A healthy, natural lifestyle is more than eating well, exercising, and taking the right supplements. It means aligning your body and mind with the natural world, which starts with syncing your internal clock with proper sleep-wake cycles.
This cycle, which governs biological life at every level, is known as the circadian rhythm. It plays a role in hormone function, helps us achieve deep sleep, and ensures maximum output during the day. Unfortunately, many factors in the modern world work against the natural ebb and flow of our circadian rhythm, resulting in problems with sleep, recovery, and much more.
If you’re ready to reset your circadian rhythm and get back on a sleep schedule that works in your favor, there are several practical steps you can take. This article will dive into the science of the circadian rhythm and explain how it works, setting the stage for an effective, sustainable reset that will benefit your health and overall well-being. It’s never too late to reset that internal clock, so let’s begin.
What is your circadian rhythm?
The circadian rhythm is the body’s “master clock,” and its way of keeping time in accordance with external cues. It dictates when we wake up, how we function during the day, and when we fall asleep at night.
At the most basic level, the circadian rhythm follows the rotation of the Earth and the light-dark cycle. When the sun rises, your body receives cues to wake up, be alert, and do what must be done to survive and thrive. When the sun sets and the evening rolls in, our internal clocks signal that it’s time to wind down and prepare for a good night’s sleep.
However, this process is more than just a superficial sync with the sun and moon. The body undergoes distinct changes in hormone levels, body temperature, alertness, and other functions that determine our functionality and performance at every hour of the day. Over millions of years of evolution, nearly every living organism has adapted to these cycles to benefit biologically and maximize energy output and restoration.
In other words, sleep is just one component of the circadian rhythm. Your body is designed to “go with the flow” of these natural cycles, and the greater this alignment, the better. Therefore, fixing your circadian rhythm is about more than getting better sleep — it’s essential to your quality of life in all aspects.
How does your circadian rhythm impact sleep?
We all know that sleep is a primary determinant of health, energy, and well-being we experience each day. That’s why more people are interested in fixing their circadian rhythms once and for all. But exactly how does this internal clock impact sleep, and how can this inform our techniques for realigning with the natural world?
Here are some points to consider:
Your internal clock is more complex than you might think. These subtle “alarms” cause certain hormones to release at certain times of the day, causing you to feel tired and ready for sleep. For example, melatonin, a natural hormone, floods the system when natural light is reduced as a result of the sun setting. This hormone, along with a reduction in cortisol and adrenaline, creates the natural “cocktail” that sets the stage for sleep.
Natural sleep timing
How do you know when it’s time to sleep? The modern world can make it difficult, with a combo of stimulating screens and various stressors that didn’t exist even a century ago. Thankfully, we can rely on our circadian rhythm to keep us on track, signaling the proper time to wind down and head to bed.
Not all sleep is equal — you know this if you’ve ever had trouble with sleep quality before. Being unconscious in bed doesn’t mean you’re getting full, rejuvenating rest, and it’s all about maximizing the time you spend during these crucial non-waking hours.
When your circadian biology is properly aligned, your sleep quality benefits dramatically, giving you sustainable energy to make the most of your days.
Healthy sleep hygiene
Circadian rhythms aren’t an on/off switch, and neither is your body. When the sun sets, you receive the signals that the day is coming to an end, allowing you to prepare for sleep with an evening routine and sleep hygiene techniques.
By honoring your body’s natural rhythms, you’ll find it easier to navigate a healthy evening routine and end up with fewer sleep-related issues.
What can impact your circadian rhythm?
We are naturally programmed to experience a daily sleep-wake pattern without having to think twice about it. Why, then, do millions of people struggle to fall asleep at night and maintain energy during the day? Our circadian rhythms have been affected by many external factors — some of which are within our control, and some of which are not.
Let’s look at three things that might impact your circadian rhythm and see how this knowledge can help get you back on track.
The sun offers us more than just warmth and illumination. It signals to our bodies when to wake up, when to be alert, when to feel hungry, and when to sleep at night. This is the essence of the circadian rhythm, and sunlight exposure is at the core of it all.
That’s why spending enough time in the sun should be your first order of business when realigning your circadian cycles and optimizing for better health overall. While too much sun can indeed be harmful, the right amount of daily exposure — especially in the morning hours — is essential to achieving a good rhythm.
Blue light exposure
We know the power of sunlight in syncing our circadian rhythm, but another type of light presents an obstacle that didn’t exist until recently: blue light.
While some blue light exposure is included in the spectrum of the sun’s rays, an unnatural, highly concentrated amount is found in the backlit screens of phones, tablets, TVs, and computers.
