Circadian Rhythm: Your Natural Sleep and Wake Cycles
Have you noticed that you naturally tend to feel sleepy around the same time every night? Or when you don’t set your alarm on the weekends, do you find you tend to get up when you normally would during the week? That is your 24-hour internal clock, also known as your circadian rhythm, hard at work. Your circadian rhythm is a natural, internal system that regulates feelings of sleepiness and wakefulness. Controlled by an area of the brain that responds to light and dark, a circadian rhythm is found in most living things, including animals, plants, and many tiny microbes.
The brain’s circadian clock regulates sleeping patterns, alertness, body temperature, brain wave activity, hormone production, regulation of glucose and insulin levels, urine production, cell regeneration, and many other biological activities. The most important hormone affected by the circadian clock is melatonin, which is produced in the pineal gland in the brain.
Everyone is equipped with an internal system that manages when you feel tired and when you feel alert over a period of 24 hours. Sleep and wake cycles vary from person to person and day to day, depending largely on a range of external cues, the most important of which is daylight, given to your body throughout the day.
When your internal cycle is off track, your sleep can suffer. But the good thing is that, if you are going to sleep late and struggling to wake up in the morning, there are some steps you can take to adjust your circadian rhythm to improve your sleep quality.
Why do your sleep and wake cycles get thrown out of whack?
Before you can regulate your internal clock, it is important to identify what could be throwing it off course. What you eat, the medications you take, and the amount and type of light and sound you are exposed to can all disrupt your circadian rhythm. Traveling across different time zones can also impact your normal sleep patterns. Additionally, those who work at night, on rotating shifts, or have irregular work schedules often feel the effects of disrupted sleep schedules because they are asking their bodies to be awake when their circadian rhythm is giving them cues to sleep.
Here are five ways you can reset your internal sleep clock:
1. Work Towards New Sleep and Wake Times, but be Patient
For most people, slow and gradual changes are best when it comes to achieving long-term results. It is often much easier to push sleep off than it is to advance it, so remember to be patient. Since your body is accustomed to your set schedule, you will have to give it some time to work towards new sleep and wake times. It is recommended to go slow and advance your sleep time in increments of only 15 minutes every couple of days. Once you are sleeping and waking at ideal times, don’t forget to maintain a consistent schedule every day of the week.
2. Stay Consistent with Mealtimes
Digestion and metabolism play an important role in wakefulness and sleepiness.
Stick to regular mealtimes to help support consistent cycles, with about 12 hours between breakfast and dinner. Eat a filling breakfast shortly after waking in the morning and opt for a dinner low in fat at least three hours before bed.
3. Skip Naptime
No matter how tired you are during the day, say no to napping. Taking a quick snooze can make it much more difficult to fall asleep come bedtime. Instead, try exercising or eating a healthy snack to hold off the sleepiness so you can fall asleep easily when your bedtime rolls around.
4. Limit Your Screen Time Before Bed
Research suggests that manipulating light exposure may help reset your internal clock. If you find yourself endlessly scrolling through your phone or watching just one more episode of your favorite show before bed, you could be delaying your sleep. The blue light emitted from your devices tricks your brain into thinking it is still daylight and may be the reason you’re tossing and turning for hours before falling asleep. Try decreasing your light exposure as bedtime approaches. You can also adjust your bedroom so it’s cool and dark to help you fall and stay asleep.
5 Try a High-Quality Melatonin Sleep Aid
If you’re looking for a little help when regulating your circadian rhythm, a high-quality melatonin sleep aid could make adjusting to new sleep and wake times easier. However, not all melatonin supplements are alike. REMfresh® was developed with patented Ion-Powered Pump® technology to continuously deliver 99% pure, UltraMel® melatonin for up to 7 hours. By mimicking your body’s natural production of the sleep hormone, REMfresh can assist in regulating your internal clock.
Just like your circadian rhythm, the amount of time it takes to reset your sleep patterns will vary from person to person. Remember to be consistent and have patience. Once you’re sleeping soundly earlier in the night and having an easier time waking up in the morning, it will all be worth it.