Do you have trouble falling asleep? Wake up regularly in the middle of the night, unable to go back to sleep? Or have you ever had trouble sleeping as long as you want to?
All of these can be signs of a disrupted circadian rhythm. Here, learn more about what your circadian rhythm is and how to reset your circadian rhythm for more restorative sleep.
What is circadian rhythm?
Imagine your circadian rhythm as an internal alarm clock that has an important role in your body’s processes; it help regulates hormones, blood pressure, inflammation, mental health, and more. It’s affected by light exposure throughout the day, food and eating times, temperature, movement, and chronotype.
How to reset your circadian rhythm
When your circadian rhythm is unbalanced, your overall health suffers. You might experience disruptions in your feeding and fasting rhythms, your hunger hormones, your glucose control, your blood pressure, and even your memory and cognitive health. When your circadian rhythm is cycling smoothly, however, you’ll be able to perform at your peak as all systems in your body function according to plan.
If you think your circadian rhythm needs a reset, try these steps:
Optimize your diet
Aim to finish eating for the day at least 2-3 hours before bed to give your body time to digest. If you must eat closer to bedtime, prioritize foods that contain melatonin, such as dark fruits (e.g., cherries, blackberries, or goji berries) and nuts (primarily pistachios, walnuts, almonds, or pecans). Sweet potatoes or other complex carbs, such as squash and quinoa, can be helpful as they include tryptophan, which supports melatonin production.
Adjust your caffeine consumption
Coffee drinkers, this one’s for you. Ideally, your morning java should be finished by 10am or noon at the latest. If you feel like you need that pick-me-up in the afternoon, consider switching to herbal tea, mudwtr, Foursigmatic Reishi tea, or CrioBru.
Stress management comes in many forms and can lead to the regulation of cortisol (the stress hormone, which is connected to your circadian rhythm). Try deep breathing exercises, meditation, body scanning, a gratitude practice, or a spiritual practice that resonates with you.
Light exposure can impact the production of melatonin, a hormone your brain produces in response to darkness and that is known to induce drowsiness. In the morning, increase your light exposure (for example, by taking a 20-minute outdoor walk). Regular walks or breaks outside will also help you stay alert. In the evening, avoid screens starting around 30 minutes to 2 hours before bed; blue light can increase production of melatonin and make your brain think you need to stay awake. If you must be on screens in the evening, consider wearing blue light glasses.
Know your chronotype
We’re all individuals, and your sleep habits are unique to you — which can be attributed to your chronotype, the natural inclination your body has around sleep and wake hours (e.g., early birds or night owls). Knowing your chronotype can greatly help balance your circadian rhythm. You can take the quiz here.
Similar to your chronotype, there are many more variables that can affect your circadian rhythm — but you don’t have to resign yourself to poor sleep and constantly feeling exhausted. One of the first steps you can take to reset your circadian rhythm is to meet with a precision medicine doctor. Using advanced testing and working with your unique preferences, we can get to the root of your circadian rhythm issues and create a plan of action to help you optimize your sleep and your health. Click here to learn more and get started.