- Dr. Nancy
8 Tips to Sync Your Circadian Rhythm and Get a Better Night's Sleep
If you're honest with yourself, how's your sleep schedule going right now? Let's see if this scenario sounds familiar -- you only slept for 6 hours last night, so tonight, you'll aim to hop in bed an hour earlier. Yet, you still feel tired in the morning. When the weekend comes, you sleep in and try to catch up on those zzz’s, but you're still tired.
It's like you can never get caught up and feel rested, no matter how much sleep you get. I've been there, and I know how frustrating that can feel.
Our circadian rhythm is the predominant regulator of our sleep-wake cycle. It is present in cells throughout the body. This cycle is influenced by light. Your circadian rhythm orchestrates the symphony of chemical and hormonal reactions related to the sleep-wake cycle.
Sleep is when our cells get a cleaning and the trash is taken to the kidneys and colon to be eliminated in the morning. Lack of sleep can lead to a build-up of toxic by-products and compromised energy production, leading to decreased immunity, extreme fatigue, irritability, brain fog, weight gain, hormone imbalance, etc. Without those consistent quality 8 hours of sleep every night, the body does not effectively recuperate or repair itself.
There are a few things we can tweak to give ourselves the space to experience better sleep.
1. Close the kitchen
Aim to put the fork down 3 hours before you hit the hay, including snacks. This will give your body ample time to digest, so that when you get in bed, your body can rest.
2. Avoid alcohol
An evening glass of wine or cocktail is a common way to unwind in the evening. This habit can contribute to a restless night.
3. Turn out those lights
I'm sure you turn your bedroom lights out when you go to bed, but you can also strive to ditch the blue lights from your devices and LED lights, as well. Try to put the devices down at least 1 hour before you tuck yourself in -- it's incredible the difference you'll feel, and it's especially helpful with slowing your mind down in the process.
4. Make it colder
There's a reason you sleep better in a colder room. Your blood flows to your skin and away from your core. This lowers your core temperature and allows you to fall asleep with ease. What's better than snuggling up under your favorite blanket to drift off to sleep?
5. Pull the shades
Make a darker environment by closing the shades or using an eye mask. Darkness helps to signal your brain that it is time to fall asleep and melatonin production is increased, while cortisol production is decreased. Melatonin is the hormone that encourages sleep.
6. Use your bedroom as intended
Don't bring your movies into the bedroom, piles of work, or your iPad to scan Pinterest or play your favorite game. Use your bedroom for sleep, and your body will begin to associate it with sleep, making it easier for you to slip off into dreamland.
Likewise, kiss your pet goodnight and put them in their own bed. Pets sleeping in the bed are a common sleep disruptor.
7. Establish a consistent bedtime
Most of us stay up too late. To keep your circadian rhythm in sync and maintain optimal hormone balance, make it a goal to be asleep by 11pm. Later than that allows for a cortisol spike, a second wind of energy, that will prevent you from falling asleep easily for another few hours.
Better yet, work backwards from your mandatory wake-up time and get to bed so that you achieve a solid 8 hours of sleep each night.
8. Step into the light
Another surprising fact about sleep is that if you get moving with some exercise and expose yourself to real daylight in the morning, it can help to sync your circadian rhythm. Sunlight signals your body to stop melatonin production and increase cortisol production to get your brain alert and your body up and moving.
Try it for a week, and you'll be amazed at how much better you're sleeping at night. Even a brisk walk around the block will do -- start with small steps and grow from there.
Consistency is critical for resetting your sleep schedule and circadian rhythm. Start adjusting your bedtime and your habits step by step, and you'll soon find deeper, more meaningful sleep within your reach and more energy to enjoy your mornings.