- HEALTH & NUTRITION
How to hack your circadian rhythm
Living and working through a global pandemic has made a lot of us reassess our priorities and reflect on the meaning of wellness, but if you're still ignoring your body’s call for rest and neglecting your circadian rhythm – it might be time to work on your sleep/wake cycle.
Jun 12, 2023|
Jun 12, 2023
Meet your circadian rhythm
Your circadian rhythm is your body clock. It’s the physical and behavioral changes that happen throughout the body over a 24 hour period – usually in response to natural light and darkness. As humans, we’re diurnal – which means we tend to be active during the day and rest at night. While personal preferences, shift work and jet lag all try to steer us away from the natural call to sleep with the moon and wake with the sun – this pattern is our basic instinct.
So how does it work exactly? Your entire body is essentially a ticking clock. While there are different hormones and body systems that are most active at varying times, they all work together in an organized way to perform critical functions that regulate your sleep/wake cycle. Your cells are what respond to light and darkness, and once your eyes determine the changes in your external environment - your cells trigger different body functions depending on your surroundings. There are also key hormones like cortisol and melatonin that work in opposition to help regulate your sleep/wake cycle. Cortisol rises in the morning to give you that boost of energy that helps you start your day, and melatonin increases as the sun goes down to help your body get ready to sleep.
While there are factors like body temperature, metabolism, stress and physical activity that can affect your circadian rhythm – light is the most influential factor. Since a large percentage of us work indoors, rely on artificial light after the sun sets, and are often chained to our devices - our body clocks can sometimes struggle to keep up with our modern-day lives. The good news is that it is possible to re-establish those natural cues and create a sleep pattern that gives you the energy to live your best life.
How to hack your circadian rhythm
Hack your devices
We’re now being exposed to more blue light than ever before, thanks to our trusty devices. Exposure to blue light throughout the day and before you go to bed can be detrimental for your sleep – but there is a way to reduce your exposure to artificial light without disrupting your routine. While you should aim to be off devices an hour (or longer) before you go to sleep, switching all devices onto ‘night mode’ when it starts to get dark outside will help your eyes adjust to your environment, making it easier for you to fall asleep when you need to. Night mode is an option on most devices, and it casts a dim yellow light over your screen. Both yellow and orange lights have little to no effect on your body clock, so setting up your devices to automatically switch to night mode at a specific time each night will help your body prepare for a good night's sleep.
Figure out your chronotype
While we all have a circadian rhythm that evolutionarily aligns with day and night, it doesn’t necessarily mean that this sleep/wake cycle is optimal for all of us. According to researchers who specialize in circadian science, we all have a unique genetically determined internal clock - also known as our “chronotype” - that controls our body's optimal sleep/wake times. By identifying your “chronotype”, you can effectively manage your circadian rhythm in a way that honors your body’s genetically driven cues. Without knowing much about chronotypes, you probably already know if you’re a morning person who needs to be in bed by 8pm, or if you’re a night owl that tends to snooze your alarm when the world wakes up. Learning about your chronotype dispels the notion that ‘the early bird gets the worm’, and instead allows you to lean into the natural cues of your body – knowing that you’ll be more productive and feel more energized than you would if you were going against the genetic grain.
It may not align with your chronotype, but if you can get some sun exposure as soon as you wake up – it might just help you feel more energized during the day and fall asleep easier at night. Neuroscientist Andrew Huberman is a big believer in the benefits of morning sunlight, not only for sleep but for overall health. In a podcast, Huberman shared that “Getting sunlight in your eyes first thing in the morning is absolutely vital to mental and physical health. It is perhaps the most important thing that any and all of us can and should do in order to promote metabolic well-being, promote the positive function of your hormone system, and get your mental health steering in the right direction.” The reason that doing this in the morning is so important is because it triggers the release of cortisol – which in turn supports the onset of melatonin later on in the day that helps you get to sleep at night. As for how much sunlight, Huberman vouches for 2-10 minutes each morning upon waking.
Magnesium is a mineral involved in over 300 enzymatic reactions within the body. It helps regulate a number of critical functions, and almost every cell and organ need it to function properly. This mighty mineral plays a key role in activating the parasympathetic nervous system, also known as the ‘rest and digest’ division of the nervous system – which is a big reason why it’s so tied to sleep. There are many ways that magnesium works to encourage a good night’s sleep, from regulating melatonin to supporting the production of neurotransmitters. But research also shows that a deficiency in magnesium can impair sleep. You can increase your consumption of magnesium by eating more nuts and seeds, leafy greens, avocado and even dark chocolate – or supplement with a good quality form of magnesium to boost your intake.
And if you’re looking for ways to reset your body clock and become a morning person – super-charge your energy with MitoQ. Find out how MitoQ can help you get-up-and-go in the morning, so you can get the most out of each and every day.
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