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Your Circadian Rhythm - What You Need To Know To Optimize Sleep

Published on June 16, 2022


By Gaia Herbs

Gaia Herbs

Your Circadian Rhythm - What You Need To Know To Optimize Sleep
Your Circadian Rhythm - What You Need To Know To Optimize Sleep

Everyone wakes up tired occasionally, but if you are constantly sleepy, struggling to concentrate during the day, and feeling drained, there could be a bigger issue than just a little missed sleep. 

Your body has an internal clock called your circadian rhythm. This biological clock dictates our sleep-wake cycle to help our bodies stay awake and fall asleep at the right time of day.

If your sleep schedule has been feeling a little off lately, we have good news. It’s possible your circadian rhythm may need a reset, which we’ll explain in a moment. 

Follow along as we discuss what your circadian rhythm is, what can cause it to become disrupted, and what you can do to get it back on track. 

What is the Circadian Rhythm?

Your circadian rhythm is a 24-hour cycle that is regulated by changes in light around you. Your circadian rhythm is governed predominantly by the Earth’s rotation, darkness, and light. This can help our bodies know when to be awake and when to be asleep.REF#1919

Within the circadian rhythm, we can find several different sleep and wake functions. 

Sleep Drive

Your sleep drive builds during your day with a crescendo that lets you know it is time for sleep at the end of the evening. Your sleep drive is low when you wake up, but as you expend energy, stay awake, and engage in activities, your sleep drive will build.REF#1920

Sometimes, we can sabotage our sleep drives by consuming too much caffeine, not getting enough physical exercise, or napping too much throughout the day. 

Cortisol and Melatonin

Another function that regulates the circadian rhythm is the release of both cortisol and melatonin. When we wake up, cortisol levels are high and increase for about an hour and a half afterward. This transition time from sleep to awake is known as sleep inertia.REF#1921

Before bed, our circadian rhythm responds to changes in the natural light around us as our bodies begin melatonin production to help us fall asleep.REF#1921 This natural cycle is why you may wake up at the same time of day, even without an alarm clock.

These functions usually work without a problem, but sometimes our jobs, activities, or lifestyles can disrupt our circadian rhythm.

What Causes Circadian Rhythm Disruption?

Just like a traditional clock, external triggers can affect our internal clocks and lose their ability to properly “tell time.” Usually, there’s a reason why this is happening, though the cause may not be something you can change. 

For instance, if your work schedule regularly has you on the night shift or if you’re somewhat of a night owl, your circadian rhythm may have adjusted so that you can sleep during the day instead of at night time. If you’re a shift worker, that’s probably helpful, but if not, it could mean you’re tired during the day. 

Traveling through different time zones, jet lag, and daylight savings time can all interfere with your circadian rhythm, making it harder for you to fall asleep or get the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep as an adult.REF#1922

In addition, light exposure plays a huge role in circadian rhythm function. For instance, living in areas that receive more hours of sunlight may make it hard for your circadian clock to function properly.REF#1922

Another known risk is artificial light sources like blue light.REF#1923 Blue light is emitted from the sun, but at nighttime, it can also come from sources like televisions, smartphones, and tablets. These bright lights can interfere with the circadian rhythm and disrupt our sleep patterns.REF#1923 

How Can You Reset Your Circadian Rhythm?

Resetting your body clock and getting better sleep may seem complicated, but you can get the job done quickly and easily with a few small changes and some helpful herbal supplements. When you’re tired of being tired, here are some ways you can support your sleep.

1. Practice Good Sleep Hygiene

Sleep hygiene refers to the routine you have before you go to sleep. This includes how long you take to wind down at the end of your day, when you plan your last meal time, and how you prepare for sleep. 

It’s a good idea to unplug from electronic devices at least an hour before sleep to avoid blue light.REF#1923 At the same time, consider turning down lamps, darkening the room, and finding a comfortable spot to meditate or read a book. 

It’s also important to go to sleep at the same time every night and have consistent wake times. Maintaining a sleep schedule can help reset your master clock and signal to your body that this is your new routine. 

2. Get Some Exercise

Getting plenty of physical exercise can help support healthy sleep and help your body produce melatonin.REF#1920 Physical activity can also help synchronize other systems in your body, which can help promote balance with your circadian system.REF#1924

Be sure to finish exercising at least three hours before you want to go to bed. If you exercise too close to bedtime, the elevation in your blood pressure, body temperature, and brain activity may keep you awake.REF#1925

3. Rethink Your Nightcap

A glass of wine before bed may help relax you enough to fall asleep, but alcohol can negatively impact your ability to stay asleep. Your body can take a while to metabolize alcohol, which means it could cause you to wake up hours after you’ve fallen asleep.REF#1926

In addition, studies show that alcohol can impair your sleep cycles. Normal sleep cycles follow specific patterns, but alcohol can interfere with these patterns and cause you to experience less deep sleep.REF#1926

4. Avoid Caffeine

Caffeine, like alcohol, can take a while to leave your system. The half-life of caffeine is about five hours, which means five hours after you’ve consumed it, half of it is still circulating in your bloodstream. This could make it more difficult for you to fall asleep and impact your ability to sleep regularly by interfering with your circadian rhythm. 

5. Take An Herbal Supplement

Certain herbs are known for helping calm nerves, relax the body, and ease the mind.* Taking them can help support your efforts to rebalance your circadian rhythm and help you get a good night’s sleep.*

We recommend Sleep Thru ®, a USDA Certified Organic supplement that can help you shut down your thoughts and get the rest you need.* This product is formulated with Ashwagandha, Passionflower, and Jujube Date, which are all adaptogenic herbs that have been studied extensively. Research has shown they can help support feelings of calm, relaxation, and sleepiness when taken together.REF#1927 

To use, take two capsules one hour before bed. 

6. Nix the Napping

It can be hard to say no to a nap, especially when you’ve missed sleep the night before. Unfortunately, the more you allow yourself to nap during the day, the harder it can be to fall asleep at night. 

Your naps could be depleting your sleep drive, which can help you fall asleep at the appropriate time. If you feel like you need a nap, try going for a walk instead. Getting some sunlight and movement can help you get a boost of energy, which may make it easier for you to complete your day without a nap.

7. Try a Different Bedtime

It can be hard to shift your circadian rhythm backward, especially if your body is used to going to sleep during the wee hours of the morning. To stay successful, don’t attempt to move your bedtime back too far too soon. In other words, if you regularly go to bed at 3:00 a.m., try moving your new bedtime to 2:30 a.m. 

Give your body ample time to adjust to the half-hour change before moving it back another half hour. The process takes time, but it can be a better way to reset your circadian rhythm than trying to move your bedtime from 3:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m..

Ultimately, if you try these tips and still have trouble sleeping, you may want to see a sleep specialist. Through some testing and observation, they may be able to determine whether or not you have a circadian rhythm sleep disorder or another sleep issue that’s preventing high-quality sleep.

Reset Your Rhythm, Naturally

Everyone can find themselves a little out of sync from time to time. Normally, our bodies do a great job of resetting themselves without us even noticing. However, when your circadian rhythm seems bent on misalignment, there are ways you can support it.

By practicing better sleep habits, exercising regularly, and avoiding certain substances, you can help fix a circadian rhythm that is out of whack. Taking an herbal supplement is another way you can ensure better sleep quality.

Here at Gaia Herbs, we treasure the connection between humans and nature. That’s why our herbal remedies are made to help you experience the benefits of ancient herbal medicine, now supported by modern science. To learn more, visit our blog!

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