The more blue light you receive during the day and close to bedtime, the more likely your circadian rhythm will be “tricked” and thrown out of alignment. It’s impossible to avoid all blue light, but limiting it at night can help support your natural sleep-wake cycles.
Irregular sleeping patterns
Sleeping patterns are sometimes out of our hands. From jet lag to late shifts and unexpected life events, you can’t always plan to get your proper eight hours during the same time block. However, if your sleeping patterns are always in flux, your circadian cycles may be completely off balance.
If you can manage, try to reduce irregularities in your sleep patterns and follow the same schedule each day. When you do encounter an obstacle, you can easily get back on track because your internal clock has been conditioned with consistency over time.
How can you reset your circadian rhythm?
Resetting your circadian rhythm isn’t something you can do with the flip of a switch or a dose of melatonin. If your sleep patterns have been out of whack for months or even years, it will take deliberate effort and a proven plan to get back on track.
With that said, it’s absolutely possible to reset your cycles and realign yourself with a healthy, natural rhythm that benefits every aspect of your life. Here is the framework to follow and some tips you can start using now.
Revamp your sleep hygiene
Sleep hygiene is just like grooming or skincare — you have a set of tools and techniques that you follow consistently to optimize your results over the long term. However, your sleep hygiene toolkit includes things like temperature control, clean sheets, a calming ambiance, and a routine that eases your body and mind into a comforting state of relaxation before bed.
Sleep hygiene might sound intuitive, but it’s not always easy to follow up on your game plan after the sun sets. Make a checklist with your must-follow sleep hygiene tasks so that you don’t miss out on any aspect of your routine. Better yet, you can take a CBN product to mark the moment your evening routine begins. By the time the effects take hold, you’ll be fully relaxed.*
Over several nights, your body’s internal clock will adjust to your new bedtime, and sleep disorders may even subside as your sleep habits improve.
Get some sunlight in the morning
The 24-hour cycle is all about sunlight, and morning sun exposure can help put your circadian clock on track once again. Even if you spend just a few minutes in some bright light in front of the window or walking around your block, the morning is the perfect time of day to set your sleep-wake rhythm on course.
This can be a challenge for those with an unconventional work schedule, however, light therapy tools can help compensate for night shift workers and frequent travelers. The goal is to achieve consistent wake times, so even if you’re a night owl by necessity, try to find some reference point with natural light to keep you on a consistent schedule.
Avoid screens before bed
Screen exposure is a part of life in the modern world, but too much blue light can be disruptive to our internal body clock, especially after the sun sets. While you might feel tempted to watch TV or scroll on your phone before bed, that artificial light could be the cause of your sleep troubles, as your body doesn’t know it’s time to signal melatonin production and other key processes.
To avoid misalignment and get the quality hours of sleep you need, make sure you go screen-free for at least an hour before your scheduled bedtime. This will aid the body’s circadian rhythm by creating a darker environment and inducing a natural feeling of sleepiness in accordance with your biological clock.
Get enough physical activity
Modern life is fairly comfortable and sedentary for most, making exercise that much more important. Not only does exercise benefit your overall health, but it also specifically benefits your sleep. Exercise helps deplete excess energy in the body, causing us to feel more fully relaxed and exhausted (in a good way) at the end of the day.
Just a simple 20-minute workout is all you need to burn off some steam and work up a sweat, and the difference in your sleep quality can be dramatic. As you become accustomed to a daily workout, you’ll find it much easier to fall asleep on time and wake up feeling refreshed and amplified for the day ahead.
Set a consistent sleep schedule
Ultimately, the circadian rhythm is all about consistency. While daylight savings, jet lag, and other life events can get in the way, it’s always our responsibility to get back on track with a consistent schedule that benefits our body and mind.
There’s always an excuse to stay up — one more show, one more snack, one more time checking your email before bed. But when you fully understand the importance of consistency and the natural sleep-wake cycle we’re given, you’ll see that these short-term distractions just aren’t worth it.
Make sleep a priority, and you’ll be better equipped to make the most of each day with more energy and a brighter outlook.
The bottom line
We do so much to overcome natural limitations through modern medicine, technology, and other means. But at the end of the day (literally), our internal body clocks call us to sleep, and we would be wise to obey the orders of nature.
If you can strike a friendly balance between your ambitions, responsibilities, and your natural sleep-wake cycles, that’s a recipe for holistic, long-term health and success. Sunmed is here to help maximize each day and night with wellness products designed for every lifestyle, so start here and discover what’s possible.*