HOW TO RESET YOUR BODY CLOCK AND GET SOME SLEEP AROUND HERE!
If only resetting your Circadian Rhythm was as easy as resetting your watch, we would all be happy, well-rested campers. Speaking of camping, one of the *easiest* ways to reset your body clock in the shortest time possible is to unplug (from screens and electronics) completely, go camping, and rely only on natural light & an evening campfire for a few days. Since getting time like that away is a luxury for most people with the demands of modern life – and some people just don’t like camping – we have to adopt and employ some pretty strict habits for a bit longer than two days. The good news – it shouldn’t take much longer than a week to get your body used to a new schedule if you’re dedicated.
Now, I am NOT perfect and I am still working on this, but prioritizing sleep is WORTH IT. The ideal amount for adults according to the National Sleep Foundation is 7 – 9 hours. Less than 7 hours is correlated to declining health markers, impaired brain function, and significant weight gain & increased visceral (aka unhealthy) fat over time.
WE’RE ALL INDIVIDUALS – YOU DO YOU
I *like* being awake at 5am. I am super ultra productive and creative when I wake up at this time. It takes me a full hour of not thinking for my brain to properly wake up – this is when I go to the bathroom, make the coffee, meditate, have a QUICK walk outside, and do my gratitude journaling for the day. This does mean I have to be asleep by 10pm at the latest (and preferably earlier) to get my zzz in. Back it up further, that means screens are going off at 8pm.
This might sound like HELL to you. Adjust everything accordingly! Start with your ideal wakeup time. I suggest you try and adjust to waking up 30 minutes earlier to get a little boost of movement in, just a 10 – 20 minute walk if you’re going to exercise later in the day anyway. Fresh air is better than coffee for clarity, and I LOVE coffee, so you know I’m not lying!
Below you will find the stack of habits that will help you reset your body clock and transitioned ME from insomniac to well-rested woman, mood-swingy to even-keeled, and waving goodbye to all of my plateaus.
BEST SLEEP PRACTICES
GET OUTSIDE EVERY DAY preferably when there is natural light, but if you can only squeeze in a 20 minute stroll before sunrise, you will still be training your Circadian-regulated hormones.
IF YOU CAN’T GET OUTSIDE consider investing in a full-spectrum lamp like this one to mimic natural sunlight’s effect on your body. Bonus – it will also help boost your body’s serotonin production, help provide immune-strengthening Vitamin D, decrease the effects of depression and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). You’ll want to get at least 30 minutes of exposure per day as soon after you wake up as possible.
ALTERNATELY, DO YOUR BEST TO SIT NEXT TO A WINDOW WITH PLENTY OF NATURAL LIGHT. You won’t get the Vitamin D, but the light exposure itself will still help with sleep later.
FINISH YOUR LAST MEAL 3 HOURS OR MORE BEFORE YOU WANT TO BE ASLEEP, AND PREFERABLY WHILE IT’S STILL LIGHT OUT. Even if we have societal and cultural traditions of eating at 7, 8, 9pm, our bodies like to be done eating for the day by the time it’s dark. I’m sure there will be 9,000 protestations to this, but the fact of the matter is that your digestive system runs on body clocks, too, that take their cues from light absorbed by the cornea. As natural light dims, your pancreas starts to change shifts for the day, insulin production is suppressed, and glucagon production (when your body turns the glycogen stored in your liver into glucose to keep all systems humming through the night – this only happens when insulin is NOT present) ramps up. When you eat large meals after dark and insulin production is sluggish, you end up with way too much sugar in your blood – this is called hyperglycemia.
Chronic hyperglycemia can turn into Type 2 Diabetes and cause a whole host of other negative health effects, like damage to your blood vessels, vision, kidneys, nerve damage, skin infections, increased anxiety and confusion, and more. Eating lower carb can mitigate some of these possibilities, but overall, if you can limit night time eating, your body will be better off.
Also, eating a few hours away from bedtime gives your body a chance to get a little further in the digestive process, decreasing chances of GERD, heartburn, and indigestion when you’re trying to sleep!
TURN OFF ALL SCREENS 2 HOURS BEFORE YOU WANT TO BE ASLEEP. This is hard for me, too. I could scroll for the Olympics, and when I want to shut down my brain, watching a little Netflix does seem to help a girl zone out – BUT… The light from the screen not only screws with your pancreas again (think insulin & glucagon), but also your melatonin production.
Melatonin is THE sleep hormone, usually released by our human brains around 9pm. The light from phones, TVs, tablets, e-readers, etc may not seem like a big deal, but it is to your sleep cycle. Research has shown that blue light blocking glasses like these may MITIGATE the effects and setting any screens to “night mode” will also help if you MUST use screens, but to really get down to brass tacks and kick your insomnia in the butt, just turn off the screens 2 hours before bed.
CHILL. Meaning, get cool temperature wise in your bedroom. That might mean turning down the thermostat or investing in a cool pad for your mattress. Cool temps + warm feet, oddly, is a magic combo for catching the train to Sleepytown. I’ve been hearing great things about Chilipad and OOLER but I have tried neither.
GET DARK. I have budget blackout curtains I picked up at Ross to keep the street lights at bay, similar to these. In case you haven’t noticed, light is the enemy of sleep! The darker you can make your room, the easier time you will have resetting your body clock. Eye shades or a sleep mask can help, too.
TAKE A MINIMAL DOSE OF MELATONIN UP TO 30 MINUTES BEFORE YOU WANT TO BE ASLEEP. I used Source Naturals Melatonin Liquid. Melatonin pearls with 2mg or more dosage were giving me crazy dreams, so this 1mg dropper gave me more control over self-dosing. I found 1mg was PERFECT for me and swigged it in a shot of water at 8:45pm or so.
1… 2… 3… SLEEP!
It might take a hot minute to get this down pat, but your body will thank you in the long run for taking the time to reset your body clock. The rewards will be:
- A rejuvenated metabolism
- A rejuvenated APPEARANCE!
- Drastically reduced risk of multiple metabolic dysfunctions
- Increased insulin sensitivity
- A potentially increased sex drive!
- More productive waking hours
- Less stress
- BREAKING THROUGH A HEALTH PLATEAU!
Whether you’re trying to lose fat, build muscle, reduce blood sugar, improve cardiovascular health, reduce cholesterol, shrink excess skin, improve your digestion, SLEEP IS MAGIC!
Now, ‘scuse me – I need a nap…