eating nutrient-dense foods such as eggs, avocados, and berries also help to stabilise blood sugar levels and promote better sleep.
If you are someone who likes to fast in the morning, don't panic!
Drinking water with sea salt and lemon can help to rehydrate the body, provide electrolytes and support the adrenal glands, which are responsible for regulating the sleep-wake cycle. I would recommend this 'Morning Mineral Cocktail' for every one, not just those who skip breakfast.
5. Maximise Daytime Sunlight
Sunlight is the best sleep medicine, and it's completely free.
In addition to getting sunlight in the morning, it is important to maximise your exposure to natural light during the day. Spending time outside, opening windows, and using light therapy devices help to optimise your circadian rhythm and improve your sleep quality.
This exposure to natural light can also reduce the production of melatonin at the wrong time, leading to more energy daytime energy and a more aligned sleep-wake cycle.
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6. Winding Down With The Right Light
As the day progresses, it is important to wind down and prepare your body for sleep. This is where it is important to use the right light at the right times.
One of the primary culprits disrupting our natural sleep-wake cycle is blue light. Blue light exposure in the evening, from sources such as electronic devices or overhead lights, can suppress the production of melatonin, the hormone that helps regulate sleep. Try to avoid blue light exposure at least an hour or two before going to bed.
In the evening, using red or orange light - such as the ones from a Himalayan salt lamp - can help to promote relaxation and reduce the effects of blue light. You can also opt for dim lights and place them at a lower angle in the room, as this mimics a low solar-angle sun and doesn't disrupt melatonin release as much as overhead, bright lights.
Additionally, watching the sunset can help signal to the brain that the evening is drawing to a close and help to prepare you for falling asleep.
Other good alternatives are lamps with soft, warm-coloured light, or candles to create a relaxing atmosphere.
7. No Stimulation Close To Bedtime
A big mistake people make is eating a large meal right before bed. Without making it too complicated, a big meal kick starts the digestive process, which increases our core body temperature and makes it difficult to fall and stay.
Another common error is the use of stimulants, such as nicotine or caffeine, too close to bedtime. These vices usually interfere with our sleep quality by increasing alertness and wakefulness.
It is recommended to avoid eating heavy meals or drinking caffeinated beverages at least three hours before bedtime. This allows time for the body to digest the food and for core body temperature to reduce, promoting relaxation and better sleep.
I should also mention, avoid drinking alcohol or taking recreational drugs a few hours before bed as they delay sleep onset and are a major cause of sleep disorders across the globe.
8. Reduce Core Temperature
Our body temperature is closely linked to our sleep-wake cycle, with our body temperature being highest during the day and lowest during the night.
Research shows that reducing our core body temperature before bed can help us fall asleep faster and improve the quality of our sleep.
There are several ways to reduce core body temperature before bed, including taking a warm shower or bath before bed, using a cooling pad or pillow, or simply keeping the bedroom temperature cool... which we will cover next.
9. Fall Asleep In Your Haven
Imitate nature for deep sleep.
Plain and simple, our bedroom environment should be cool, dark, and quiet - just like it would have been before tech, cities, and artificial lights.
Noise and light pollution are the enemies of sleep, making it extremely difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep. Make sure to eliminate any sources of noise or light - such as street noise, electronics, or bright lights - by using blackout curtains or an eye mask, and white noise or a fan to mask any outside noise. If you live in a noisy area, consider using ear plugs.
A mentioned, reducing your core temperature is a key factor in promoting sleepiness. Make your room cool by opening a window, or using a fan or air-con and boost your falling asleep powers when going to bed.
You should also make sure your mattress, pillows, and bedding are comfortable and supportive, so they don't disrupt sleep or make it hard to fall asleep.
Additionally, creating a relaxing bedtime routine can help signal to your body that it's time to sleep. This could include activities like reading, taking a warm bath, or practicing relaxation techniques like deep breathing or meditation.
Conclusion: Master of Sleep
There is no doubt that optimising your circadian rhythm is crucial for achieving high-quality sleep.
By establishing a consistent wake time, getting morning sun exposure, engaging in regular exercise and movement, staying hydrated and nourished, maximising daytime sunlight exposure, winding down with the right light, avoiding big meals and stimulants close to bedtime, reducing core body temperature, and optimising your sleep environment, you can create a personalised daily routine that will help you keep good sleep habits.
