I sat around the campfire watching the crackling fire shoot embers up into the air. I looked around quietly and noticed my friends doing the same. The stars were out that night and I breathed a sigh of relaxation that acknowledged I only had 15 more minutes before I couldn’t stay awake any longer. While it was only just after 9pm, the natural light and sunset helped me to hear my body asking for an earlier bedtime.
Have you ever gone on a camping trip and noticed how you naturally want to hit the hay not too long after the sun fades? Then you wake the next morning right along with the sun? This inner clock that guides you to mobilize for the day ahead and prepare for slumber at night is called your circadian rhythm. The healthier and more balanced you are, the more optimal your circadian rhythm is and the better you sleep.
Our Inner Clock
When you wake up in the morning after a good sleep, your eyes sense the rising sun, which sends signals to your brain to wake up. Your brain receives the memo and pumps cortisol into your body. Voila! It is time to get going. Adversely, your body prepares for a shut down at the end of the day by releasing melatonin to help you go to sleep.
The body maintains this rhythm based on a 24 hour inner clock. Despite what our outer world is telling us about time, this inner clock we have always persists. This is for good reason! It guides us to consistency and the betterment of our overall health. When we follow the natural rhythms of our inner clock, it is then that we access the fullness in health and vitality that we are capable of accessing.
You are probably racking your brain trying to understand how you can better honor this cycle. Firstly, let’s talk about what the general cycle looks like. When we have an optimal rhythm, our bodies begin to wake up close to the sunrise. We maintain energy throughout the day until the early afternoon when our bodies begin to wind down. Our bodies begin physical repair just after 10pm, and emotional repair after 2am. With the idea of what an optimal cycle looks like, we can look into the habits that inhibit our natural rhythm.
There are many things that can keep us from being in tune with and listening to our internal clock. These habits can quiet our body’s cues and inhibit us from having a healthy circadian rhythm:
Too many bright lights at night with high wattage can tell your brain that it is time to wake up with the sun. While I wish we could all enjoy the seclusion of the mountains regularly, it is difficult for many of us to avoid light pollution every day. We can, however, begin winding down early by keeping dim lighting in the house, turning off electronics by a certain time, and cultivating calm as best as possible. When you sleep, keep your room as dark as possible.
Skipping meals and not drinking enough water can stress out your body. When your body is stressed, it releases hormones that keep you aware, on guard, and ultimately awake. Drink plenty of water during the day and snack in between meals.
Coffee and other stimulants such as nicotine also alert your body and disrupt your cycle. You can avoid stimulants past noon to allow your body adequate time to wind down.
Traveling can be hard on your body because of how it disrupts your cycle when you change time zones. When you travel, do your best to slowly adjust your sleep schedule slowly to where you are going. Hydrate and eat well to cheer your body on as it adjusts to the changes.
An electromagnetic field is the energy that many electronic devices emit. While we used to roam this earth without any of these, we are now inundated with TVs, microphones, and phones. Experts are becoming concerned with the way that EMF’s can affect your bodies nervous system and cause damage to cells. This can in turn disturb your sleep. To avoid the effect these have on your body’s rhythms, you can remove anything that plugs into a wall and shut your wifi off at night.
How to Support a Healthy Circadian Rhythm
Think of our bodies as a two way communication system. You take care of it a certain way, and it will give you feedback. These inhibitors can be the clog in the drain that gives you the full message. As you go to sleep tonight, you can support a healthier and more regulated circadian rhythm.
Cultivate calm by meditating or playing gentle music before bed. Avoid stimulants after lunch and avoid exercise while you are winding down for bed. Introduce an enticing nighttime routine to invite yourself into a deep slumber for a more consistent sleep, and a well-honored circadian rhythm.