The need for quality sleep has become a trendy wellness topic given the increasing number of people experiencing insomnia and other sleep-related problems. While a range of smart devices (sleep robots, smart mattresses, and smartwatches) have been developed to monitor sleep patterns, they don’t always guarantee quality sleep.
This is because most of the devices provide generic solutions that defy circadian biology. The human body is designed to follow an internal 24-hour solar cycle that regulates the sleep/wake cycle in humans. Also known as the circadian rhythm, it relies on the regular exposure to natural light and dark to reset.
However, the modern lifestyle has severely disrupted the natural circadian rhythm. We continually expose our eyes to screens and activity after dusk tricking the brain into thinking it’s still daytime.
With many people spending at least half of the week working the body further gets disconnected from the natural sleep cycle. This lifestyle causes the body to develop insomnia, difficulty staying asleep, and waking up too early without going back to sleep.
Other Circadian Rhythm Disorders include:
- Delayed sleep phase syndrome: Patients with this disorder fall asleep very late, making it difficult to wake up in time for school, work, and social activities. It is common in teenagers and young adults
- Jet lag syndrome: The syndrome causes one to be extremely sleep and lack daytime alertness. It is common in people traveling across time zones and gets worse every time you cross a zone
- Advanced sleep phase syndrome: The disorder causes an individual to go to sleep early and wake up earlier than expected. For example, you might sleep between 6 and 9 pm and wake up at 1 am
- Shift work disorder: The disorder affects people who rotate shifts or works at night frequently. The distorted work time disrupts the circadian rhythm causing you to sleep for four hours or less
- Irregular sleep-wake rhythm disorder: The condition distorts one’s circadian rhythm. As such, you may go for a series of naps over 24 hours
Ways to Reset the Circadian Rhythm
Irregular sleep patterns result from a distorted circadian rhythm and can’t be resolved using generic sleep patterns. Instead, it would help if you focused on optimizing the circadian rhythm. Here’s how:
Aurses Healthcare surgery in Long Beach advises daily exercise to reset your internal clock. Exercise stimulates melatonin production, realigning circadian rhythm. A thirty-minute workout of moderate aerobic activity five times a week should suffice. If working out in the evening, do it one or two hours before bedtime to avoid overstimulating the body.
2.Avoid Taking Naps
Naps are known to improve productivity and minimize stress. However, when you are actively working to reset your sleep cycle, napping can distort the circadian rhythm. Thus if you are exhausted, engage in other activities like yoga or taking a walk.
3.Bask in the Sun in the Morning and Evening
Studies show light exposure resets the body clock, particularly for people experiencing jet lag. This is because the daily sequences of light and darkness prompt the circadian rhythm. Retinal ganglion cells detect the light cycles and alert the hypothalamus gland, which activates the pineal gland to produce melatonin.
High melatonin levels, even in the absence of light, cause the body to become drowsy and fall asleep. When the body is exposed to light again, it ceases melatonin production, causing you to wake up. Thus exposing your body to natural sunlight in the morning and during the day should help reset the circadian rhythm.
It would help if you started dimming the lights in your bedroom and keeping off screens. Screens emit blue light, which can trick the body into producing melatonin, thus delaying sleep. If you must use a smartphone, or watch the television, use the Night Mode feature.
4.Fast and Scheduling Meal Times
Digestion and metabolism play a critical role in falling asleep and staying awake. According to research conducted at Harvard, animals’ circadian rhythm shifted based on food availability. The researchers found that fasting for 16 hours helped reset the sleep clock and minimized jetlag for people traveling across time zones.
If you have non-jetlag sleep disturbance, try a 16-hour fast by taking an early dinner and avoiding food until breakfast. Once sleep resumes the usual pattern, follow a regular breakfast and dinner schedule to support the consistent rhythm and to maintain and even boost your energy levels.
Ensure breakfast and dinner times are 12 hours apart, taking dinner a few hours before bed. Also, avoid taking dairy or saturated fats before going to bed.
5.Create a Bedtime Routine
A bedtime routine conditions your body to go to sleep. It doesn’t have to be a long, tedious event, but few simple tasks like:
- Turning off your screens
- Taking natural sleep aids
- Taking a bath
- Reading a book, journal
- Meditating or taking a cup of tea