In our fast-paced, open-24-hour modern world, it is easy to forget that we have a natural rhythm that has been with us from the very beginning of our species. Evolving to the cycle of light and dark (day and night), our circadian rhythm is an approximately 24-hour cycle that helps to regulate innumerable bodily processes; right down to the actions of individual cells and their energy producing mitochondria. A natural way to boost your energy during the day is to work with your circadian rhythm, aligning your activities and routines to how – and when – your body is designed to function.
How to Boost Your Energy Naturally Via Your Circadian Rhythm
If you’re going to hack a system, you need to have some knowledge about how that system works. The circadian rhythm helps to regulate the timing of activities, including sleep and wake times, and to synchronize biological clocks throughout the body.
Over tens of thousands of years, humans evolved under the most basic rhythm of all: day and night. Our bodies and all of their ultra-complex inner workings evolved to a pattern of being active during the day and resting at night.
The circadian rhythm is impacted by external cues and, with how we live today, it can be very easy to get out of sync with your circadian rhythm, impacting sleep quality, energy levels and overall health. Energy boosting circadian rhythm hacks focus on better managing these cues. Light is the most powerful circadian rhythm cue by far, but also important are meal timing, calorie balance and physical activity.
Light Hacks to Help Your Energy Levels
We spend a lot more time indoors than did our agrarian ancestors, reducing significantly our natural light exposure. Outdoors, depending on the weather, light exposure ranges between 10,000 lux on a cloudy day to 150,000 lux on a sunny day with clear, blue skies. Compare that to the 400 lux of a typical office and you can see how light deprived people can be.
That matters not only for the circadian rhythm, but also for serotonin production, which has a role in how energetic we feel. On top of light deprivation during the day, the use of artificial bright lights and light-emitting electronic devices in the evening also has a negative impact on the circadian rhythm and can delay sleep timing significantly.
So, to improve daytime energy levels and nighttime sleep quality, bring your light use more in line with how your body is meant to work. Get plenty of natural light exposure, especially during the morning. In the best-case scenario, get that morning light within half an hour of waking up. A cup of coffee outside is nice, but even better would be a bit of physical activity.
Try to get natural light exposure throughout the day, even if it is just through a window. Try to get outside for a few minutes around sunset, when the light is waning, to provide your circadian rhythm with the light signals it needs for evening and night.
Avoid using bright artificial lights in the evening, especially in the two to three hours before bedtime. Bright light in the evening interferes with the melatonin production that helps to ensure timely sleep and a well-rested night. Part of the issue has to do with the light color spectrum of modern lighting, such as florescent and LEDs, and electronic devices. These emit blue and green spectrum light that has been shown to suppress the production of melatonin.
Keep the lights low during the two hours before bedtime and avoid using mobile phones, tablets and computers. When you sleep, make sure the room is dark. Go to bed early enough that you awake to the morning light with ease.
Meal Timing and Calorie Distribution, With Energy in Mind
Meal timing also serves as a cue for the circadian rhythm. For better circadian rhythm alignment, time your meals to include an intermittent fasting period of eight to twelve hours, or even sixteen. Set that overnight fasting time to start after your evening meal, which should be three hours before your bedtime.
Focus on fueling your activity during the day by consuming the bulk of your calories earlier, instead of during a large evening meal. Choose whole foods, avoiding processed foods as much as possible.
Get Enough Physical Activity
Our modern lifestyle tends to be more sedentary. However, we are built to be active during the daytime. Make sure to get some exercise or physical work done during the day, especially outside in the sun.
Try to diminish the daytime sitting habit by standing more often. If you are a desk worker, consider a standing or adjustable desk. Take a few minutes per hour during your workday to stand and stretch.
Consistent Habits Are Key
The most important energy boosting circadian rhythm hacking tip is to have consistent habits. Set a regular time for waking, sleeping, eating and relaxing. Stick to your schedule even on days off from work or school. If these are new lifestyle choices for you, start out with setting a firm waking and sleeping schedule. That will make it easier to set the other changes in motion.