Circadian rhythm: how to regulate it and why it’s the key to good sleep

Whenever you read about tips and tricks to help you sleep better, you’re probably flipping through several articles that hint at it blue light blocking glasses, sleep tracker, tech fasting and sleeping pills. Have you ever wondered why?

Well, it has to do with your internal clock. Specifically, these products try to help you regulate or optimize your circadian rhythm, which can lead to a better night’s sleep.

Your circadian rhythm is the internal “clock” that helps your body function, adjust, and yes – sleep. according to dr Craig Heller, a professor of biology at Stanford, where his research focuses on sleep and circadian rhythms, the two things that affect your circadian rhythm the most are environment and light. And while controlling your environment and the light around you may seem a bit difficult (read: impossible), there are definitely things you can do to reduce the risk of disrupting your circadian rhythm more than necessary.

Read on to learn more about your circadian clock, how it works, and what you can do to optimize it for better sleep.

Also read: The best ways to stay cool while you sleep

So what is your circadian rhythm?

For those who need a definition of circadian rhythm, it is your body’s internal clock that runs on a 24-hour cycle. This internal clock tells your body when you feel tired or awake throughout the day. You’ve probably noticed that you have a pattern of when you feel most awake or energetic and when you typically want to take a nap. The circadian rhythm drives this pattern, but not everyone has the same patterns.

Continue reading: The best white noise devices for better sleep

Alarm clock next to a sleeping woman.

Your body has an “internal clock system” known as the circadian rhythm.

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“Circadian rhythms are internal cycles in many body systems and behaviors that exhibit periodicity. Circadian systems allow the body to anticipate future events (e.g. food availability), coordinate bodily functions (e.g. sleep and hormone release) and optimize physiological processes with respect for one another,” says Heller.

Since your circadian clock helps regulate many important processes in your body, it makes sense that a disruption in this clock could be bad news for your sleep, and therefore for your health in general.

So what exactly is disrupting your circadian rhythm the most? “Most common jet lag, shift work, bright light and above all blue light (computer and television screens) when it should be dark,” says Heller. Another major disruption to the circadian rhythm is the transition to daylight saving time.

What can you do to regulate your circadian rhythm when it’s off?

Signs that your circadian clock is out of order include trouble falling asleep, feeling energized or agitated at unusual times, or feeling super tired at times during the day. One thing that can help keep your circadian rhythm on track is trying to stick to a constant sleep time and wake up timewhich is not always easy.

Here are a few things to try if you think your circadian rhythm is off:

Maintain a consistent sleep and wake time: and try to keep it close to what feels natural to you (i.e. don’t fight the fact that you’re a night owl or Early riser)

Getting light in the morning: Get sunlight in your eyes first thing in the morning if you can. get light The early day tells your body it’s time to wake up.

Avoid bright lights in the evening: As Heller said, light can affect your circadian rhythm, so avoid bright lights in the evening Dim your lights can make a difference.

Avoid blue light at night: Turn off the TV and other devices that emit blue light at least three hours before bedtime. If you can’t turn them off completely, install an app like F.lux or wear blue light or amber glasses to block the light.

A man walks through an airport terminal.

Traveling across time zones can disrupt your body’s internal clock.

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What to do if you’re traveling across time zones or working night shifts?

Sometimes your job or lifestyle forces you to do things that you know aren’t good for your sleep, but you still want to make the best of your situation. Activities like night work or traveling across time zones — especially if the time difference is more than a few hours — can really wreak havoc on your sleep.

“There’s probably no avoiding time zone travel or shift work, so you can learn how best to retrain rhythms through appropriate timing of light exposure and practice Good sleep hygiene‘ says Heller. “Aside from circadian considerations, there are many other things that can be done to improve sleep, most effectively through thermoregulation to aid in sleep temperature fluctuations of the body to maintain sleep continuity.”

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions about a medical condition or health goals. Circadian rhythm: how to regulate it and why it’s the key to good sleep

Chris Barrese

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