Ok, so maybe it isn’t as simple as changing 3 things and then magically having a great sleep.
Depending on your current sleep cycle, maybe changing up just one of these will work, but you should also be prepared for all 3 potentially not working… at first. With time and consistency, you can experience a normalized circadian rhythm, more restful sleep, and an overall better immune system.
Circadian rhythms can be thrown off quite easily. You could be doing all the right things for your sleep/wake cycle, but maybe you travel for work and end up jetlagged, or maybe you worked an evening shift, or perhaps you worked overtime for a colleague. These things are part of life. They are likely to happen. So how do you get back on track?
Although sleep schedules being thrown off are common, it is also important to know yourself and your habits well. Before you go and change up everything in your routine so that you reset your circadian rhythm, ask yourself the following questions.
- What is your chronotype? Take this quiz to find out. Once you do this, you can look up your specific chronotype and set your sleep/wake schedule accordingly. For example, here is a typical schedule for the wolf chronotype.
- What are your Zeitgebers? A zeitgeber is a rhythmically occurring natural phenomenon that acts as a cue in the regulation of the body’s circadian rhythms. Examples of the key zeitgebers in humans are environmental cues like sunlight, exercise, and eating. Even your school and work schedule should be taken into consideration here.
Remember, there is no one-size-fits-all. You may benefit from later nights and later mornings, but this is important to know so that you don’t start waking up at 5am just because you saw your favorite influencer do it with success.
3 Steps To Reset Your Circadian Rhythm
There are a couple of things you will want to consider that will likely come before these 3 steps. Some examples are to eat properly, schedule your days by creating a routine you can stick to, and to avoid coffee and alcohol in the evening. We know that these things will certainly help and are part of what we do in general to function in society. Moving daily and eating a healthy diet should be non-negotiable. We know you won’t always get to either of those, but you will likely feel the difference in your body if you do not, especially over the span of 3-7 days.
But here are some steps to take if the points above are no longer working.
Step 1- Get sun exposure within the first hour of waking.
Sun exposure gives your body the signal that it’s time to wake up! Low light gives your body the signal to fall asleep or start to wind down. That’s likely why the office you work in is super brightly lit and much cooler than the temperature outside. This keeps people productive!
Some evidence actually shows that humans are diurnal creatures, which means that our circadian rhythms are set by patterns of the sun. Sunlight naturally makes us alert, while dim light or darkness makes us feel sleepy again.
Melatonin is a hormone that gets released when it’s dark. When it gets light in the morning, your melatonin will decrease, but what happens when you sleep in? Let’s say you sleep in until noon. You’ll feel pretty rested for the day, but you also risk having a late-night because you have trouble falling asleep.
Wake up in the morning using the next step I’ll mention. As soon as you’re up, feel free to eat, and then try to get out within the first hour of waking. This natural burst of Vitamin D is critical to fighting fatigue and boosting mental health. Sure, you may be tired the first week or so, but your body will likely adjust. If it does not, it’s time to see your doctor.
What if I live in a climate that doesn’t get much sun? Invest in a SAD lamp. Trust me.
Step 2- Gradually move your bedtime.
This is not an overnight fix. You can’t simply expect to sleep at 9pm one day when you’re used to getting to bed at 2am. Imagine this: you’re used to getting tired around 1am and falling asleep at 2am. If you try to get in bed at 9pm, your body will simply scoff at you and want to peruse your Instagram feed and maybe impulsively post something on Twitter.
Instead of trying to change your bedtime overnight, gradually do this in half-hour shifts. Do this for a week. Sleep a half-hour earlier and wake up a half-hour earlier. This way, you aren’t losing out on any sleep, and instead, you’re maintaining the same hours of restful sleep but gradually normalizing your circadian rhythm.
Step 3- Supplement.
I don’t tend to recommend people take sleeping pills just because they aren’t sleeping well. I like to take a holistic stance and say that there is no magic bullet. Nothing is going to get better quickly.
However, I also believe that stress and anxiety around sleep is a very real and debilitating thing. If you need a bit of assistance at the beginning of your sleep journey, try a natural supplement like Melatonin or DreamRite.
For those who like gummies, Melatonin Gummies are where it’s at. These are my favorite right before bed. I just take one gummy when I know I’m going to have trouble sleeping for whatever reason. A full dose of 2 gummies will give you 5mg of melatonin.
For those who need a little more assistance with winding down and staying down, NutraChamps’ DreamRite capsules are a popular and effective choice.
A big contender for daytime or nighttime is Ashwagandha. It’s unique in that it causes the body to “normalize”, giving us smooth and positive energy when we need it during the day, and also helping us take the edge off and wind down at night. As an adaptogen herb, it helps the body adapt to stress, making us function how we should function while being non-addictive and safe.
If your sleep is off, it’s likely that the rest will follow. You might start to crave foods that help you stay alert while at work (like sugar), or maybe you’ll reach for that coffee during your afternoon slump at 3pm. This will also start to affect your mood and likely your productivity at work.
The goal here is to get on a consistent sleep schedule. Behavioral sleep medicine psychologist Alicia Roth, PhD, says that our circadian rhythm is not just for sleep, but, “It’s for everything that goes on in our body. We have internal clocks for our hormones, our immune system, and our digestion. Our organs all run on some sort of timing system.” If you go long enough without proper sleep, you risk a circadian rhythm disorder where your doctor will need to intervene, by changing some of your habits and behaviors, using light therapy, and maybe adding melatonin supplements.
Do you struggle with maintaining a healthy circadian rhythm? Try some of the tips in this article and let me know if any of them worked. Remember, it could take you a month, 2 months, or even 3 to start to feel a difference, depending on how long you’ve been out of sync with your sleep. Comment below to let me know how it goes.