Your natural body clock is something that should not be taken for granted. Which is exactly what most of us do. Skipping a good night sleep for the sake of a party, work, socialising of any sort or just binging on your favourite Netflix series sound familiar at all? How about ignoring the pains and perils of jet lag, guilty of that at all? And how many times has the overused and over-simplified catchphrase ‘I’ll sleep when I’m dead’ slipped your lips?
It’s time that we leave that ‘we don’t need to sleep much to function’ rhetoric behind and begin to face the truth for exactly what it is. Sleep is our medicine. It is our natural antibiotic if you may. It keeps us healthy; it keeps us sane, and very importantly it keeps us happy. Which is exactly why everyone should spend a little less time thinking they are a biological phenomena that does not need sleep and a little more time to understand what they need to do in order to balance their circadian rhythm on a daily basis. Yes daily but it’s nothing like going to the gym, so don’t worry.
Taking the time to balance your circadian rhythm every day can mean many different things to different chronotypes (are you a morning or an evening person?). But essentially it’s all about understanding what type of light your body needs and at what time of the day, and then simply changing what we call your ‘light habits’ to fit this.
Struggling to get out of bed in the morning? Opening the blinds straight after jumping out of bed and eating your breakfast by the window will kickstart your circadian rhythm and immediately put your day to a good and healthy start. Feeling tired during the middle of your day? Here you can try to eat lunch by a window and then go for a 3 minute walk around the block. The light your body will absorb from this will encourage your metabolism to work and feed some energy into your brain. Even on an overcast day during winter there is enough light outside to do this.
One of the most important daily light routines that causes our circadian rhythm damage is our exposure to screens and bright lights in the final hours of our day, usually before bed. Now dictating a routine that eliminates bright lights and screens from our evenings is near impossible, sure. But dimming the lights in your home, your bathroom (very important when you’re brushing your teeth just before bed), and perhaps limiting your screen time to no later than 2 hours before bed can have a palpable positive impact on your sleep and circadian rhythm health.
Whether it is a small change to your morning, afternoon or evening, or a full blown shift in daily habits all together, understanding that a well-balanced circadian rhythm is important is the first step. The rest is up to you really.