With so many of us feeling over-stressed and under-slept, is it any wonder that depression, burn-out, and chronic illness are considered routine costs of getting through life? With every corner we cut, in the way we eat, rest, and move, we push ourselves further away from the natural rhythms that should be guiding our daily lives – we think we can get away with it. Unfortunately, our bodies don’t work that way.
Our bodies are designed to thrive on balance and predictability. When we’re living in synch with our internal rhythms cued by the rhythms of the natural world – sunrise, sunset, the changing of the seasons – we’re on our way to achieving and maintain optimal wellness. When we ignore those rhythms – or constantly fight to over-ride them – we compromise our health. So, how to re-sync your body with the natural rhythms for optimal health? Dr Frank Lipman recommends us to consider the following:
Keep an eye on your master clock
In the brain’s hypothalamus, there is something called the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), which is, in effect, the body’s master clock. Over the course of 24 hours, the retinas in the eyes register light and dark and send this information to the master clock. In turn, this then sends signals to the other ‘clocks’ in the body that regulate digestion, the immune system, and the release of hormones. The natural rhythms of light dark attunes our bodies to do what it should do at the right time of day. Not keeping a consistent sleep schedule can have an impact on poor sleep.
Most bodies run on similar schedules (in terms of naturally wanting to sleep at night and be awake during the day) because we’re exposed to similar light patterns over the course of the day. However, there’s variation based on our behaviours, certain genetic components, and other factors.
Age is another factor that can affect circadian rhythms and whether the natural sleep-wake cycle (and other cycles) tends to run early or late. Teenagers, for example, may need a later wake time and may be more alert later in the day. When we become adults, the sleep cycle moves back toward the middle of the day again.
Good rhythm helps you sleep at night
The body’s key rhythm is the sleep-wake cycle. The body prepares itself for sleep each night by producing the hormone melatonin, which relaxes the muscles and makes us sleepy. Blue lights from a laptop or phone can disrupt the body’s production of melatonin, which is why it is extremely important to try and keep electronics out of the bedroom. The blue light from the screen tells your body it’s daytime, so no need for melatonin yet.
Melatonin is one of the body’s most powerful antioxidants. It magnifies the effectiveness of other antioxidants, so bad sleep habits can result in consequences for your energy levels, productivity, and overall health.
If your master clock is off track, your metabolism will be too
Just as lower light levels trigger the release of melatonin that slows us down, higher intensity light stimulates the production of cortisol, the energy hormone. Our metabolism works most efficiently when we eat most of our calories during the day and avoid late-night snacking. By bedtime, the hormone insulin has then already done its work by converting the food you eat into energy. Finally, when we are asleep, insulin, as well as cortisol, drop to their lowest levels setting the stage for the body to produce growth hormone which repairs and regenerates tissues.
When we eat too early or too late in the day, fewer of those hormones that help with digestion are available, so the body has a tougher time regulating blood sugar after eating and absorbing and storing nutrients from that food. That’s why, over time, those types of behaviours are thought to potentially contribute to the development of obesity and diabetes.
Reset your clock by respecting your natural rhythms
Getting less sleep than is healthy for you – less than 7 hours per night for adults – and significantly shifting your sleep schedule (sleeping in several hours later on weekends, compared with weekdays, or traveling across time zones) are among the most common disruptions to your body’s clock.
Instead of fighting nature, re-train your body to work with it – just make sure to be conscious to avoid using blue lights at night, to help support your overall body health.
It can be easy to re-synch your body’s master clock. Here are some habits you can try to implement:
- Try to get bright, natural light exposure during the day, every day. Morning sun in particular has rhythm regulating effects.
- Eat light and slightly earlier so your body has enough time to digest a meal, then it won’t work overtime when it should be winding down and preparing for bed.
- Ease into your bedtime with relaxing evening rituals. Meditation, yoga, or a hot bath can all be calming and soothing activities to help you unwind from the day.
- Avoid bright, blue lights, especially at night. This massively disturbs your body’s biological clock.
- Try to go to sleep at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every morning.
- If you’re short on sleep one day, try to return to your normal bedtime, rather than taking a nap or sleeping late.
- Avoid all electronic devices for at least 2 hours before bedtime. Read a book or a magazine in bed instead.
- Avoid any sweet treats before bed, as they have an energising effect.
- Get workouts done early in the day. Strenuous workouts in the evenings can boost energy levels too close to bedtime.
- Keep your bedroom as dark as possible. Less light avoids disruption of melatonin production.
- If you’re changing time zones, try taking some Dreem Distillery Night Drops, specifically produced to restore balance throughout the body and help you align with your natural sleep cycle, never leaving you feeling drowsy or tired.