How to improve your circadian rhythm, and thus sleep quality?

Julie Topping

Published on February 4, 2021, 12:37 pm

How to improve your circadian rhythm, and thus sleep quality?

Aren’t we all on the same page when it comes to sleep? From thousands of Youtube’s 4 am playlists to apps, the sleep market is a huge $432 billion now - but we are still not getting enough sleep.

Even with multiple sleep solutions and sleep-obsessed culture, we remain so sleepless.

One in three of us suffer inadequate sleep while one in 10 experience regular insomnia.

The reason for the sleep deprivation in our modern lives is mostly due to defying our circadian rhythm.

What is circadian rhythm?

All organisms, including us, have an internal daily clock, known as circadian rhythm. It regulates every biological system in our body, from our sleep/wake cycle to mood boosts. In simpler terms, it is the only thing that tells our body - “hey, it’s time to sleep!” or “whoa, it’s to wake up (and switch off the freaking alarm)”.

The way our circadian rhythms work is by exposure to regular light-dark cycles. The daytime light cues the circadian clock to wake up and stay alert, while the darkness around tells our body to sleep. The sun’s bright blue light helps us to recharge for the day by making us alert and active while the night’s darkness switches on our sleep mode.

What causes circadian rhythm disorder?

circadian rhythm disorder

A circadian rhythm disorder kicks in due to our technologically advanced culture that utilises artificial light more than the natural. Circadian rhythm disorder is a result of two things: not enough exposure to natural light and overexposure to artificial light rays.

Our eyes are constantly blasted with blue light rays from ever-brighter, addictive screens after dusk. These lights rays trick our brains into thinking it's daylight and you tend to continue on your Netflix binge-watch, or Instagram scrolling unless you are physically exhausted.

With an increase in night shift employees and remote work culture, the current working environment favours disconnection from the natural cycle. A normal urban life comprises 24/7 working, light pollution, natural sunlight deprivation and extensive screen consumption.

It’s safe to say that our lifestyle is completely a “lightmare”.

Dr Stevel Lockley, associate professor of medicine at Harvard explains “The absolute key to healthy sleep and circadian rhythms is stable, regularly-timed daily light and dark exposure—our natural daily cues. Sleep negates light input to the brain, and so keeping a regular sleep pattern will also help maintain regular light-dark exposure. After dusk, when natural light disappears, we must minimize the negative impact of man-made light. In the day, we have evolved to be in the light, ideally sunlight, but if not, high-quality blue-enriched indoor light. Period. Given that most of our body systems express circadian rhythms, ensuring proper alignment of our internal circadian clocks, starting with the management of lighting, will have major impacts on human health.”

While there are numerous sleep solutions, we can always start by correcting our natural circadian rhythm to induce sleep naturally. Prioritising our circadian rhythm can be the only and biggest solution to getting quality sleep in modern times.

6 Ways to reset your circadian rhythm to improve quality sleep

The following measures are significantly helpful in improving and resetting our circadian rhythm to help us sleep better.

1. Wear blue light glasses

blue light glasses

Blue light blocking glasses or blue light glasses are an advanced and modern solution to eliminate overexposure of artificial blue light from digital screens. The temptation to check a last-minute email or scroll through Instagram comfortably at night loses you quality sleep and causes an unhealthy sleep routine. As the blue light from screens tricks our brain into thinking the night as pure daylight, thereby making us feel alert, active and awake.

To stop such detrimental actions on our health, blue light glasses work the best. You can wear these glasses to complete a last-minute work on your digital device without any eye-strain, or sleep disruption. Learn more about the benefits of blue light glasses here.

2. Step out in the sunlight

Step out in the sunlight

To put it beautifully, watch more sunset and sunrises. The blue light (the good one) from the sunlight helps to improve our circadian rhythm more than any device. We completely understand it’s not easy to enjoy sunrises and sunset since we all have our desk jobs and important meetings lined-up. The solution is to step outside for at least five minutes a day to witness sunrise and sunset. The motto is to soak all the special and nutritional lights that are available during the sunrise and sunset, helping your sleep and wake cycle.

Note: Smartphones (no sunrise or sunset stories, please!) and sunglasses are strictly prohibited for the 5-minutes of your wellness routine.

3. Create Mealtimes

Create Mealtimes

Digestion also helps to improve our circadian rhythm therefore eating well and timely is greatly important. Our body thrives on routine, and building an eating routine can do our body wonders. Controlling and dividing our meal times every day can help our body to look out for the next one. We aren’t telling you to conform to a strict breakfast at 9:00 am, but sticking to a general eating schedule can help you digest and eat better.

4. Avoid Screen Time after Dusk

Avoid Screen Time after Dusk

You saw this coming, right? Screens are the biggest threat to your physical and mental well-being. As we’ve mentioned earlier, the blue light emitted from digital devices - computers, smartphones, TVs, and others leaves a negative impact on our sleep. So keep a tab on your screen time, try to finish all the work that involves your smartphone or desktop to stop yourself from getting exposed to blue light. Even if you do, always wear your blue light glasses. Both non-prescription and prescription glasses come with a blue light filter.

5. Skip Napping

Skip Napping

If you are really looking for a night of quality sleep, then you must save some. Naps are great, in fact, science claims daytime naps can improve alertness, boost creativity, reduce stress, brighten your mood and boost memory.

But if we are focusing on getting a good night’s sleep, then a nap can throw a wrench in the routine. Try to substitute naps for taking a walk, doing a bit of yoga or enjoying your long-lost hobby when you are really tired in the afternoon. Once you manage to crack the code of sleeping well at night, then you can bring back your napping hours.

6. Make your bedroom easy to fall asleep in

Make your bedroom easy to fall asleep in

Bedrooms can also change how well you fall asleep. For many, bedrooms are a place of work, binge-watch shows, study rooms and many more. So to make your bedroom the best place for sleep, you must make changes. Here are some of our suggestions that help for a bedroom makeover -

No Technology allowed - Sleeping is best induced when there are fewer chances of distraction. So put away your smartphones, TVs, and computers out of your bedroom, so when you enter you can only think of falling asleep.

Conceal your LED lights - The lights are quite an aesthetic but it can hinder your sleep. So cover them using an electrical tape.

Wear sleep masks - If you don’t want even a thin ray of light in your eyes while sleeping, a sleep mask can always help.

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