Every living organism has a circadian rhythm - from your cat, Fluffy, to that house plant you’ve been trying to keep alive. If you’ve read any article or blog post to do with sleep you’ve definitely heard the term “circadian rhythm”, but do you know what it means?
Keep reading for a 101 on Circadian Rhythm! Understanding your circadian rhythm is key to balancing your sleep and other aspects of your mind & body wellness.
What Does Circadian Rhythm Mean?
The definition of your circadian rhythm is pretty easy: it is the physical, mental, and behavioral pattern we follow on a daily cycle. Circadian rhythms are 24-hr cycles that are part of the body’s internal clock.
The term circadian rhythm comes from the Latin phrase “circa diem”, meaning around the day. Circadian rhythm exists in living things other than just humans. They can help flowers open and close or help nocturnal animals gauge the danger of daylight.
For humans, circadian rhythms are 24-hr cycles that are part of the body’s internal clock. Different systems of your body follow circadian rhythms, all becoming in sync with your master clock! Circadian rhythms are also tied to mental and physical health too, making them crucial to understand for your body’s overall wellness.
How Does Circadian Rhythm Work?
Let’s get into the nitty-gritty of how circadian rhythms actually work! In humans, circadian rhythms coordinate with mental and physical systems, connected to the master clock - referred to as the circadian pacemaker found in your brain.
This “pacemaker” is found in the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) - throughout different times of the day, “clock genes” in the SCN send signals to regulate activity throughout the body.
Your body’s master clock is influenced by your environment as the SCN is highly sensitive to light. This is the reason why circadian rhythms are connected to the day and night. When balanced, your circadian rhythm can help you get a great night’s sleep.
Is a Circadian Rhythm the Same as a Biological Clock?
Biological clocks are what create circadian rhythms. Biological clocks help regulate the timing of bodily processes (circadian rhythms included). Circadian rhythms are an effect of a biological clock - although not all biological clocks are circadian.
To be frank, nobody is this perfect. When your circadian rhythm is out of whack, it can lead to sleep problems such as insomnia. Your circadian rhythm and master clock can be influenced by other cues like exercise, social activities, and temperature, although light is the most powerful.
These external cues are called “zeitgebers”. They function to help reset our internal clocks throughout the cycle. The light-dark cycle is responsible for releasing melatonin, a hormone that keeps your circadian rhythm in check. The external cues and internal reactions ensure your body keeps a healthy sleep-wake cycle.
What Can Disrupt Your Circadian Rhythm?
If you’ve ever traveled to Europe or Asia from the United States, you have experienced a disruption to your circadian rhythm. Disruptions can come from a number of factors:
Jet Lag: When you cross multiple time zones in a short period of time - usually from an intercontinental flight - your circadian rhythm will definitely take a hit. Until your circadian rhythm can acclimate to the day and night cycle of your final destination you will have some trouble sleeping and staying up during the day.
Shift Work: If you have to work the graveyard shift at work, your circadian rhythm will definitely be disrupted. This puts your sleep schedule at odds with daylight hours. We recommend investing in blackout curtains for this one.
Night Owls: You know who you are. If you stay up late and sleep in, your circadian rhythm is affected. Sometimes referred to as Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder, it only affects about 1 or 2 out of 1000 people.There are many different reasons your sleep can fall out of line with the natural daylight. There are ways to maintain a healthy circadian rhythm!
How to Improve Your Circadian Rhythm
All of us will run into an imbalance in our circadian rhythm! There are ways to change your circadian rhythm to adjust. Below are the most effective ways to alter your circadian rhythm and sleep-wake cycles!
1. Wake up every day at the same time!
Keeping a regular sleep schedule is key to reset your circadian rhythm. This goes for going to sleep and waking up at the same time every day. Your body will adjust to the new rhythm if it’s consistent.
Maintaining a regular sleep schedule is harder than it looks! We suggest setting up the Bedtime app on your iPhone. It will give you a quick ping when it’s time to go to sleep and an alarm when it’s time to wake up!
2. Get Active
Getting active during the day can really carry over to the night! Regular exercise can improve sleep quality and duration. Plus, getting a great night’s sleep can give you the energy to put into a killer work-out. Even in a busy work schedule, try to carve out a half-hour workout almost every day.
Pro-tip: Don’t work out too close to your bedtime. Exercise can be stimulating so join the spin class at least 1-2 hours before bedtime.
3. Cut the Coffee After 12 pm
Stimulants like caffeine can keep you awake and throw off your natural sleep and wakefulness. Some of us have a higher tolerance to caffeine than others but to play it safe cut the caffeine before noon!
4. Limit Light at Night
As we mentioned, light sends signals to the brain and stimulates hormone release that governs our sleep-wake cycle. The main culprit for the disruption of our circadian rhythm is the light from our smartphones. Scrolling through social media while lying in bed can delay falling asleep. Try reading a book instead, or turn on “night mode” which lowers the light your phone emits.
5. Take A Sleepy CBD Gummy
Maintaining a regular sleep schedule can feel impossible at times. It’s totally normal to have trouble falling asleep during times of stress. Winged’s Sleepy CBD Gummies are the answer to sleep troubles.
Our formula harnesses the power of CBD and melatonin to relax your mind and body! Designed to banish sleepless nights and improve your sleep quality, these gummies are a must for your nightstand drawer!