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Circadian Rhythm

Restoring your natural sleep/wake cycle

Circadian Rhythm & Restoring your natural sleep/wake cycle
11 April 2020 Haidee Harvey-Brown

If you are currently making your own routine, and/or working from home, now could be the perfect time to work on your sleep pattern. We may not be able to get out and about as we would like and in a way that is optimal to overall health and quality sleep but there is still a lot we CAN do to protect our sleep and energy. In fact now may be the perfect time, with a lot less barriers than we usually come up against.

 

I mentioned recently how critical sleep is in immune function so making sure we are getting enough should certainly be a priority for us.

 

Your Circadian Rhythm, like the rise and fall of the sun, runs on a 24 hour cycle, during this cycle certain hormones, processes and cues should also naturally rise and fall. Thanks to our busy lives the regulation of these is interrupted and cues often overridden.

 

The following can all affect the hormones that regulate our circadian rhythm and effect energy in both the short, and long term;

  • Long work days
  • Artificial light
  • Late screen time
  • Caffeine intake
  • High or chronic stress
  • Meal timing and types of foods – especially high sugar/refined carbohydrates and/or deficiencies)
  • Overall sleep deprivation – whether this be from something out of our control such as kids, or simply due to us not getting to bed early enough for our wake up time)

 

If you; suffer with that tired but wired feeling, struggle to fall asleep at a decent hour, wake up regularly, feel like you are unable to properly get going or wake up without your morning coffee, consider taking some steps towards  improving your sleep hygiene and circadian rhythm. Start with choosing one or 2 steps that are most accessible, and relevant to you.

 

How?! Here’s some ideas of what you can implement or tweak to work on resetting your circadian rhythm;

  1. Wake up at the same time everyday, and aim to go to bed around the same time (within the hour e.g. between 10-11pm) making sure you are getting in 7-9 hours. What is ideal varies for everyone – if time allows you could begin with an alarm that is closer to 8-9 hours and see when you naturally wake up, making a mental note of energy in the morning and throughout the day. Bare in mind if you are currently a bit sleep deprived it may take a few days on longer sleep to find a new normal.
  2. Eat your last big meal at least 2 hours before bed so that your digestive system is not trying to work hard to breakdown foods, thus interrupting quality sleep. Make sure it is well balanced with fats, protein, and complex carbohydrates. Going too low carb at night can actually negatively impact sleep and hormones, especially for women.
  3. Blackout your room as much as possible or consider wearing a mask if not possible.
  4. If you need to be looking at a screen during the evening consider blue light blocking glasses, and as a minimum use blue light blocking filters on your phone or PC/laptop (available as a setting or as a downloadable app on most modern devices).
  5. Experiment with less caffeine – if you are unsure if this affects your sleep try having just 1-2 cups in the earlier morning only (if this is still quite drastic maybe setting your own cut off point/limit to gradually work down). Use herbal teas as a replacement or good quality decaf (look for water processed decaf to avoid the harsh chemicals often used in this process.
  6. Get in as much natural light as possible during the day – the more of this and the less artificial light the better. If you are able to take the daily walk/run outdoors to achieve this, and leave curtains/windows open.
  7. Get in some daily exercise and movement but avoid high intensity exercise close to bedtime.
  8. Have a hot shower or bath – as well as feeling relaxing the way the body then works to bring your body temperature back down supports better sleep.
  9. On this note a cooler room is helpful – have your bedroom colder than the others or keep the window open.
  10. Have a calming activity at night – this could be something like meditation (a guided app such as headspace or Calm for example), playing relaxing music, breathing exercises or stretches, or simply something like a herbal tea while enjoying a creative activity or watching a series/film. Sometimes even doing a mini tidy up can help, a self care/beauty routine, or perhaps writing out some thoughts or plans for tomorrow so you are not making lists in your head while trying to sleep – it’s surprising how much getting it down on paper can help!

 

These are not all things I do myself every night (especially the last step), but more ideas of different ways you can enjoy a better nights sleep to feel ready and energised to take on the world!

 

*Chronically struggling with getting quality sleep or low energy levels can sometimes be due to other system dysfunctions, poor dietary choices and deficiencies, or eating in a way that does not suit you and your body. If you would like more information on this or help with a personalised nutrition plan please get in touch via my Contact page

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