Your Circadian Rhythm Is The Key To Good Sleep
If you are reading this, it's likely you've struggled with sleep enough to seek out as much information and resources as you can and part of that includes learning more about how sleep works. Good work, you are in the right place.
The word circadian stems from Latin, roughly meaning "about a day". Your circadian rhythm is the 24-hour sleep/wake cycle that your body experiences (or in many cases, tries to experience) every day.
When it comes to enhancing your understanding of healthy sleep, learning about your circadian rhythm is one of the most important things you can do.
As we've mentioned before, the circadian rhythm is the body's natural biological pattern that helps it cool down and slow down for sleep, and helps it warm up and speed up for wakefulness. Each day your body is trying to get in and stay in a healthy circadian rhythm.
There are things we do, mostly on accident, that can make it difficult for the body to experience a healthy circadian rhythm. Some of these things are within our control, and others are not.
For example, if you work odd hours that are inconsistent, you are at an immediate disadvantage and the only way you can gain control of your circadian rhythm is to find a new job.
Other common factors that disrupt circadian rhythms include -- but are not limited to -- irregular or excessive consumption of sugar or caffeine, using drugs or alcohol, going to bed or waking up at varying times throughout the week, or watching TV or using screens without blue light filters at bed time.
The above activities make it difficult for the body's biological systems to enter and stay in a healthy circadian rhythm. If you do any of them, or suspect your circadian rhythm might be off, it's worth assessing whether there are some new practices you can adopt to help improve your health.
There are many sleep tools and tips that can be found on this website for healthy sleep hygiene. Even tools that research suggests can help regulate circadian rhythm after a period of non-normal sleep.
Beyond feeling healthier, with a better mood and more energy, people who experience a strong circadian rhythm notice two observable cues that those who are not in a good rhythm will not experience. First, they will notice feelings of relaxation and tiredness about 30-60 minutes every night before bed time. Second, they will notice they often wake up 5-10 minutes before the alarm goes off in the morning. If you notice those two things on most days, you are probably in a very healthy circadian rhythm.
So how do you get there? How do you experience a strong, healthy circadian rhythm?
Following the sleep tips and tools we offer here at Sleep Tools will help, but you will also need to commit to the same wake and sleep times every day, even on the weekends.
Pick a start and finish time that is ideally 8 hours apart (for example starting at 9pm and waking at 5am) and keep those sleep and wake times, every single day. It's important enough to repeat: this also includes on the weekends.
For the first couple of weeks this may be a struggle. That's normal. Your body is just trying to make adjustments to get into its healthy circadian rhythm. Even if you're not tired, go to bed at the same time. Even if you are exhausted, wake up at the same time. Keep at it, and you will get there.
The additional tips found throughout this website can help make this transition smoother. It is important that you surround yourself with as many positive resources as you can.
After a few weeks, you will begin to notice you are naturally getting tired 30-60 minutes before bedtime, and you might even begin to start waking up 5-10 minutes before the alarm goes off.
You will also start to notice more natural energy throughout the day and more consistent sleep each night. Once you start to notice these things, you know your body has gotten into a healthy circadian rhythm. Then all you have to do is maintain the schedule!
This is just the beginning of your circadian rhythm journey. There may be setbacks along the way and that is just part of life. However, if you practice good sleep hygiene now and get familiar with what your unique body requires for a healthy circadian rhythm, you will be more resilient and able to bounce back when life causes your rhythm to get out of whack. Each time you transition back into a good rhythm it will become easier.
So go forth and get some good sleep! You deserve it.