How To Reset Your Circadian Rhythm

by admin on August 14, 2014

Circadian translated in Latin means “around a day”. Circadian rhythm refers to the biological process which is built-in to all living organisms around the 24 hour day. It is mostly innate and self sustained, but can be significantly affected and entrained by our environment. A proper healthy circadian rhythm usually has an individual rising with the sun and sleeping just after sun down. This cycle allows for optimal hormonal synergy with our environment which produces highest energy levels, health and well being.

How to reset your circadian rhythm

The Sun – “God” of Life’s Circadian Rhythm

There are many hormones that cannot properly do their jobs when the circadian rhythm is off. Melatonin, often called the sleep hormone, is the greatest example. In truth, melatonin not only prepares the brain and body for sleep, it also is an extremely powerful antioxidant and plays an important role in preventing cancer. Cortisol, the stress hormone, is also directly influenced by circadian rhythm.

Negative Health Effects Of Circadian Rhythm/Sleep Disorder

First, with this problem, your sleep is likely not going to come in enough duration of quality. On the surface, this is going to cause weight gain and a lowered immune system. Deeper, your body, especially brain and muscle tissue, is not regenerating daily as it needs to in order to stay young and healthy. Sleep deprivation is likely the quickest way to ages oneself chronically. Studies suggest that circadian rhythm/sleep disorders contribute to cancer, heart disease, depression and obesity. Obesity is rapid in its onset, in large part, because sleep disorder causes leptin resistance which will always cause weight gain. In fact, if you are overweight, you are leptin resistant. Click here to see my article about reversing leptin resistance.

Circadian Rhythm Thrown Off Time: What Are The Causes?

The most common cause is staying awake through the night, resulting in a need to sleep into the following day. Individuals working night shifts are the obvious victims here, though in today’s modern age, I would say that most people are falling victim to a seemingly harmless environmental factor which will negatively alter the circadian rhythm 100% of the time. What I am referring to is blue light from televisions, laptops, cellphones and light bulbs in the cool spectrum. Almost everyone I know looks into these light sources into the night. Blue light signals to the brain that is is day time and completely shuts down melatonin production. When this happens it is midnight but your body thinks it is 6:00 PM. Another concern is caffeine/stimulant consumption at night. Drinking coffee, tea or eating chocolate before bedtime can keep you awake, throwing off your circadian rhythm. Jet lag is a unique issue which will be addressed as well.

Now, How To Reset Your Circadian Rhythm

I will share the quickest, cheapest most foolproof way first, then go on to the strategies for those who cannot use this method. Leave all technology behind and go on a one week camping vacation. Being outside for several day will reset your circadian rhythm to the sun guaranteed. You will be in bed just a few hours after dark and up with the sun, refreshed with a full nights sleep. Starting to see why I made this website rewildthyself? Here is the issue! When you go back to your domesticated lifestyle at home with all of your domesticated practices, your circadian rhythm will fall off its natural cycle again in no time. So below are the modern life hacks required to keep that natural circadian rhythm while staying in your home.

Get Good Light

Good light will regulate your circadian rhythm. This would be the sun. When you get out into the sun during the day, serotonin increases (preventing depression), vitamin D is produced and more specific to our topic, sunlight travels through the optic nerve into your pineal “plugs up” melatonin (sleep hormone) production. Once the sun goes down and it is dark, the melatonin “plug” is released and we get a heavy flow of the sleep hormone. This is how day time sun exposure improves sleep at night and resets circadian rhythm. In fact this is the most powerful resetting tool. The best method is to look into the sun for at least 15 seconds every morning right when you wake up. The light travels into the pineal gland and the effect is almost instant. Melatonin is “plugged” and your daytime neurotransmitters come flowing. I also highly recommend  getting at least 15 minutes of full body (more than hands and face) exposure to the sun between 10 and 2 every day. The effects of this go beyond just health benefit. Sun exposure has been shown to improve reaction time among other parameters which I value highly as a martial artist.

Avoid Bad Light

How to reset your circadian rhythm

Blue Light Sources Mimic Mid Day Sun

By bad light I mean almost every unnatural light source. During the day, unnatural light will not harm the circadian rhythm but at night even a very dim light will inhibit melanin production which causes all kinds of problems beyond sleep that can will harm us long term. Most harmful and most often abused after dark are laptops, television, cell phones and of course blue spectrum light bulbs. Make sure all of your light bulbs are in the “warm” red spectrum, not the “cool” white spectrum which has much more blue light in it. The trick with phones and screens is to either completely avoid them once the sun is down or to where blue blocking glasses after dark. I have to wear the glasses because I cannot keep myself off the screens at night. If you do not have the glasses, just make sure to follow the sun down-screens off rule. Additionally, make sure to cover your digital alarm clock lights (red light is safe, no blue or green) and even the little beads of light that are on other electronics as these actually do inhibit melatonin.

