Circadian rhythms are the 24 hour cycles that form your body’s internal clock. The most well-known circadian rhythm is the sleep-wake cycle. When properly aligned it promotes energy during the day and restorative sleep at night. Unfortunately, many people experience the opposite. They have a groggy start to the morning, and after a busy day of stimulants (such as caffeine and sugar) they find themselves unable to wind down.
Two of the hormones driving the sleep-wake cycle are melatonin and cortisol. Melatonin is the sleep hormone that lets you know it’s time for bed. Cortisol has many functions, it’s best known as a stress hormone, but it also has a role in waking you up in the morning. The sleep-wake cycle is heavily driven by light, which means that excess or poorly timed artificial light can cause difficulty getting to sleep at night and waking up in the morning.
Top tip 1 is to restrict blue light stimulation late in the day. Artificial light from devices such as ipads, phones and computers directly suppresses the body’s release of melatonin. Give yourself a reasonable daily deadline for blue light stimulation and shut your devices down. This has the added benefit of reducing cognitive stimulation. As the day ticks past your checkpoint your mind and body will learn to wind down and prepare for sleep. Your body will appreciate the gesture and so will your family.
Top tip 2 is to manage your sleeping environment. A clean, regularly ventilated room has better air quality for superior sleep. Most pillows need replacing every 1-2 years and most mattresses every 7-10 years, although regular cleaning and good-quality protectors can prolong life. Air your bed and make it properly with linen you like. A room that’s attractive and clear of clutter reduces cortisol and promotes sound sleep. Move or cover any little lights such as chargers. Dim lights and blackout blinds can also help. All distractions have the potential to add up and interrupt sound sleep.
Good sleep is essential for good health, but for many people it’s not as simple as hopping into bed and dropping off. Without a good routine and a comfortable sleeping environment to look forward to it’s easy to stay up in front of a screen instead of beginning the admin of going to bed. Supporting your sleep in small ways can have a significant impact on your wellness and vitality.
This article provides general health and wellbeing information. It is not intended to be medical or nutritional advice specific to you. Please consult an appropriate healthcare professional, such as your GP, a registered dietitian or nutritionist for any specific concerns.