Sleep & Circadian Rhythms

There is a lot you can do to improve your quality of sleep. Many of these are referred to in my free e-book, ‘Improve Your Sleep’. One of the aspects I cover in the e-book is the importance of living in harmony with your body’s natural rhythms. In particular your circadian rhythm. Why is this important? Different hormones come into play at different times of the day triggering different systems and sequences.  You have a circadian temperature sequence, a circadian digestive sequence and a circadian sleep sequence, to name a few. Living in harmony with these sequences has positive impacts; living in harmony with the circadian sleep sequence supports improved sleep.

You may have heard of the hormone melatonin. It is a hormone that signals to your brain and body the degree and quality of light in your environment. Melatonin is like the official starting a race, he tells the runners to get ready, fires the starting pistol, but does not participate in the race. Melatonin’s daily variation is depicted in the graph below which shows a rise soon after dusk, reaching its peak in the middle of the night then falling to a normal daytime low in the early morning.

Graph – Melatonin secretion cycle – BLUblox, (printed with permission)

In ideal conditions, melatonin begins to build in the hours prior to your natural sleep time, and tapers off as you wake at your natural wake time. Natural melatonin levels can be negatively impacted by exposure to blue light emitted by screens and other artificial light sources including household lights. The impact of artificial blue light is greatest in the three to four hours before sleep.  The lower level of melatonin resulting from exposure to artificial light tells your body darkness, and therefore the need for sleep, is still hours away.

Here are some tips to help you work in harmony with your natural sleep rhythms:

  • Go outdoors in the morning to get some natural light, this will help set your melatonin level for the day. Outdoor activities during the remainder of the day also assist. You do not have to be in direct sunlight.
  • Aim to keep away from blue light emitting light sources such as screens and bright white light from sunset.
  • If you must use screens utilise the day/night screen option of your device and/or install blue light filtering software.
  • Keep light low in the evening. If possible, invest in some blue light blocker light globes and or blue light blocker glasses.
  • Once in bed, keep your room dark (you should not be able to see your hand in front of your face when the lights are off). Sleep masks or blackout curtains can help here.

A good night’s sleep does not always come easily. These tips support the melatonin circadian cycle and may assist you in overcoming your sleep issues. For a more comprehensive coverage of sleep tips, refer to my e-book, ‘Improve Your Sleep’.

If you’d like more information about how health coaching can help you make meaningful lifestyle changes that work best for your values, strengths and circumstance contact Annette for a discovery chat.

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