The circadian rhythm has a tremendous impact on health and well-being, but it can be difficult to understand what it is and how it influences the body. Read on to learn more about this important biological cycle and how to tune into your own unique rhythm so you feel alert no matter the time of day.
What is the circadian rhythm?
The word circadian comes from the Latin words circa, meaning “around,” and diem, meaning “day.” A circadian rhythm is a natural process that cycles through every 24 hours and is most frequently associated with waking and sleeping cycles. Your circadian rhythm is affected by factors such as the light of day, when and how much you sleep, and your eating and exercise patterns.
Why is it important?
The circadian rhythm is important because it is a regulating force in life. By picking up on clues such as how much lightness and darkness a person experiences in the course of a day, the circadian rhythm helps to determine when your body should be getting ready to wake up or go to sleep. If you have ever experienced jet lag, you are familiar with what happens when your circadian rhythm is disrupted.
How to keep your sleep cycle regular
There are various ways to regulate your rhythm and keep your body feeling its best. Being disciplined with your routines is a time-tested method. Waking and falling asleep at roughly the same time each day is a major component of maintaining a healthy sleeping schedule, as is eating your meals at approximately the same time.
Some people find they benefit from alarm clocks that mimic the rising sun with lights that get increasingly brighter until the alarm sounds. The subtle increase in light over time helps your body know that it will soon be time to get up. Sleeping with your curtains open to allow natural morning light into your bedroom is another good option and doesn’t require anything but a window!
As we all know, exercise is a key component of healthy living. It is also an essential part of maintaining a healthy sleep cycle. Studies suggest that exercising earlier in the day may affect one’s ability to get a good night’s sleep since exercising later in the day or evening can trigger endorphins and make you feel more alert.
Limiting screen time, especially before bed, is another effective way to wind down when you need to. When a person looks at screens too close to their bedtime, the light the screens emit can trigger feelings of wakefulness that make it hard for your body to relax. Reading or listening to the radio before bed is one way to wind down without accidentally overstimulating your senses.
Creating healthy habits can be challenging, but there are many long-term benefits to maintaining a regular sleep schedule. In addition to feeling more awake when you want to be, you may also find that your mood and energy levels improve. As the saying goes, there is nothing quite like a good night’s sleep!