As the days grow shorter and darkness arrives earlier each evening, why not take advantage of the changing seasons to reassess your sleep cycles? Autumn is a perfect time of year to review your style of catching zzzz’s and see if you can make improvements. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 3 Americans is sleep deprived, and more than 35% of the US is getting less than seven hours of sleep per night. For some, swing shifts, multiple jobs, or raising kids solo definitely affects how much sleep we get, but other habits like binge-watching Netflix or scrolling through Instagram can also lead to unnecessary loss of sleep. Almost everyone could probably use some upgrades to their sleep routine, so keep reading to find out why it is important to support your circadian rhythm and how a few tweaks in your routine can make all the difference!
What is Your Circadian Rhythm?
The daily cycles of sleep and wakefulness your body experiences, as well as a few other physiological bodily processes such as hunger and digestion, plus some hormonal activities, are guided by a circadian clock. It is a cluster of roughly 20,000 neurons known as the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), located in the hypothalamus at the base of your brain. When your eyes perceive light at the beginning of the day, nerve signals activate the SCN, which lets the brain know it’s time to wake up and become alert, releasing a series of hormones such as cortisol which aids in your sense of alertness. Alternately, when the sun begins to set in the evening, and your eyes perceive diminishing light, the pineal gland (also in your brain) releases melatonin, a hormone that reduces wakefulness and alertness. Regulating or resetting this clock encourages deeper, sounder, less easily interrupted sleep, allowing you to wake up feeling energized, restored, and ready to take on your day.
6 Ways to Support a Healthy Circadian Rhythm
Check out these easy hacks which can transform your sleep routine in no time!
1. Maintain regular sleep and rise times – even on weekends. This may seem unrealistic or like a luxury – especially if you are raising young children or are trying to juggle work with a social life. But if you are also trying to support a robust circadian rhythm, this is the most powerful step you can take. The latest research reveals that people with erratic sleep schedules are nearly twice as likely to develop cardiovascular disease as those with more regular sleep patterns. Circadian rhythm disruptions have also been associated with mood disorders, high cholesterol, and hypertension. 2. Keep your bedroom cool. As it prepares for sleep, your body temperature naturally drops, so keeping your room comfortable can be a key factor in helping you fall asleep quickly and easily. One study done in 2012 by the National Institutes of Health discovered that the temperature of the room that you sleep in is one of the most critical factors in achieving a restful night’s sleep. So dial down the temperature to somewhere between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit for a sweet slumber! 3. Reduce screen use before bed. This tweak may seem challenging at first, but the reason it makes such a difference is because of how important it is for your eyes to receive diminishing light before you attempt to nod off. If you’re gazing at filtered blue light emitted by your phone before you go to sleep, your eyes receive signals that confuse them into thinking it’s still daytime, thus they suppress the release of melatonin, keeping you feeling wired, not tired. Aim to keep your bedroom in an electronic screen-free zone. By reducing your exposure to artificial light in the crucial hours before sleep, you’ll be supporting a healthy circadian rhythm. 4. Exercise but not too late.Studies show that getting your heart pumping can improve sleep quality and duration, releasing stress hormones and as well as allowing you to be social if you choose to exercise in group settings with peers. But it’s a stimulating activity that can create a heightened, alert state of mind and it also raises your core body temperature, so for both of these reasons, it can keep you up if you do it too close to when you want to sleep. Make sure to finish working out at least 1 to 2 hours before you hit the hay and ideally, 3 hours is recommended. 5. Limit caffeine and alcohol before bed. While a nightcap before bed may sound like a relaxing idea, and a cup of joe after 4 pm may be your idea of the perfect pick-me-up, you may want to reconsider your intake of both these beverages and when you enjoy them. Caffeine’s stimulating effects can keep you up at night as research shows that consuming it even 6 hours before bedtime reduces total sleep time by an hour. Similarly, alcohol may also have an impact on your ability to stay asleep for though it may help you fall asleep quickly, as it acts as a sedative, later in the night it disrupts your sleep cycles and decreases overall sleep quality. Studies also show that alcohol consumption before bed is associated with a higher risk of sleep apnea as it encourages the throat muscles to relax and airways to narrow. 6. Create a nightly ritual withSerenity Essential Oil. Maintaining a similar bedtime routine every night can be calming, relaxing, and familiar while also enforcing some of the tips already mentioned above. Unplugging from electronics, drawing the curtains, enjoying a cup of warm tea or a light snack, playing soft music, meditating, turning down your thermostat, lighting a candle ... These are some suggestions that can help you wind down from a stressful, busy day – and many of them would be enhanced with the grounding, calming presence of Serenity Essential Oil, a lovely blend of Lavender, Valerian, Chamomile, Clary Sage, and Bergamot essential oils. Mix it with a carrier oil such as jojoba or coconut oil to anoint your candle or add it to a diffuser and let it fill your bedroom while you unwind. This blend helps harmonize and balance your stress hormones, relaxes both your mind as well as your body, and restores frazzled nerves, allowing you to drift off into dreamland without a hitch.
Hopefully, these hacks help you realize that sleep deprivation doesn’t have to be a way of life. Nourishing your nightlife (and that’s the kind you sleep through) obviously has some serious GAINS!