It’s a struggle. You feel tired, even sleepy, but when your head hits the pillow, your body simply doesn’t get the memo. When you can’t sleep even though you’re tired, you may do well to look back through evolution to a time when people had no access to artificial light.
Your circadian rhythm needs a tune-up
Every person’s body runs on a 24-hour cycle that includes sleep time and awake time. Your circadian rhythm is an ancient, evolutionary system that originally dictated our sleep-wake cycle with the rising and setting of the sun. Basically, when it was dark, humans slept; when it was light, it was go time! After all, you can’t fix your best animal-spearing tool in sheer darkness, so you sleep and get back into it in the morning.
Today, however, humans are subject to countless impacts on our circadian rhythm, from the over-exposure to ‘blue’ light from screens and fluorescent lighting to shift work and lifestyle choices. No modern human is going to go to bed at sundown and wake up at sun-up. But there are ways you can tune your circadian rhythm back into a manageable one.
An important thing to understand about the circadian rhythm is the hormonal changes that occur in your body throughout the day. Levels of melatonin, the ‘sleep hormone’ remain naturally low during the day when it’s daylight outside but as darkness grows deeper, our bodies produce more, peaking between 2am and 4am.
How to readjust your circadian rhythm
You’re going to have to be a bit disciplined here. Consider it a project to work towards that will benefit your health and wellbeing and make you feel better.
- Reduce your exposure to blue light at night – Dim the lights, avoid bright fluorescent lights and if you must use screens (TV, phone or tablet), wear a pair of blue-blocker glasses. lamps with orange light bulbs around the house can help to stimulate melatonin.
- Go to bed and wake up at consistent times – Consistency and routine do a body good. Pick a bedtime and add 7-8 hours or work your way back from when you have to get up. If you must get up at 6am to be ready for work on time, plan to go to bed – every night – at 10 or 11pm. Even better, make it 30 minutes to an hour earlier in case you don’t go to sleep quickly.
- Wake up to daylight – The sooner you access natural daylight, the better your body likes it. Open the curtains or blinds in the morning and eat your breakfast on the front steps or the balcony. Sunlight tones down the production of melatonin which is perfect because when you wake up, you run on cortisol, which gives you energy for your day. Ten to fifteen minutes of daylight in the morning can be a great help to your sleep at night.
- Get some exercise in the daytime – The earlier in the day you exercise, the more conducive it is for night-time relaxation. You don’t want to be thrashing out an hour on the treadmill after dinner as it could keep you awake instead. Aim for a brisk walk before work or at lunch time. Hit the gym straight after work instead of in the late evening.
- Avoid naps – If you’re experiencing sleep problems at night, you might think that taking a nap can help. Unfortunately, the opposite is often the case. Napping can make it more difficult to sleep at night, when you really need to.
- Try to maintain a consistent routine – Aside from sleep, other parts of your life should be as consistent as possible when you’re trying to reboot your circadian rhythm. Get regular exercise, eat at around the same times each day if you can and try to avoid activities such as late-night partying that can throw your efforts out of whack.
- Utilise natural essential oils – The Australian Sleep Co.’s natural sleep remedy essential oils products may help trigger the release of melatonin, to help calm your mind and drift off to sleep.
At The Australian Sleep Co we love to help you have a better nights sleep. You can always give us a call and we can help. We would love to hear from you.