Circadian Rhythms | Structure Your Day for Your Health
Many of us wake up groggy and sleepy, drag ourselves through the day, only to perk up in the evening and find ourselves completely awake when we should be going to bed?
This frustrating phenomenon is common in modern life.
Healthy adults typically wake up with vitality in the morning and get sleepy in the evenings. Called our circadian rhythm, our bodies will intuitively ensure that we have energy and sleepiness when we need it. However, there are a number of reasons why we may find that our normal rhythms are disrupted:
- Erratic or graveyard work shifts
- Traveling across time zones
- Mental Health Conditions
- Lifestyle changes
- Poor sleep habits
With the increase in blue lights, late-night activities, and stress, many struggle to get their bodies back on a regular schedule, and their circadian rhythm suffers.
However, there are a number of reasons to take circadian rhythm and health seriously. Read on to learn more about the circadian rhythm and how we can find our way back to better circadian health.
Why Circadian Rhythm Matters
The circadian rhythm is a 24-hour biological clock that decides our sleep and wake times. Circadian rhythms are not limited to humans, either. Animals, plants, and even bacteria have a biological clock determining which hormones are released and when.
This biological clock affects when our genes turn on and off, which means it affects nearly every aspect of human health.
A healthy circadian rhythm offers a number of benefits for human health:
- Promotes hormone balance
- Encourages good sleep
- Slows aging and increases longevity
- Encourages regular eating habits and hunger cues
- Regulates a healthy body temperature
- Promotes heart health
- Boosts metabolism
- Supports athletic performance
- Supports mental health
Should I take melatonin?
When sleep is an issue, many turn to melatonin to improve their internal clock. By forcing the sleep hormones in their body, melatonin supplements help temporarily bring sleep.
However, there are some concerns with supplementing melatonin long-term. It could temporarily cause side effects, including nausea, irritability, headaches, depression, dizziness, anxiety, and joint pain.
There is also some concern that taking melatonin orally can disrupt the body’s ability to produce it naturally. As a result, the body can grow dependent on melatonin, and people who use it for too long may find that their sleep is disrupted without it.
In addition, our circadian rhythms involve more than sleep and melatonin, such as cortisol, ghrelin, leptin, thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), and prolactin (PRL). When supplementing with one hormone only, it could fail to address the other underlying issues with the circadian rhythm and lead to other health problems in the future.
Instead of supplementing with melatonin, it is better to address the more natural ways to improve the biological clock to achieve optimal health.
How to Naturally Support Your Circadian Rhythm
Thankfully, there are many ways to support a healthy circadian rhythm and support optimal health. Here are some of the top ways to look after your circadian rhythm:
Get early morning sunshine
Humans have woken up to the sun for our entire history. The early morning rays signal to the body that the day is ready to start, and the body kick starts specific hormones in response. Its unique combination of UV-A and IR-A rays begins the cascade of hormones that ensure an alert day and promotes sleepiness when we should be going to bed at night.
Morning sunlight is one of the most reliable signs that our body depends on to orient ourselves the entire day. However, modern life has no longer made this early morning sun a given. Between late nights, light-blocking curtains, and our society’s overall aversion to the sun, most of us are no longer offering our bodies these important early-morning cues. Research shows that exposure to sunlight impacts morning alertness and nighttime sleep.
Take a little time each day first thing in the morning to get some sun. Aim for getting sunlight as close to dawn as possible and wear as little clothing as comfortable (but honestly nude sunbathing is best) to get the maximum amount of the sun. Also, try to bring sunshine before putting on glasses or contacts. Our eyes absorb the light too, and the naked eye can absorb as much as possible!
For some northern regions, the darker parts of the year make it impossible to get the sun right when you wake up. In these cases, it might help to use an infrared device, such as Joovv, to obtain critical red light in the morning. Give yourself 15-30 minutes in front of the infrared light to help stimulate the cells in the same way.
Wear blue blockers
As much as our bodies are used to red light in the morning, they are not accustomed to the late-night blue light exposure common in modern life. Blue light comes from many of our devices, including phones, computers, TVs, and even LED light bulbs.
Research shows that blue light can disrupt our circadian rhythm. While limited exposure during the day is generally considered fine, blue light at night can be detrimental to our sleep patterns and overall circadian hormones.
To combat the effect of blue light on our sleep, consider investing in nighttime blue blocker glasses, which have a more amber hue than daytime blue blocker glasses. These can help reduce the effects of blue light on our sleep and circadian rhythm.
