Fri, February 19, 2021 | Lifestyle & Happiness
SLEEP SERIES | Circadian rhythm
Your circadian rhythm helps control your daily schedule for sleep and wakefulness. This rhythm is tied to your 24-hour body clock, and most living things have one. Your circadian rhythm is influenced by outside things like light and dark, as well as other factors. Your brain receives signals based on your environment and activates certain hormones, alters your body temperature, and regulates your metabolism to keep you alert or draw you to sleep.
Some may experience disruptions to their circadian rhythm because of external factors or sleep disorders. Maintaining healthy habits can help you respond better to this natural rhythm of your body.
So how does my circadian rhythm actually work?
- Cells in your brain respond to light and dark. Your eyes capture such changes in the environment and then send signals to different cells about when it’s time to be sleepy or awake. Those cells then send more signals to other parts of the brain that activate other functions that make you more tired or alert.
- Hormones like melatonin and cortisol may increase or decrease as part of your circadian rhythm. Melatonin is a hormone that makes you sleepy, and your body releases more of it at night and suppresses it during the day. Cortisol can make you more alert, and your body produces more of it in the morning.
- Body temperature and metabolism are also part of your circadian rhythm. Your temperature drops when you sleep and rises during awake hours. Additionally, your metabolism works at different rates throughout the day.
- Other factors may also influence your circadian rhythm. Your rhythm may adjust based on your work hours, physical activity, and additional habits or lifestyle choices.
- Age is another factor that influences your circadian rhythm. Infants, teens, and adults all experience circadian rhythms differently.
Sometimes it’s not possible to follow your circadian rhythm, and your lifestyle needs and internal clock clash. This can occur because of:
- Overnight or night shift work hours that go against the natural light and dark times of the day.
- Work shifts with erratic hours.
- Travel that spans the course of one or more different time zones.
- A lifestyle that encourages late-night hours or early wake times.
- Medications you take.
- Stress (positive and negative)
- Mental health conditions.
- Health conditions like brain damage, dementia, head injuries, or blindness.
- Poor sleep habits, including lacking a sleep schedule, eating, or drinking late at night, watching screens too close to bedtime, or not having a comfortable sleeping space.
You may experience disruptions to your circadian rhythm, but you can get it back on track. Here are some tips for promoting a healthy 24-hour schedule:
- Try to adhere to a routine each day.
- Spend time outdoors when it’s light outside to boost your wakefulness.
- Get enough daily exercise — twenty or more minutes of aerobic exercise is generally recommended.
- Sleep in an environment that promotes rest with proper lighting, a comfortable temperature, and a supportive mattress.
- Avoid alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine in the evenings.
- Power down your screens well before bedtime and try engaging in something analogue, such as reading a book or meditating.
- Do not nap late in the afternoon or evening.
We suggest taking the time to identify ‘good’ and ‘bad’ habits in your life by tracking ‘a day in the life’. Once you know how many ‘good’ Vs ‘bad’ habits you have, it’s much easier to tweak your daily habits and routines for a healthier circadian rhythm.
If you missed part 1 check it out here SLEEP SERIES
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