Human beings, much like the planet we inhabit, run on cycles. These cycles are what make possible all of the intricate functions within our bodies that enable us to live full, healthy lives. Our circadian rhythm, adopted from the Latin words circa meaning “around” and dies meaning “day”, is our internal clock. It helps us anticipate and adapt to our 24-hour, sleep-wake cycle, which is influenced by things like light and temperature. Our circadian rhythm will kick start and regulate critical functions such as behaviour, hormone levels, sleep, body temperature and metabolism. When we’re in our most natural state, in sync with the rising and setting of the sun, our bodies will run optimally. There are indications that misalignment between our lifestyle and circadian rhythm is associated with higher risk of disease, including autoimmunity and chronic illness.
What throws off your cycle…
Much of the way modern society works today doesn’t support healthy alignment with our individual circadian cycles. Although some of us may be more night owl than early bird, or vice versa, the following long-term habits can affect our rhythm:
- Waking to an alarm well before the sun rises
- Going to sleep far past sunset or having irregular sleep schedules
- Staring at screens (blue light) for many hours, especially upon waking
- Remaining sedentary throughout the day
- Using stimulants and relaxants to manage our energy
- Spending less time in nature or in natural light
Getting back into rhythm…
Learning our unique circadian rhythm; when our bodies naturally want to wake and sleep, is an important first step in correcting any misalignment. This requires us to become more aware of our bodies cues and honouring them. Getting back into alignment with your circadian cycle will help your body function at a more optimal level. This is especially important for those of us healing things like hormonal imbalances, autoimmunity, mental illness and sluggish metabolism.
The low-down on blue light
Before I dive into a list of tried and tested practices to help support your circadian cycle, I think it’s important to discuss blue light. Light is made up of particles that travel in waves and emit energy. The waves will vary in strength and length, with shorter waves emitting a higher energetic frequency, measured in nanometers. Blue light occurs in the 400-495nm range and can be from both natural and artificial sources.
Naturally occurring blue light, like regular sun exposure is important to keep our circadian rhythm running smoothly. It triggers our wake-state and begins the cascade of daily hormone production, beginning with cortisol, we need to go about our day. Healthy cortisol levels help ward off depression and lethargy, however, too much can become taxing on our nervous and adrenal systems.
Blue light from artificial sources, such as electronic devices and light bulbs can throw off our circadian cycle by triggering cortisol production at the wrong times. The blue light emitted from our devices mimics the same level of light we would take in at 12:00pm in the afternoon. You can imagine, if you’re consistently looking at a screen into the evening, this could begin to throw off your natural sleep-wake schedule.
You can start getting back into your circadian rhythm by implementing the following cycle-supportive strategies:
- Limit screen time. Refrain from looking at your screen first thing in the morning and late into the night.
- If you do need to use your devices, install a blue light blocker such as the f.lux app, or use blue light blocking glasses like these.
- Get outside at regular intervals throughout your day to sync up with the natural daylight.
- Sun gaze first thing in the morning to kick-start your cortisol production.
- Spend as much time in nature as possible to reset your internal clock. Camping is great for this!
- Sleep in a completely dark room without artificial light pollution.
It can take time to implement and get back into rhythm, but the results speak for themselves. We are beings of light that operate best when in alignment with the cycles of nature. Try out some of these strategies for a few weeks and see what changes for you. If you have any questions or want to share your thoughts on your own circadian cycle and habits, leave a comment below!
The4. (2019). Learn. Retrieved from https://www.blublox.com/pages/learn
Nobel Foundation. (2017, October 2). 2017 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine: Molecular mechanisms controlling the circadian rhythm. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 29, 2019 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/10/171002092603.htm
Hassan, Modher. (2018). Water Quality Evaluation For River reach by using the Remote Sensing, AL-Gharraf River Southern Iraq as a case study..
As a Wellness Advisor and certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach, Kelsey is excited to be a part of your wellness journey as a source of support, knowledge and community. It is her belief that when we learn to connect within; cultivating a strong mind-body-spirit relationship, healing becomes a more simple and intuitive process. The better we know ourselves, how to advocate for and express our needs, our work with practitioners, healers and medicine becomes a beautiful and transformative experience.