Updated: Mar 15
Why is a balanced circadian rhythm ultra important to living a healthy and energized life? The circadian rhythm is the biological clock that influences all living organisms and is tied to the rise and the fall of the sun.
It is our natural 24-hour internal process which regulates our sleep/wake cycles and is influenced mainly by light but also our eating habits. During the daytime, the circadian clock ensures that your metabolism shifts to a state of energy production and energy storage. During the night, it promotes sleep and your metabolism shifts to a state of mobilization of that stored energy. This natural rhythm is tied to many functions including sleep and rejuvenation and affects your daytime alertness.
Disruption of this natural rhythm causes biological changes to your hormones affecting many different systems throughout your body. It affects your energy regulating hormones, your metabolism regulating hormones, your appetite regulating hormones, and your stress hormones as well as neurotransmitters that affect your energy and mood. Circadian rhythm disruption that contributes to chronic sleep deprivation weakens your mitochondria, can increase inflammation, can impair blood sugar regulation, can increase risk for chronic diseases, can be a factor in weight gain as it affects your hunger hormones, can be a risk factor for type 2 diabetes, and it can be associated with depression, anxiety and mood disorders. And...disrupted circadian rhythm is the largest contributing factor in the cause of low energy and fatigue causing the mitochondria to become weaker and weaker over time and eventually dysfunctional.
It is so important that it actually influences our lifespan! The more we can be in line with our natural rhythms the healthier we are.
How to Manage Your Circadian Rhythm for Deep Sleep and Abundant Energy
Getting deep, restful and restorative sleep so that you have abundant energy during the day begins when you open your eyes in the morning.
That is because the natural blue light as night is turning to day and the sun is beginning to rise, cues melatonin production to stop and cortisol levels to start going up. Cortisol is your 'awake and alert' hormone that needs to be at proper levels in order for you to feel energized during the daytime.
The darkness in the evening as the sun goes down triggers the pineal gland to make melatonin. Melatonin is your 'rest and restore' hormone that makes you sleepy in the evenings and maintains sleep throughout the night. It is an essential part of helping you fall asleep at night. It is also a really important antioxidant for the brain which helps keep the brain healthy and young.
When the delicate balance of these 2 hormones becomes disrupted, that is when you will feel awake at night and groggy and tired during the day. So, often times sleep problems are not just a night time problem, they are actually a day time problem. In order to optimize your sleep, you must balance your circadian rhythm. This way you are setting yourself up so you are regularly getting the full amount of deep sleep your body needs at night in order to be able to perform all of the functions you need it to do during the day.
6 Tips to Set Your Circadian Rhythm and Optimize Your Sleep
All of the following tips must be done habitually and regularly to notice the gradual effects of balancing your natural rhythm. Managing your circadian rhythm is a process that you will need to focus on during your day in order to influence the balance.
#1 Get exposure to sunlight first thing in the morning as this stimulates the production of cortisol and cues your body and brain that it is time to wake up and be alert. Most people do not get enough light exposure during the day. Light exposure is ultra important to the proper functioning of your circadian rhythm. If possible, go outside for 15 minutes without sunglasses. Bonus points because you are also getting Vitamin D that is necessary for good sleep as well.
#2 Eat consistently throughout the day with heavier meals consumed earlier in the day and eat a lighter meal for dinner. This sets the rhythm with your digestive processes to be working optimally during the day while cueing rest in the evening.
#3 Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. Again, you are setting up cues for your natural rhythm. Ideally you want to try to be asleep around 10 P.M. and wake around 6 A.M. because this is when your brain and body are cycling through restorative and healing processes.
#4 Make sure that your evening lighting in your house isn't fluorescent or blue light based. Use orange and red hues in the evening, think sunset, and dim the lights to signal melatonin production to start which will make you sleepy.
#5 Establish good boundaries around screen time--television, computer, tablet and phone--in the evenings. Otherwise, you are being exposed to blue light which is telling your body to stop producing the melatonin that you need to fall asleep. A good rule of thumb is to put away all screens 2 hours before bedtime. If you do have to use screens, then wear blue-light blocking glasses and download the app, f.lux which can reduce blue-light exposure from your computer screen.
#6 Sleep in a completely pitch black room. We have light receptors in our skin that can actually affect melatonin production. This means making sure there is no light whatsoever in your bedroom.
Now matter how much we are tied to our modern world filled with artificial light and technology, our biology and natural rhythms will always be influenced the most strongly by nature. How well we recognize and honor that can influence our energy levels, health, wellbeing and longevity. I hope you can incorporate these tips into your lifestyle until they become habits and you start to see improvement in the quality of your sleep and your energy levels during the day.
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About the Author
Kristi Ryan is the founder of Kristi Ryan Holistic Nutrition and the creator of the Abundant Energy Method for Busy Women. As a holistic nutrition and health coach specializing in energy wellness she supports, educates, motivates and empowers busy women with nutrition, mindset and lifestyle transformation using her proven methodology to bring abundant energy and vitality into their lives.
Disclaimer: The information I share is for general information only and is not intended to replace medical advice. I do not diagnose, treat or cure disease, prescribe treatments or medications, or recommend medical treatment or surgery. You should speak to your physician prior to making any changes to your diet, lifestyle, exercise or medications or acting on anything you have read or discussed with me. If you don’t, you are doing so at your own risk.
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