Updated: Jun 12, 2019
Your circadian rhythm is responsible for much more than just your sleep. This internal clock or thermostat is the master controller of your hormones and immune system.
It dictates the function of all your organs including your heart, liver, kidneys, intestines, and pancreas and has a critical role in the function of your mitochondria.
If this internal clock is shifted even just slightly then hundreds of biological processes will be affected.
Our bodies are meant to be adaptable, but too many stresses - sleep deprivation, nutrient deficiency and a sedentary lifestyle - can all have a negative long term effect.
How Your Circadian Rhythm Works
This internal rhythm orchestrates how much energy you have during the day, the quality of sleep at night, and the power of your metabolism. If this rhythm is ‘off’ you are more likely to become overweight, obese, or develop type 2 diabetes.
Both external and internal factors control our circadian rhythm. External factors (the light your body receives from the sun) and internal factors (when you eat) should be balanced and work in concert for you to achieve an overall balance.
Imagine how soon your schedule would fall into chaos if the clock you used to schedule your day were off by a few minutes.
Each day you would be off by increasingly more time. Compound that discrepancy by weeks and months, and you can see the potential for disruption.
There are many ways to train your circadian rhythm for optimal function - we will be focusing on six.
Do you need a Circadian Rhythm Reset?
You feel tired despite sleeping for 8 hours or more
Your sleep quality is not enough to get you through the day without being tired
Your energy level is low throughout the day
You experience significant slumps in energy during the day
You find it difficult to lose excess weight
You have strong cravings for sweet or salty foods
You need sugar, coffee, or energy drinks to get through the day
You suspect, or have been diagnosed with a hormone imbalance
1. Optimize your Light
Light is the most important factor influencing your circadian rhythm. Simply put, the goal should be to get more natural light during the day and less artificial light at night. More light at night, especially blue light, causes you to produce less melatonin.
Melatonin not only induces drowsiness so you can fall asleep, but it also has been shown to protect the brain from neurodegenerative diseases and to have potent anti-inflammatory effects.
It is important to have your eyes see sunlight first thing in the morning if the sun is up. When you wake, open the curtains, and if you have a porch, sit in the sun for a few minutes.
A mineral-based sunblock or clothing that covers up your skin is essential when you will be out in the sun for hours, but getting unfiltered sunlight a few times a day can have great benefits for your overall health and for your absorption of vitamin D. Even a few minutes in sunlight will have an immediate biochemical effect.
Later in the day, start dimming or turn off large overhead lights in your house starting around 7pm, this will slowly acclimate your body to sleep.
Sleep in a completely darkened room with the aid of blackout curtains. If you have a digital clock, change the setting so the numbers do not glow. Do not take electronics to bed with you to ‘fall asleep with' as it can be enormously disruptive to your sleep patterns.
Most phones have ‘night shift’ settings that automatically decrease blue light when the sun goes down. If you do not have this setting on your phone, there are apps you can download that will do the same thing.
2. Drink Lemon Water
Drinking lemon water when you get up in the morning will support optimal brain and neurological function by replenishing electrolytes and ensuring proper hydration. This simple therapy primes your body to function at it’s best throughout the day.
3. Reduce Stress
When your mind is stressed, so is your body. Stress hormones flood your brain, disrupting your digestive system, dampening your immune capability, and throws off the circadian rhythm.