How To Conveniently Avoid Night Time Blue Light

We all like to watch netflix after sundown, but how can we avoid sleep disruption while watching TV? Blue light blocking glasses! These blue blockers are effective and affordable. These blue blockers will fit over your glasses, and these shades are a more high end quality blue blocker if you can afford them.

Meal Timing And Composition

The “when” we eat and “what” we eat of daily meals plays a huge role in in stress hormone profile which is hugely important for our circadian rhythm. Did you know that the stress hormone cortisol is actually extremely important for our health? The issue comes when this hormone spikes at the wrong time. Naturally we should have a cortisol spike first thing in the morning and a gradual drop through the day until cortisol is very low at night and we fall asleep. If your circadian rhythm is flipped, so is your cortisol spike. Your cortisol will be highest late in the evening and low in the morning. This is the case if you cannot get to bed at night, but in the morning, you cannot get out of bed. I used to have this problem big time.

So how can we use our diet to correct this? The key is to consume your largest protein meal right when you wake in the morning. Ideal would be 50 grams of protein for breakfast but make sure you get at least 30 grams. This bulk of protein will raise those important stress hormones (like cortisol) right when you wake up which will then gradually lower through the day until cortisol is low at night and you will be able to fall asleep naturally.

Also important will be to avoid any insulin spike a few hours before bed. Insulin interferes with the deep sleep process. If you are waking at night due to hunger, take some coconut oil or butter oil before bed, this will not touch insulin and will provide long lasting satiety to fight off hunger.

Of course remember the obvious no-caffeine for 5 hours before bed. If you are having trouble sleeping, I recommend no caffeine through the day because even a morning cup of coffee will result in higher cortisol that night.

Exercise

Exercise can actually stimulate sleep, especially when properly timed. A vigorous workout 4-6 hours before bedtime seems to be the sweet spot. The physical exertion releases high amounts of endorphins which calm the body and prepare it for regenerative sleep. Interestingly though, walking may be the most effective method for sleep as is shown in studies. Aside from the endorphins and hormones, exercise raises body temperature. The following decrease in body temperature signals the body that it is time for sleep. Speaking of temperature.

Sleep Temperature

The optimal temperature for sleep has been studied to be 60-68 degreesfahrenheit. Higher or lower than this can cause restlessness which will not lend to a healthy circadian rhythm.

Hot Bath Before Bed

A hot bath is effective for lowering stress hormones before sleep. Also the following decrease in temperature will signal “bedtime” to the body.

Sleep Therapy

Now that we have covered the biophysiology aspect of correcting your circadian rhythm I would like to share the methods used in modern sleep therapy, which have worked well for me in the past.

Limit Time In Bed

If you are late getting to sleep and want to get to bed earlier, wake up with the sunrise no matter how much sleep you have gotten. This will make for a couple days of sleep deprivation but it is the quickest way to reset your body and get it sleeping at sundown and will prevent much more future sleep deprivation than it will cause short term. In order for this to work you must avoid naps until you are consistently falling asleep early when you want to.

“Sleep Hygiene”

Sleep hygiene refers to only using your sleeping quarters fors sleep and sex. This is a mistake I made which really hurt my quality of sleep. Lounging in bed during the day, watching TV, working on the laptop. The body comes to recognize the sleeping area not for sleep, but for watching TV, writing or whatever else you do in your bedroom.

Jet Lag

For jet lag I recommend taking .3-3mg of melatonin an hour before you need to sleep just the first night. Melatonin is very effective for immediately adjusting your circadian rhythm. This is actually the only time I recommend supplementing melatonin. You do not want to be reliant on a supplemental hormone.

Additional Nutrients To Assist Circadian Rhythm

    • Magnesium is critical for quality of sleep, I recommend magnesium citrate or glycinate right before bed.

 

  • L-Theanine is an amino acid which lowers stress by slowing the brain waves down to alpha. It is well known to promote sleep. I recommend 100-500 mgs before bed
  • Gelatin, a protein source, is the only food other than pure oil, that I recommend before bed. The most abundant amino acid in gelatin, glycine, is neuroinhibitory and has been studied to improve quality of sleep. To learn more about gelatin and its benefits, check out this article.

 

  • There are many sedative herbs that are very effective to take before bedtime. I recommend kava kava, ashwagandha, valerian, lemon balm, holy basil and passion flower to name a few. These always work best when taken together as a combination.

 

Summary

There is so much more that can be discussed but this is an article, not a book. Strategies at the top of the article such as camping/being outside, blue light exposure, meal timing and exercise are the most important things you should first master. Everything else will only improve your circadian cycles. I commend you for learning about this topic as it is one of the most important things to master if you want a long healthy life.

 

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Shaheen March 29, 2016 at 3:23 pm

Thanks for wonderful information. I am going to try looking at the sun and spending time under sunlight to treat my insomnia.

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Titus March 21, 2017 at 5:22 pm

Awesome notes. Thanks. I’m gonna try these. Now I’m typing this @3:50am and I’m still sleepless.

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