7 Steps to Reset Your Sleep Cycle
December 18th, 2017
You already know that sleep is important, but did you know that your sleep cycle, or circadian rhythm, actually determines your hormones, energy levels, and how well you recover from illness?
The word circadian comes from the latin circa, meaning “about” or “around,” and diem, meaning “day.” Your sleep cycle is “about a day,” or about twenty-four hours. Before clocks and electric lighting, our ancestors woke with the sun, and went to sleep when it got dark, which is exactly the way your body is designed to function. Staying up too late, spending too much time indoors, and getting false energy from caffeine and sugar can upset your body’s rhythm and throw off your immune system and hormones.
Let’s look at some of the ways you can reset your circadian rhythm and have deep, restorative sleep at night, and lasting energy during the day:
1. Aim for 8 to 9 hours of sleep each night.
This is the amount that most people are going to need, but you can find your ideal number by seeing when you wake naturally without an alarm. You might want to try this method over a weekend.
Sleep is a crucial part of healing. It’s when we are asleep that our bodies can repair damaged tissue and quell inflammation.
2. Skip the caffeine and sugar.
Caffeine and sugar make it hard to tell when you need sleep because they give you a false sense of energy. They only perk up your mind, tricking you into thinking you aren’t tired, when your body is telling you just the opposite!
Practice reading your body’s natural cues. It may seem obvious, but when you’re tired, go to sleep. Don’t stay up reading, watching TV, or browsing the internet when your body is giving you obvious signs of sleepiness. It’s doing so because it needs time to repair itself.
3. Spend time outside.
Just as you need to be in the dark at night, you need to be in the light during the day! Specifically, the sunlight. Get outside and expose yourself to the sunlight at least 3 times a day, which will not only help to reset your sleep cycle, but it will increase your Vitamin D production.
Being connected to the ground can also help to correct your internal clock and relieve stress. Because 90% of our time is spent indoors, so many of us are physically cut off from the earth. So take a nap on the beach, walk barefoot through the grass, or get your hands dirty in a garden. Do something every day that will put your body in direct contact with the earth.
4. Limit use of electric lighting after sunset.
Too much electric lighting can trick your body into thinking it’s day time when it’s actually night. Because your hormone production responds to light, lighting your house after sunset can prevent you from getting a deep and healing sleep.
Turn off overhead lights once the sun goes down, and keep your lamps as dim as possible in the evening. Sleep in a dark room, or use blackout curtains or a sleeping mask. This will help reprogram your inner clock to recognize night time as a time for sleep, and daytime as a time to be awake and energetic. If you aren’t able to dim your lights, you can replace them with amber light bulbs, which emit a different frequency of light that does not interfere with your circadian rhythm. I myself put amber light bulbs in a few cheap lamps, and I use only this second, dimmer set of lamps after the sun goes down. If I need to get up after I’ve gone to bed, I use my cell phone as a dim flashlight and avoid turning on any lights.
5. Turn off all electronic devices two hours before sleep.
Many of us like to watch TV or use our computers before bed, but these devices emit light. Your sleep cycle adjusts according to light, and receiving too much at night can make it hard for you to fall asleep by disrupting your melatonin production. Reading with a dim bedside lamp is a much better alternative.
Sometimes one’s job makes it impossible to avoid using electronic devices late at night. If you’re usually working late on your computer or reading on your iPad, you can download the f.lux app that adjusts to the time of day and creates an amber hue on the screen after dark.
My favorite sleep tool, and the one I won’t travel without, is my pair of amber glasses! The amber-colored lenses in the glasses literally block out the blue light that reduces melatonin production, so that your body naturally gets sleepy as you near bedtime. Since I started wearing them, I’ve seen a huge difference in my ability to fall and stay asleep each night.
6. Go with the seasons.
You’re probably thinking that it’s going to be difficult to power down your electronics, dim your lights, and prepare for bed in the winter time, when it can start to get dark in the afternoon. Will you be sleeping too much?
The truth is, just as your body is designed to move with the day, it’s also designed to move with the seasons. You will sleep more during the winter, and that’s what you need. Winter is a time to conserve your energy and repair your body, especially if you live in a colder climate. Appetites change seasonally, and so do sleep requirements.
7. Consider magnesium to support healthy sleep patterns.
Whether you’re wanting to wake up feeling alive and energized, focus on the task at hand, remember everything on your daily ‘to do’ list, or just get a good night’s rest, you need an ample amount of magnesium to accomplish it. In addition to supporting the health of your nerves themselves, magnesium also helps with occasional head tension & discomfort and supports a relaxed mood.
A magnesium supplement can be a safe way to help you fall asleep and stay asleep. I use NeuroCalm every evening before bed. I find it tremendously helpful in managing a stressful workload and falling asleep peacefully every night.
You can make these changes all at once, or one at a time. Taking care of your circadian rhythm will help you sleep well and wake refreshed.