Your circadian rhythm is an internal master clock that runs constantly as it cycles between sleep and awake. Nearly every living thing on this planet operates with a circadian clock including plants, animals and even your organs, cells and hormones.
This master clock works to keep the body in balance, is intricately related to sleep and is synced to sunrise and sunset. It coordinates the release of cortisol, the hormone thought to prepare the body for the waking day, and it directs the release of melatonin, the hormone that signals to the body it’s time to sleep about two hours before our normal bedtime.
Light signals are sent to the master clock through the eye’s retina; historically this is from natural sunlight. Early morning light tells the body to release cortisol to give you energy for the day. The setting sun is a trigger to release melatonin, which make you sleepy.
Modern day living is creating an imbalance in our circadian rhythms due to a lack of being in natural light during the day and the extraordinary amount of light the body is subjected to in the late afternoon and evening hours. Blue light from phones, computers, tablets, televisions is the worst offenders; look around you, where else are you seeing light emanating from in your home or office?
Interfering with this clock can bring on significant challenges with our sleep, immune system, metabolism and overall general health and wellbeing. Many studies are even connecting circadian misalignment and shortened sleep with an increased risk of diabetes, metabolic syndrome, heart disease, mood disorders, obesity and even cancer.
Sleep deprived people are more impulsive, so its’ easier to ‘pull the trigger’ on something – spend money in ways you typically wouldn’t, snap at family or coworkers over small issues and to reach for more food without thought. In fact, the thought is that when you get less sleep you eat more because the body is seeking the energy it needs to maintain being awake.
Can you reset your internal master clock?
It’s takes some time and effort, but absolutely. The below recommendations may seem quite dull, but they truly make a huge difference in our internal body clock.
- Expose yourself to bright, natural light first thing in the morning
- Limit the amount of time you wear sunglasses
- Reduce/dim lighting as bedtime approaches
- Stop all caffeine by noon
- Stop electronic devices at least 1 hour before bedtime
- Remove electronic devices from the bedroom
- If you have to work in the evenings, use blue blocking glasses at night and install a blue light filter on your electronics