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What Is Circadian Rhythm? How It Affects Sleep | Sleep Reset

Understanding Circadian Rhythm in Adults

Aligning your circadian rhythm as an adult is incredibly important. It can help you sleep through the night and feel refreshed waking up. On the flip side, if your circadian rhythm is misaligned, it can cause sleep and health issues.

Read on to learn more about your circadian rhythm and how it can help you sleep better!

Learn How To Fix Your Circadian Rhythm

What Is Circadian Rhythm?

Your circadian rhythm is the natural rhythm of your body that controls your sleep and wake cycles. Your circadian rhythm is directly connected to your 24-hour body clock, and it can be affected by a number of factors. The circadian rhythm primarily follows changes in light. That’s why humans sleep at night and are awake during the day. An inverse example would be nocturnal animals. Their circadian rhythm is reversed because their unique physiology and feeding schedule are better suited for nighttime wakefulness.

When your circadian rhythm is in tune, you’ll sleep better. Your brain will alter your body temperature, hormones, and metabolism to put you in a state of restfulness or an alert, waking state. However, if you experience disruptions, your sleep will inevitably be affected. The good news is, there are various ways to reset your circadian rhythm. Keeping a set sleep routine and having healthy habits can help you keep your circadian rhythm in check and minimize the negative effects of disruptions.

What Happens When Your Internal Body Clock Is Off?

So restful and restorative sleep is the result when your internal body clock is ticking away the way it’s supposed to, but what if the clock is off?

If this is the case, you could start experiencing troubles with sleep. This can make it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep. When your circadian rhythm is off, your sleep quality is much lower. Which means not only will you sleep less, but you’ll be more tired during the day.

Quality sleep is absolutely essential to your long-term mental and physical health, so it’s crucial to get your rhythm back on track when it’s thrown off. The first thing to be aware of is the common disruptors that can mess with your circadian rhythm. Let’s hit those next.

Common Disruptors

There can be long-term and short-term disruptions to your circadian rhythm. Here are some of the disorders and conditions that you should be mindful of:

  • Shift Work Disorder - This is something that occurs when people frequently work the night shift. If you have to sleep during the day and work throughout the night, you’re going against your natural circadian rhythm, causing a disruption.
  • Jet Lag Disorder - Crossing time zones can easily disrupt your circadian rhythm. When you take a flight and you cross into a time zone that is far from your original time zone, you can throw off your sleep schedule as you try and adjust to the new day-night cycle. 
  • Non 24-Hour Sleep Wake Disorder - This is a disruption that commonly occurs in blind individuals. If you’re unable to receive light cues, your circadian rhythm can miss the signals and cause you to lose out on sleep.
  • Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder - Delayed sleep phase disorder is when you stay up late and sleep through the morning. This is more common in teenagers than adults.
  • Advanced Sleep Phase Disorder - This disorder causes you to fall asleep very early in the evening and wake up early. This disorder makes it difficult for these individuals to sleep in. It’s most common in older adults.
  • Irregular Sleep-Wake Rhythm Disorder - This disorder causes individuals to have no sleep pattern, and they may fall asleep randomly throughout the day.

In addition to these disorders, there may be other factors that disrupt your circadian rhythm, such as:

  • Stress
  • Mental health
  • Bad sleep habits
  • Irregular work hours
  • Side effects of medication
  • Environmental factors
  • Genetics

As you can see, there are many ways that your circadian rhythm can be disrupted. Typically, you can get your circadian rhythm back on track with some lifestyle modifications, but long-term misalignment can lead to some serious health effects.

What Are the Health Effects?

Sleep, and by extension, your circadian rhythm, are essential for good health. A disruption to your schedule every now and then isn’t going to be detrimental, but if your circadian rhythm troubles are ongoing, you could run into a myriad of health issues.

The parts of your body that can be affected by circadian rhythm disruptions include your:

  • Metabolism
  • Organs
  • Gastrointestinal system
  • Skin
  • Cardiovascular system

Sleep helps to regulate all of these organs and systems. When you’re not getting adequate sleep, they won’t be able to operate optimally. A lack of sleep can also make you more susceptible to a number of health conditions such as diabetes, anxiety, depression, and more. Sleep even helps you heal from injuries faster, so an imbalanced circadian rhythm can slow down your recovery processes as well. In the short term, you may just experience grogginess and less energy, but the long-term effects can be much more severe.