If you spend the majority day on the computer and have excessive blue light, you may want to invest in daytime blue blockers as well.
Even with blue blockers, turn off all screens at the end of the day. Even the slightest amount of blue light near bedtime can be disruptive. Instead, read a book, take a bath, or do some calming yoga to get yourself ready for sleep.
Relax at the end of the day
One of the other significant hormones that affect our circadian rhythms is cortisol, the stress hormone. A bit of cortisol is good for our bodies since it keeps us alert, engaged, and active during the day.
However, when cortisol levels get too high, or start to rise at the wrong time (like at the end of the day), it can disrupt the other healthy hormones and cause damage.
It’s critical, then, to manage stress levels and relax at the end of the day and ensure that cortisol does not get out of hand. Find a relaxing activity at the end of the day, such as:
- Take s warm bath
- Coloring or have another quiet hobby.
- Get a massage
With lowered cortisol, the body can get into a better rhythm and improve the overall cycle of hormones.
Exercise early in the morning
Exercise is a critical way to increase melatonin and encourage better sleep at night. The hormones and neurotransmitters that the body releases during exercise support melatonin syntheses.
However, the rise in cortisol from working out can disrupt sleep if it is done too late in the day. Aim to exercise in the morning to reap the fullest benefits to hormones and the circadian rhythm.
Try Savasana at night
Yoga is a great way to combat stress hormones and prepare the body for a relaxing night of sleep. One study showed that cancer patients to did yoga experienced favorable alterations to their circadian rhythm. In particular, Savasana can be a great way to relax and encourage healthy hormones.
Also known as the “corpse pose,” this yoga move is correlated with higher melatonin levels, which will aid your body’s natural melatonin and induce sleep.
Reduce caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine
Coffee isn’t all bad. In fact, it is one of the richest sources of antioxidants in the American diet! However, everybody is uniquely affected by caffeine and its impact on our circadian rhythm.
For some people, avoiding it in the afternoon is good enough to help promote sleep and healthy hormones. For others, even the slightest bit of caffeine can throw the body off.
If sleep is significantly disrupted, it might be time to dial back or eliminate coffee.
Also, keep in mind other forms of caffeine that could impact the circadian rhythm, such as sodas, kombucha, teas, and chocolate.
In addition to caffeine, alcohol and nicotine can be detrimental to circadian health. While current research is limited, studies do show that alcohol has a negative impact on circadian rhythms and sleep.
Many people have alcohol to help them relax enough to go to sleep. However, its effects on hormones lead to waking up in the middle of the night. Research shows that alcohol reduces REM sleep, which is critical for overall health.
Herbs for Better Circadian Health
While melatonin may not help with improving circadian rhythms, certain compounds and plants can help support hormone health and a healthy biological clock. These compounds, herbs, and mushrooms have been used for thousands of years and are backed up by scientific research.
These compounds include:
- L-Theanine. Most of found in green tea, this compound is found to decrease stress, which can disrupt the circadian rhythm, and improve sleep.
- L-Tryptophan. As a precursor to serotonin and melatonin, l-tryptophan can positively affect both mood and sleep.
- Griffonia Simplicifolia. This African shrub is one of the richest natural sources of 5-HTP, which helps improve both stress levels and sleep.
- Cracked Shell Reishi. Reishi has been thoroughly studied for its ability to promote stress relief and improve sleep.
- Passionflower. Researchers have found that this passion fruit can help reduce stress and anxiety while helping to promote sleep.
- Ashwagandha. An adaptogen from Ayurveda, studies show that ashwagandha helps lower anxiety and stress, which is critical for healthy circadian hormones.
- Schisandra. This potent adaptogen also helps strengthen the body to be more adaptive to stress and anxiety.
Support Circadian Rhythms for Better Health
Although sleep is critical for overall health, our circadian rhythms do much more than that. Our biological clock supports the body’s hormones and ensures that we work, eat, and rest at the right time.
By supporting our circadian health, we can keep our bodies active and healthy for years to come. However, much of our modern life disrupts the natural rhythms of our bodies. By ensuring our bodies are exposed to the right lights at the right time, exercising at the right time, and taking supplements when our bodies need support, we can keep our rhythms healthy.
We compiled the highest-quality ingredients backed by research and traditional use into one convenient herbal formula, Tranquil Mind. Each compound, mushroom, and herb is specifically designed to help you reclaim your circadian rhythm for health and longevity.
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