Healthy Sleep and Circadian Rhythms

Daylight savings has always confused many people. Is it one hour back or forward and how does that actually affect us? Now many of you may wonder if changing the clocks by an hour can actually affect you, but if you woke up on Monday and found it hard to get out bed, it might not just be a usual case of Mondayitis (or too much Grand Final partying) but the effects of daylight savings!

Daylight savings can disrupt our circadian rhythms, or our internal body clock. On October 1st in Australia (everywhere except Queensland, Northern Territory and Western Australia) we put our clocks forward (well if you have a smart phone it just magically happened overnight!) which may have felt like we have lost an hour. Never fear though, it’s not like that hour just disappears into thin air – we gain an hour of daylight at night which for some is the Holy Grail (more time to do things in the evening yay!) but it can take some time to transition.

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Think of circadian rhythms as your internal clock which influences bodily processes and some types of behavior. Circadian rhythms are mostly influenced by endogenous factors (internal factors like the hypothalamus in the brain which is the driver). Exogenous or external cues such as sunlight can also affect your body clock. Now, your circadian rhythms work best when you have regular and consistent sleep and wake cycles. Factors such as jet lag, staying up waaay too late, sleeping in until midday(!) and daylight savings can mess with your circadian rhythms which can lead to a loss of focus and energy slumps – kind of like Mondayitis I guess. Long term effects of disrupted circadian rhythms have been associated with insomnia, depression, obesity and infertility.

My top tips for helping you to cruise through the daylight savings transition include the following:

Spend time Out In The Sunshine:

I swear that sunlight is the antidote for so many ailments! Sunlight is one of those external factors which can directly affect circadian rhythms. We may have forgotten it, but we are natural beings who are inextricably linked to our natural environment. When you get up in the morning, one of the first things you should do is throw open those curtains and let some natural sunlight in. If it’s warm enough, enjoy your breakfast outside. Having contact with sunlight has positive effects on mood, energy and motivation.

Exercise:

I tell my clients all the time that movement really is medicine. It’s as important as the food that you consume. Our bodies were made for movement! Exercising in the morning, especially when coupled with sunlight can help to kickstart your circadian rhythms, boosts mood and focus and can really set you up for the day.

Eat Seasonally

This one can be a bit tricky as it seems like all foods are available at all times of the year now! Eating seasonally means that you are eating foods which would naturally be available at the time you are consuming it. This helps to keep you in tune with seasonal rhythms which can only be a good thing. It also means that you are spending less on fruits and veggies, it’s cheaper to buy organic and energetically you are getting what you need when you need it. For instance, we are coming into spring, (a great time to detox after a long winter!) which is a fantastic time to start enjoying berries, spring greens and herbs – which all have a positive effect on your liver ☺

Don’t Stay Up Too Late (or sleep in too much!)

Before we had electricity available 24/7, we would wind down for the night at sunset and wake up at sunrise. This is more aligned to our natural circadian rhythms. In today’s modern world, we feel obliged to be available at all times of the day and night, which can have a negative influence on our natural body clock. Having misaligned circadian rhythms have been linked to chronic disease states. For instance, night shift workers (who are awake and working when they should be asleep), have increased risk of mood disorders, obesity, diabetes,  cardiovascular disease and a range of other chronic health issues.

Take Some Herbs

Yes, that’s right, no discussion is complete without me mentioning herbal medicine (I’m a Naturopath remember!). There are so many safe and effective herbs which can be used to improve sleep patterns, reduce stress and help to improve energy levels. Taking herbs can help to help to encourage natural and balanced circadian rhythms. Ask me what herbs are right for you!

 

lou

Thanks to our amazing Naturopath Lou for the great advice! Find out more on Instagram @littlealchemy 

 

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