While it may take time to establish new habits and routines, the benefits of optimal sleep are well worth the effort. Better sleep can improve your mood, energy, and productivity, as well as reduce the risk of health problems like obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.
By becoming a master of your circadian code, you can take control of your health and well-being, and wake up each morning feeling refreshed, revitalised, and ready to tackle the day ahead.
FAQs about Sleep
What is a normal circadian rhythm?
A normal circadian rhythm is a 24-hour biological cycle that regulates the sleep-wake cycle and other physiological processes in the body. It is influenced by factors such as light, temperature, and social cues, and disruptions to the circadian rhythm can lead to sleep disorders and other health problems.
What are the 4 circadian rhythms?
There are four main circadian rhythms in humans: the sleep-wake cycle, the core body temperature rhythm, the hormone production rhythm, and the alertness rhythm.
These rhythms are controlled by the body's internal clock, which is influenced by environmental cues such as light and darkness. Understanding these rhythms can help individuals optimize their daily routines to promote better sleep, energy, and overall health.
What happens if your circadian rhythm is out of whack?
If your circadian rhythm is out of whack, you may experience difficulty sleeping, daytime fatigue, irritability, mood swings, anxiety disorders, and impaired cognitive function. It can also lead to long-term health issues, such as obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
How much sleep do you need for circadian rhythm?
Most adults require 7-9 hours of sleep per night to maintain a healthy circadian rhythm.
However, the amount of sleep needed for a healthy circadian rhythm can vary based on age, lifestyle, and other factors.
What is the best time to wake up circadian rhythm?
The best time to wake up according to your circadian rhythm is typically around 6-8 a.m. This is when your body's natural sleep-wake cycle is most aligned with the natural light-dark cycle. Waking up at this time can help regulate your circadian rhythm, leading to better sleep quality and overall health.
What is the most common circadian rhythm disorder?
The most common circadian rhythm disorder is delayed sleep-wake phase disorder (DSWPD), which causes individuals to have difficulty falling asleep and waking up at the desired times, resulting in a delay in their sleep-wake cycle.
How many hours of sleep do adults need?
Most adults need 7-9 hours of sleep per night to function at their best. However, individual needs vary and some people may require more or less to feel rested. To determine your optimal amount of rest, pay attention to how you feel after different amounts of sleep and make adjustments to your sleep schedule accordingly. Quality of sleep is also important, so aim for consistent bedtimes and wake-up times, and create a sleep-conducive environment.
How many hours of sleep do I need?
The amount of sleep an individual needs varies, but most adults need 7-9 hours of sleep each night to function at their best. It's important to listen to your body and pay attention to how you feel after to determine the right amount for you.
Good sleeping hygiene tips?
Good hygiene for sleeping includes creating a relaxing bedtime routine, keeping a consistent sleeping schedule, creating a sleep-conducive environment, avoiding screens before bedtime, limiting caffeine and alcohol intake, and engaging in physical activity during the day.
These can help you get a better night's rest and improve the overall quality of your rest.
Why is sleep important?
Sleep is important for overall health and well-being as it helps the body to restore, repair, and recharge. Adequate sleep plays a vital role in physical and mental restoration, regulating mood, and improving cognitive functions such as memory and concentration.
Not enough sleep can lead to various health problems and negatively impact daily life. It is recommended to get 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night to maintain good health.
Insomnia symptoms include:
Difficulty falling or staying asleep
Waking up frequently during the night
Waking up too early
Feeling tired upon waking
Low daytime energy
Having trouble concentrating or feeling irritable during the day
Fall asleep lie awake?
If you're lying awake at night, there are a few things you can do to help you fall asleep:
Try relaxation techniques like deep breathing or meditation
Read a book or listen to soothing music
Write down your thoughts
Try some yoga or stretching to calm the mind
Avoid screens for at least an hour before bed
Sleep anxiety symptoms?
Sleep symptoms include:
Excessive worry about sleep
Difficulty falling or staying asleep
These symptoms can lead to insomnia and interfere with daily functioning.
Blue light effects on sleep?
Exposure to blue light in the evening can suppress melatonin production - a hormone that promotes tiredness and regulates our sleep pattern - which makes it harder to nod off and reduces the quality of our rest.
To minimize the effects of blue light, it's important to limit screen time before bedtime and use blue light-blocking technologies.
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