The key to getting better sleep is becoming the master of your own circadian rhythm The circadian rhythm is the body’s internal biological clock. For most people, it runs on a 24-hour cycle. This system manages sleepiness, hunger, alertness, body temperature, and more.
It is all coordinated by a group of neurons called the Suprachiasmatic Nucleus (SCN) in the hypothalamus of the brain. The circadian rhythm tells our body when it is time to feel sleepy and fall asleep. While it would be nice to simply turn a dial to control our internal clocks just like a real clock, that’s not how the body works.
Instead, have to indirectly work with our circadian rhythm to improve sleep by following a few simple principles.
Stay In Sync
It’s easier to be compatible with your circadian rhythm if you stay in sync with it. Specifically, you sleep better when you have a regular, consistent schedule. Try to go to sleep and wake up at roughly the same time every day, no matter if it is a weekend or a weekday.
Sticking to your body’s natural timing makes it easier. Instead of fighting your circadian rhythm, it becomes your friend! This might be the easiest way to dramatically improve your sleep quality.
If you are still having trouble sleeping after following this guide, it may be worthwhile to talk to a sleep professional to get more tailored advice and intervention. Sleep is important!
Tip: Avoid Naps
Naps can make it harder to keep your circadian rhythm in sync. If you must nap, try napping for short periods of time (<30 minutes) and earlier in the day. This way, you’re not confusing your circadian rhythm. If you’re napping for long periods of time late in the day, that makes your circadian rhythm think that you’re sleeping for good!
Tip: Nighttime Routine
Just like some people like to have a morning routine, a nighttime routine is a great way of informing your circadian rhythm that it is time for bed.
Start your nighttime routine at the same time every day and try to avoid bright lights, screens, and stressors. Instead, incorporate relaxing activities such as a bath, reading, journaling, or calming music.
Tip: Manual Dial
Remember how the circadian rhythm lacks a manual dial? Well, light exposure is the
closest thing to a dial that we have. On a biological level, the neurons in your eyes lead directly to the Suprachiasmatic Nucleus that controls your circadian rhythm.
Therefore, managing light levels that reach your eyes is the #l tool at your disposal for
controlling your circadian rhythm.