Ways To Reset

No matter what, disruptions to your circadian rhythm are bound to occur. Fortunately, there are some good ways to help your body reset. It can take a couple of days all the way to several weeks to get your circadian rhythm back in line. Keep that in mind when you’re following these tips:

  • Keep a consistent routine
  • Go outside and get some light to increase your wakeful state
  • Get some exercise
  • Sleep in a comfortable, cool, dark, and quiet environment
  • Avoid caffeine in the late afternoon and evenings
  • Avoid alcohol right before going to bed
  • Avoid naps

Once you get your circadian rhythm back on track, you’re definitely going to want to keep it that way. We have some good advice for that too.

How To Create a Healthy Circadian Cycle

While it's nearly impossible to have complete control over your circadian cycle, there are plenty of measures you can take to make it as healthy and consistent as possible. So, here’s how to train your body to keep a steady cycle:

  • Keep a consistent sleep schedule -  Make sure you try to go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every morning. This will help your body understand the sleep-wake cycle and keep your circadian rhythm in check. Make sure you’re avoiding naps during the afternoon and evening, and if you have to take a nap limit it to 15 minutes or less.
  • Exercise every day - Exercise helps your body to crave rest and it’s good for your mental state as well. Getting at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise every day can make a huge difference. It can be as simple as a brisk walk, but the important thing is you make an effort.
  • Get outside - Remember, the circadian rhythm is largely based on light cues. Getting outside and feeling the sun can help your body enter a stage of wakefulness. You can even combine this with your exercise to double up on your healthy habits.
  • Create a sleep routine -  A consistent sleep routine will help your body understand when it’s time to wind down. Make sure you do something relaxing that you enjoy. It could be something like taking a bath and then reading with your favorite candle. Whatever would help you wind down for the night is a good idea to start implementing on a regular basis.
  • Avoid stimulants and depressants near bedtime -  Caffeine is best enjoyed in the morning. It can stay in your system for up to seven hours depending on the individual. Of course, your tolerance levels may vary, but in general, an evening cup of coffee might disrupt your rhythm. Similarly, a glass of wine after work can be a relaxing way to wind down, but drinking right before you fall asleep can cause you to wake in the middle of the night. Try to keep these activities separate from your sleep routine when possible.
  • Practice relaxation techniques - Relaxation techniques can help balance your mind and body, and help improve sleep. A few good techniques you could try include breathing exercises, meditation, reading a relaxing book, or keeping a sleep journal.
  • Create a comfortable sleep environment - Make your bedroom a place you look forward to going to at night. Invest in a comfortable mattress and nice bedding. Make sure the room is dark and quiet. Also, make sure to only use your bedroom for sleep and sex, so you don’t associate it with wakefulness. 
  • Dim (or turn off) your screens - When you’re on your phone or laptop at night, make sure to dim the screens according to your environment and set your screens to night mode. Also, try not to consume any content that induces stress.

Following these tips can improve your overall sleep hygiene and get your circadian rhythm back on track. If you’re needing personalized help with your sleep,  Sleep Reset can help.

Start Sleeping Better With Sleep Reset Today!

Everyone’s sleep habits and problems are a little different. That’s why Sleep Reset offers personalized plans for better sleep and a dedicated sleep coach to help you get there. Typically, when people are having trouble with their sleep, the first thing they want to do is turn to sleeping pills or supplements. But these can lead to grogginess, side effects, and dependency. Sleep Reset addresses your sleep problems at their source, helping you to get better and deeper sleep for life.

If you want to sleep through the night and wake up well rested, without pills or melatonin or supplements, choose Sleep Reset. All you have to do is take our quick sleep assessment for us to find out your needs. Then, you can choose to get your customized sleep plan and a sleep coach who will provide you with the tools and plan you need to sleep better and feel better. Ready to get started? Take our easy sleep assessment today!

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