Commonly known as your body clock, having a healthy and happy circadian rhythm is key to resting peacefully at night. If your clock starts to run out of sync though, your sleep could become more and more disturbed.
To help improve your circadian rhythm and maintain a healthy sleep pattern, our guide will explore what your circadian rhythm actually is and give you the top tips you need to follow to maintain a smooth-running body clock.
What is your circadian rhythm?
Top level, your circadian rhythm is a 24-hour body clock that runs in your brain between cycles of alertness and sleepiness. You have two daily spells when your energy levels are bottomed out: one usually between 2am-4am when you’re sound asleep, and one just after lunchtime, often between 1pm-3pm when you’re craving that post-lunch nap.
If you’ve got a good sleeping pattern, your circadian rhythm will run smoothly. But, if your brain has been deprived of sleep, you’ll feel the full impact of post-lunch fatigue. It’s all down to a specific part of your brain known as the hypothalamus which runs and improves your circadian rhythm, but there are other factors which impact it too.
How to improve your circadian rhythm
By training your circadian rhythm, you can make positive changes that will help you sleep better and feel healthier. And these changes don’t need to cause you a load of hassle. Follow these simple steps on how to improve your circadian rhythm and reap the benefits of a smooth-running body clock.
Adjust your bedtime
We all know it’s a lot easier to go to bed later than getting tucked in for an early night! But if you’re wanting to start going to bed at an earlier time, gradually roll back your bedtime by 15 minutes a week, or a fortnight – then before you know it, your circadian rhythm will be running smoothly and you’ll be sleeping soundly earlier.
Get up at the same time, every day
Yes, even on weekends. Waking up every day at the same time is integral to improving your body clock. Your circadian rhythm needs your alarm clock to help it stay fit, healthy and active, and although you might not have a reason to get up on a Saturday morning, you need to so your rhythm stays balanced. Consistency in your sleep will benefit the quality of your sleep – think of it that way.
Say no to napping!
If you’ve had a busy morning and a heavy lunch, come 3pm you might start to feel a tad snoozy and want to grab a quick cat nap to tide you over until bedtime. But do this at your peril! Napping is one of the key instigators in disrupting your circadian rhythm, as you’re getting rest when it isn’t critical to your body. Be brave, be bold and resist the temptation of the afternoon kip.
Avoid exercise and eating before bed
Common sense tells us that if we work out right before we go to bed, our body will be fatigued and we’ll sleep much better. WRONG! Undertaking exercise can actually do the complete opposite and wake us up as a result of the increased blood flow and adrenaline. Having a pre-sleep snack is also a danger to impacting your circadian rhythm, as it can give you heartburn and any sugars can wake you up. Staying clear of caffeine and nicotine is advised too, as they can leave you feeling wired.
Don’t be afraid of the dark
It sounds massively obvious, but darkness helps you sleep better. But we’re not just talking about turning the lights out as soon as you hop under the sheet. If you go to bed at a set time, try turning the lighting down a little about an hour beforehand to adjust your eyes and mind to a darker environment – this will certainly help you sleep easier and improve your circadian rhythm. At the very least, stop glaring into your computer screen or your phone as these are major culprits when it comes to disrupting our brains.
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