How To Understand And Honor Your Circadian Rhythm
Confused about what role your circadian rhythm plays in helping you sleep better and wake up energized? Keep reading for more on what it is and how to track it to improve your sleep quality, boost immunity and regulate metabolism.
If groggy mornings and sleepless nights are the norm for you, it’s time to chat about circadian rhythm, or your body’s internal clock. The magical, intuitive nature of your body’s cells can tell when you need sleep — and how much.
So can we bypass sleep issues if we simply pause and listen?
“Quality sleep is a priority and should be considered a pillar of health and well-being, on par with good nutrition and physical exercise,” said Dr. Eve Van Cauter, Chair of Sleep Number’s Scientific Advisory Board.
“Consistent sleep and activity patterns have a positive impact on our overall sleep quality. Most relevant to the current pandemic, there is strong scientific evidence indicating that insufficient sleep and poor sleep quality have an adverse effect on the immune system and may make you more susceptible to viral infection,” Van Cauter adds. “So by maintaining good sleep habits, you can boost your immunity and increase your resistance to the coronavirus.”
Honoring our circadian rhythm not only helps us get better sleep, but also regulates our metabolism, according to Dr. Kent Smith, sleep expert and president of the American Sleep & Breathing Academy. Smith explains, “Without the circadian rhythm, our sleep patterns, as well as other essential bodily functions, become disrupted and sleep problems can occur.”
Let’s learn more about how circadian rhythm works, how it affects our sleep and how you can harness it to get the best quality sleep.
What Is Circadian Rhythm?
Our bodies have an internal 24-hour clock known as circadian rhythm. It regulates several bodily systems, including our sleep/wake cycles. The system manages feelings of sleepiness and alertness to tell us when to go, go, go, and when to snooze.
According to Dr. Smith, the circadian rhythm is regulated by a specialized group of cells in the brain, called the circadian clock. The circadian rhythm follows the direction of the circadian clock to regulate key bodily functions, including temperature, energy levels and hormones. The circadian clock uses the hormones melatonin and cortisol to dictate what time the body becomes drowsy or alert.
Without a circadian rhythm, our bodily functions — including sleep patterns — would be disrupted. And likewise, when we don’t honor our body’s internal clock, and push against our innate need for rest during the day, our sleep at night may suffer.
How To Get Better Sleep According To Your Circadian Rhythm
Before you can improve your sleep, you need to find out what happens when you hit the sheets. To make things super simple, Sleep Number 360® smart beds have sleep tracking built into them, called SleepIQ® technology, that helps you understand how your body is recovering overnight, so you can better manage your days and improve the quality of your sleep. You don’t have to wear anything. You just lay in your bed and it does the rest.
For example, this tech can give you insights based on your sleep data to help you understand your ideal daily schedule — when to go to bed, when to wake up, when to work out, and when to start winding down.
In addition, the SleepIQ® app’s Heart Rate Variability feature measures your heart rate and the variation in time between beats. As you sleep, the app collects biometrics that you and your health care professional can study together to learn what shifts you need to make in your daily (and sleeping) routine for optimal health and restorative sleep sessions.
In the meantime, there are several things you can do to optimize your time to get the best sleep possible.
Respect The Light-Dark Cycle Of Each Day
The key is to be intentional about your light exposure, especially first thing in the morning and before bed. Get outside when it’s bright to remind the body to stay awake and feel alert. Seek bright light exposure in the morning and avoid it in the evening. Exposure to natural daylight is a powerful tool for keeping the biological clock in sync. After the sun sets, let your body naturally shift into relaxation and sleep mode. This means avoiding blue light from electronics such as smartphones, televisions and computers at least one hour before bedtime.
Follow A Daily Routine
If you exercise, eat, and go to bed at the same time each day, your body learns that cycle and knows when it should feel more alert and when it’s time to fall fast asleep. Dr. Van Cauter recommends trying to keep a normal sleeping habit by setting up your sleep-wake cycle and sticking with it. Plan the day, and be careful not to let the evening drag on until wee hours.
It is also important to remember that a good night’s sleep comes after a good day of activity. Getting physical activity into our daily routine reduces levels of anxiety, which can have a tremendous impact on your sleep.
Dr. Van Cauter says our bodies’ internal clocks are supported by consistent sleep routines. If you adhere to a routine in which you go to bed and wake up at about the same every day, you can minimize the possibility of adverse health effects. Multiple well-documented studies have shown that insufficient sleep and poor sleep quality increase the risk and the severity of a wide range of conditions, including obesity, diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer’s disease.
Set Your Bedroom For The Evening
The body’s internal temperature fluctuates during the night as we enter various stages of sleep. For optimal zzz’s, keep the bedroom cool between 60 and 67 degrees and choose bedding made from breathable materials.
If you follow all of these tips to regulate your sleep cycle, but still find yourself feeling groggy and tired during the day, contact your doctor. A sleep test may help rule out an underlying sleep disorder.
If you need help creating good sleep habits to help you wake up with more energy, consider enrolling in the free Sleep30® Challenge by Sleep Number. You’ll set up a new sleep schedule, refine your bedtime routine and learn how your daytime choices, such as exercise, meals and stress management, affect your slumber. With a little more attention on your days and circadian rhythm, better nights await.
Like diet and exercise, quality sleep has a profound impact on our physical, emotional and mental well-being.Because no two people sleep the same, Sleep Number 360® smart beds, with SleepIQ® technology, sense your movements and automatically adjust firmness, comfort and support to keep you both sleeping comfortably and provides proven quality sleep. Find your Sleep Number® setting for your best possible night’s sleep, and if you own a Sleep Number bed, log in to your InnerCircle℠ Rewards account to see your exclusive offers, refer friends and more.