If you've been having trouble sleeping at night or waking up in the morning feeling tired, you may be out of sync with your internal clock. Everyone has one: Regulated by a group of cells in your brain, that clock, also called a circadian rhythm, manages your energy levels throughout the day with a slew of hormones.
WHAT IS A CIRCADIAN RHYTHM
You know how you try to sleep in on the weekend, but you wake up at the same time as you roll out of bed on weekdays? That's your circadian rhythm speaking. Suppose you fight against it by refusing to sleep when your body's begging you to rest up. In that case, you'll run into some issues getting quality sleep in general. By default, your immunity, energy levels, and other aspects of your health will suffer.
Quality sleep is a priority and should be considered a pillar of health and well-being, along with good nutrition and physical exercise. Most relevant to the current pandemic, there is strong scientific evidence indicating that insufficient and poor sleep quality have an adverse effect on the immune system and may make you more susceptible to viral infection. Some easy ways to support a healthier sleep cycle include natural supports like Deep Sleep Formula and Deep Sleep Tea.
AYURVEDA PRACTICES AND SLEEP
Ayurveda, a system of medicine from India, teaches that SLEEP is when the body rejuvenates, and it is an essential pillar of vibrant health. When we sleep, the body clears inflammation, and the lymphatic system can remove toxins from the body. Living according to our circadian clock or nature's clock is a concept Ayurveda has taught us for 5,000 years as a foundation to preventive health.
How does it work?
When you're exposed to light during the day, your body suppresses the release of melatonin. As a result, this vital sleep hormone doesn't usually come out during the darker, nighttime hours.
Humans are more likely to have later bedtimes in the summer because longer days shift your biological clock.
A circadian rhythm is the cycle of biological activity that occurs approximately on a 24-hour cycle. Interestingly, the cycle requires external cues such as light, time of eating, and activity to be set accurately.
It's fascinating to think that every cell in the body is influenced by a circadian clock. The master clock is located in the hypothalamus called the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN). One of the significant signals to the SCN is the light and dark cycles of the day. Light exposure inhibits the release of melatonin and stimulates the release of cortisol, feeding rhythms, and body temperature. So basically, syncing our body to the day and telling it what needs to be done.
Easy pro tip: Step outside for that morning cup of joe to greet the sun; this will reset your circadian clock for the daytime. It will also charge you up for having more energy during the day, and better sleep at night.
DISRUPTORS OF OUR CIRCADIAN CLOCK
Once upon a time, we would spend much more significant amounts of time outdoors, and then at night, we would sit by the fire or lamps that emitted very little blue light. However, in our modern world, we spend most of our days inside and then exposing ourselves to light at night on a significant scale. In fact, if you compare the light emitted on a full moon night to that of an average living room, it is about 1000 times greater!
Then to further throw our circadian rhythms out, LED screens such as TVs, computers, tablets, and phones emit blue light, and what do most of us do at night? We watch screens!
So, there is a lack of natural light during the day, which is needed to signal the SCN to start the body's daytime routine. Excessive light exposure at night reduces melatonin signaling, consequently disrupting sleep.
Disrupted circadian cycles have been shown to affect moods, increase anxiety and depression, and obesity.
Easy pro tip: Use blue light blockers at night, buy a blue blocker screen for your phone, change your settings to be low light for evening, or get a kindle or - gasp! - an actual paper book to read and wind down at night. This slight shift can make a HUGE difference in your sleep quality.
TIPS FOR A GOOD NIGHT'S SLEEP
As more research highlights the benefits of getting 7- 9 hours of sleep per night, we realize that our modern world makes this increasingly difficult to achieve. Let's look at what can be done to support our natural circadian cycles:
- Avoid screens for at least 1 hour before bed- TVs, computers, tablets, phones, or use a night filter if necessary.
- Aim for 30 minutes of sun exposure in the morning. Ideally, in the middle of the day and at twilight.
- Avoid caffeine after noon – coffee, tea, energy drinks.
- Make sure the bedroom is dark or use eye masks if required.
- Turn off the phone or put it on airplane mode to prevent beeps that interrupt sleep at night
- Have a nightly wind-down ritual, e.g., a warm bath, listening to relaxing music, a calming mindfulness app, or Ayurvedic Self Care Rituals for Sleep
- Build a series of rituals around sleep like a cup of sleep tea as the last thing you consume - one chock full of Ayurvedic herbs that help relax the digestive system and the mind before bed is even better
- Write down any intrusive thoughts on a piece of paper, or better still, have a notebook ready at the bedside for any last-minute concerns.
- Work with an Ayurvedic Practitioner - like Dr. Shivani Gupta - who specializes in sleep to help you troubleshoot and improve the quality of your sleep. Measuring sleep and incrementally improving it has done wonders for her clients.
According to new research, losing sleep for even part of one night can trigger the key cellular pathway that produces tissue-damaging inflammation. The findings suggest a good night's sleep can ease the risk of both heart disease and autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis.
UC Berkeley sleep scientists have begun to reveal that fragmented nightly sleep leads to the fatty arterial plaque buildup known as atherosclerosis that can result in fatal heart disease.
"We've discovered that fragmented sleep is associated with a unique pathway — chronic circulating inflammation throughout the bloodstream — which, in turn, is linked to higher amounts of plaques in coronary arteries," said study senior author Matthew Walker, a UC Berkeley professor of psychology and neuroscience.
Our circadian rhythms are life's rhythms, and syncing our sleep-wake cycle is key to ensuring good health. Vibrant health starts with you - and that's every self-care act you begin the night before starting a new day!