With the new year approaching, many people are looking for ways to make 2020 their best yet. For some, this means a new diet or a new exercise regimen. For others, it means new educational goals or plans to move forward in life in other ways. Regardless of how you plan to make this new year incredible, keeping a healthy circadian rhythm can help you to achieve all of your goals.
Why is Your Circadian Rhythm Important?
Your circadian rhythm, also known as your sleep-wake cycle, is the part of your internal clock that controls activities that occur on a 24-hour cycle. The circadian rhythm is controlled by a “master clock” in your brain as well as individual clocks in all of your cells and tissues.
The body’s clocks determine the time of day by using a variety of cues. When our eyes sense light, our brain assumes it is day and sends messages to let the rest of the body know. Temperature, exercise and even eating food also act as cues to time of day.
Your circadian rhythm is at its healthiest when you keep as regular of a schedule as possible. However, many modern people have difficulty maintaining a stable schedule. As a result, many suffer from internal clocks that are not ticking on the correct time. This can have a variety of health effects, from making you more fatigued during the day to increasing your chances of developing serious diseases such as heart disease and cancer.
If you want to have the healthiest new year possible, consider getting your circadian rhythm back into a healthy flow with the following five helpful tips.
1. Learn to practice good sleep hygiene.
Sleep hygiene is a term that encompasses the many habits that help us to sleep well at night. These include:
- avoiding stimulants such as coffee and tobacco in the hours before bed
- going to sleep and waking at the same times every day
- turning off lights and screens in the half-hour before bedtime
- keeping your bedroom at a comfortable temperature
- having a bedtime routine that relaxes you and prepares you for sleeping
- avoiding exercise and food in the hours just before bed
These and other habits are simple ways to help you to become sleepy at the right time and to wake with the dawn. Good sleep hygiene actually trains your body to sleep and wake at the times that you need it to.
2. Consider a few simple lighting hacks.
Because light is one of the major cues to our bodies as to what time it is, changing your lighting can affect your sleep schedule — for better or worse. Using bright natural light during the day while keeping your surroundings dimly lit at night is important, but it is just the beginning. Many companies are developing lamps that change color and wavelength of light according to the time of day as well, to mimic natural sunlight.
3. Change when you eat.
Intermittent fasting is becoming one of the most popular health trends in the Western world because it helps you to lose weight while gaining muscle. However, new research suggests that it also helps to regulate your circadian rhythm while lowering your risk of several deadly diseases. Experts are not entirely sure how health can improve so much from eating for only six to eight hours a day, but the benefits are clear.
4. Keep stress levels under control.
Almost everyone in the contemporary world has to deal with stress on a regular basis. Although stress and anxiety are common, they can be extremely detrimental to your health and particularly to your circadian rhythm. If you want to keep more regulated sleep-wake cycles, find ways to deal with the stress in your life. Whether you choose yoga, massage or another coping strategy, lowering your stress levels will almost certainly improve your mood and your sleep as well.
5. Take a melatonin supplement at night.
Many people have difficulty adjusting to a new schedule. However, taking a melatonin supplement just before bed can help. Melatonin is the hormone that your brain releases when your eyes are not exposed to light. It serves as a cue that it is time to sleep. This safe and all-natural hormone can help you to get the sleep you need while you are working to adopt the other four habits on this list.
Keeping a healthy circadian rhythm is one of the best ways to hack your health. In addition, it requires only minor changes. Implementing these five simple lifestyle changes can help you to finally get the sleep that you need.