You may have heard of circadian rhythm, but you probably haven’t given it a ton of thought as it pertains to your personal sleep patterns and habits. And just in case you don’t know what circadian rhythm is, without getting too technical, it’s our bodies internal process that regulates our 24-hour sleep-wake cycle. The problem with this built-in regulator is that it’s highly susceptible to your environment – light and temperature to be more specific.
During the day, our exposure to sunlight sends signals to our brains that allow us to be alert and active. Likewise, in the evening after the sun goes down, our body naturally releases the hormone melatonin which signals the brain that it’s time for us to wind down, and exposure to light tells our body to stop the production.
There are lots of people who suffer from sleep issues who use melatonin supplementation to help them, however, I would personally discourage this for 2 reasons. 1) There are safer alternatives to using a synthetic version, and 2) Even “natural” melatonin comes from animals, so you run the risk of it being contaminated (with a virus).
There are lots of factors that can cause our circadian rhythm to get our of whack:
Traveling – especially internally with massive time zone changes
Sleep Habits – staying up late, sleeping in
Lack of Routine – not allowing your body to wind down, eating or drink late, etc.
Medications – TONS of synthetic medications have all sorts of negative effects on our sleep
Climate/Location – dreary, overcast days, and winter can play a part too
I found an awesome light that can help with getting, or keeping, our circadian rhythm on track, especially if you work in a dark space. My home office used to be in our basement, which always seemed cold and dark regardless of the time of day or year. Using light therapy can even help with days that are overcast and I suspect I would totally use it if I lived in Utqiagvik, Alaska (northern most town in the USA) where there is literal darkness from November to January every year.
I found this light therapy light on Amazon; the manufacturer has a couple different styles. My personal fav is the Circadian Optics Lumos 2.0
because of it’s sleek design. Plus, thanks to the global pandemic and rise of having TONS of virtual meetings I’ve found a secondary use for it – my camera light. I get so many compliments, mostly when I use a green screen, because it lights it up so well that it doesn’t glitch. If you’re interested, you can check it out (or buy it) here
Okay, moving on. While some of these are easier said than done, here are a few steps you can take to adjust your circadian rhythm and keep it on point:
1) Sleep Habits – going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, this should include the weekends too, especially if you are struggling with sleep and really working to correct it. You should also avoid napping. Although if you truly need a nap, it needs to be kept short – 15 minutes max. I promise this really works. It allows your brain to rest, but not enter the sleep cycle. If you do enter REM and begin the sleep cycle, then you’ve got to allow yourself 90 minutes to complete the cycle or you’ll be just as groggy, if not worse when you wake up.
2) No Devices – you should make your bedroom a sacred place, free from televisions, cell phones and other devices that emit blue light. Using your bed just for sleeping (or intimacy) will train your brain to function the way you’d expect it to while you’re in it.
3) Create a Routine – you should avoid late night workouts, or I should say you should give yourself about 4 hours prior to bed if you’re going to partake in exercising that’s high energy. Avoiding eating and drinking late at night. And create a routine around getting ready for bed – firing up the diffuser, listening to soft “meditation type” music, putting your phone down for the evening, and having a cup of roman chamomile tea are just a few examples.
I have a plethora of suggestions for other natural solutions and remedies to help you if you’re struggling with sleep. I feel a little bit like an expert in the area since I suffered from insomnia for over two decades and was able to correct all of it within three weeks of using essential oils and other natural solutions. From there it’s only gotten better, as I’ve created routines and really created some excellent night-time habits that solidify my sleep efforts.
As always, I’m here if you want to chat about your specific needs or situation – chances are I’ve already heard of it, had a customer go through it or delt with it personally, so please don't hesitate to reach out any time. I do have a few blog posts that I’ve already written about sleep, you can check those out here:Sleep Better ProtocolSleepy-Time Secret Weapon