We all have an internal clock that controls our body’s sleep and wake patterns called the circadian rhythm. But unfortunately, several external factors can disrupt our clocks and negatively impact our lives. So, if sleep has been a consistent problem in your life, you’re not alone. In fact, more than 20% of adults in the US and Canada experience insomnia and other sleep problems. That’s why, in this article, we’ll discuss the often-overlooked system that controls our sleep and how to reset your circadian rhythm for a happier life, both while sleeping and awake.
What Are ‘Circadian Rhythms’?
The word circadian has an interesting etymology. It comes from the Latin phrase “circa diem”, which translates to “about a day”. It’s meaning refers to how our circadian rhythms operate and control our sleepiness and alertness within 24 hours. Because of this, they are extremely sensitive to our environment and receive signals from factors like light, temperature, and oxygen to activate certain hormones that support your ability to sleep and awaken.
Why Are Circadian Rhythms Important?
Our circadian rhythms should never be overlooked because it serves a critical purpose. It prepares your body for sleep based on environmental cues and changes. For example, when your eyes perceive light, they send signals to different cells in your brain, signaling it’s either time for bed or to wake. After receiving this information, your internal clock activates cortisol to supercharge your mind and body for the day. And at night, your eyes send signals to trigger melatonin production for a peaceful night’s rest. That’s why understanding how your circadian rhythm functions will support you in adopting or eliminating habits to help you receive the sleep or energy you need.
How to Reset Your Circadian Rhythm For Better Sleep
1. Follow a regular sleep schedule
The best tip for learning how to reset your circadian rhythm is to follow a regular sleep schedule. And while it’s tempting to stay up and watch one more episode of that binge-worthy show, it’s more important for your sleep long-term to discipline yourself. That means waking up and going to bed around the same time every day. When you do, you consciously create a sleep-wake schedule that trains your body for a deeper sleep.
2. See the sky before the screen
Unfortunately, our phones are always within arm’s reach. We use them for everything; personal entertainment, alarm, planner, a tool to alleviate boredom…the list goes on. But when you create a habit of checking your phone upon waking or using it before bed, you subconsciously sabotage your body’s circadian rhythm. Indeed, the blue light from the screen affects your production of melatonin, your body’s sleep hormone. Therefore, reduce the urge to scroll for at least one hour or more before bed, and adjust to waking up with the natural light from the sky instead of grabbing your phone.
3. Move your body
Exercise and sleep go hand-in-hand; regular exercise improves sleep quality, and deep sleep provides more strength and energy for your workouts. But like everything regarding your sleep, timing is everything. Therefore, don’t exercise at least two hours before bedtime, or you’ll spend the night lying awake, questioning whether exercise should be a priority. To avoid this, work out in the morning or early afternoon when your energy levels are high.
4. Meditate consistently
Meditation is always one of the top solutions for everything. It calms your nervous system, creates awareness, reduces stress, increases happiness, and heightens sleep quality and duration. In fact, it directly resets your circadian rhythm over time by enhancing your melatonin levels. But if sitting in silence isn’t your thing, don’t worry. There are several meditation apps like Headspace and Calm and several meditation techniques you can follow to make it a daily practice you enjoy.
5. Create a sleep sanctuary
How comfortable is your current sleep environment? Do you love your mattress or hate it? It’s so important to create a sleep sanctuary that preps your mind and body for deep sleep. For example, make sure your bed is comfortable to reduce discomfort and give you that relaxing feeling when you climb into bed after a long day. Additionally, double-check your temperature and lighting. Both factors greatly influence our internal clocks. According to the Sleep Foundation, the recommended temperature for a restful sleep is around 65 degrees Fahrenheit or 18.3 degrees in Celsius.
6. Reduce your daily naps
If you’ve spent an entire night awake anxiously worrying about your sleep, it’s almost impossible to resist those daily cat naps. But napping too late in the afternoon or evening can actually produce the reverse effect. It can make it more challenging to fall asleep for the night. So, instead of napping, get creative. For example, eat a healthy snack to boost your energy levels, go for a light walk, complete a yoga workout, or spend time with loved ones. These alternatives to napping will help you resist the urge and prep you for a better night’s sleep.
7. Avoid caffeine
It’s safe to say most people love coffee. They can’t get enough of its aroma, taste, and, the most popular reason, its energy-boosting effects. But it needs to be consumed in balance. Too much caffeine throughout the day will negatively affect your system and keep you in a cycle of tossing and turning and resorting to more coffee to combat the effects of sleep deprivation. So, play it safe and avoid coffee at least four to six hours before bed. Initially, it may sound like an overwhelming and impossible feat, but your circadian rhythm and body will thank you for your discipline and commitment.
While learning how to reset your circadian rhythm is a lengthy process that takes consistency, dedication, and patience, it’s not impossible. Over time, by tweaking your daily habits and sleep schedule, you’ll notice sleep transforms from an anxious enemy to your calming friend. But it requires change on your part to help you get the sleep you know you need and deserve.
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