What happens with poor sleep?
Circadian rhythm is the day-night cycle, an internal clock that makes you feel sleepy in the evening and wakes you up in the morning. When it gets out of whack, you sleep poorly and feel tired in the morning. This internal clock influences many other systems in the body so it’s no surprise that research connects poor sleep to bad mood, obesity, cognitive decline, systemic inflammation, impaired immune function, and even an increased risk of death.
How do you fix it?
First, you have to respect the cycle of day and night. The intense blue light in the morning after sunrise signals to your body that it’s time to produce cortisol, the activation and stress hormone, to get you up and energized for the new day. Similarly, the warm red light from the setting sun and the following darkness signal the body to release melatonin, the hormone of sleep. Nowadays, you can easily ignore these natural cycles. You can use blue light from your phone or TV screen at night and avoid direct sunlight in the morning.
Get more morning light
The first step to reset your night and day cycle is to get up early and expose your eyes to plenty of morning sun. This will feel awful at first and you will resist getting out of your warm bed. But as soon as you get out and the early morning rays hit your face, you will feel better as cortisol will flood your system. Your body will note this early light and adjust by making you sleepy earlier.
Go to bed earlier
The point of the morning light is to get you producing melatonin, the sleep hormone, as early after dark as possible. That’s because between 11:00 and 3:00, the first half of your sleep, is when you get the longest deep non-REM parts of the sleep cycle. Those help you recover and feel refreshed in the morning. Between 3:00 and 7:00, the proportions change and you get less of non-REM sleep and more REM sleep which is associated with dreaming.
Set two alarm clocks
If you want to reset your circadian rhythm, you need to be consistent and go to bed and wake up at the optimal time for more than just one night. The best thing is to set one alarm clock for morning and another one for evening time so that there are at least 8 hours between those. That way you will get enough sleep and not miss the early morning sun.
Next time we will take a closer look at artificial blue light and how to get rid of it to stop confusing your internal clock.