Our Circadian Rhythm
Our circadian rhythm is the body’s master clock. Easily recognised for its 24-hour cycle linked to the sun, it’s not only responsible for sleep but also hunger, hormone release, growth, and body temperature.
Cortisol and melatonin work in accordance with our circadian rhythm. Functioning in opposition to each other, melatonin drops while cortisol peaks in the morning, waking us from sleep and vice versa in the evening as natural light begins to diminish, allowing us to drift back into sleep.
However, cortisol’s production as widely recognised, is affected by stress. Stress can be from both a mental and physical perspective; road rage, food allergies, inflammation, work, with many of us constantly being stimulated by stressful situations. If stress becomes chronic, our body is simply unable to recover the cortisol levels to norm, dramatically affecting the circadian rhythm.
On top of that, as the circadian rhythm is dictated by daylight, our consistent exposure to artificial light sources also contributes to dysregulation.
Sleep is not only one of the most crucial and underrated areas of health but disruptions to our circadian rhythm can mean lasting effects on our health, contributing to various health issues.
We can work to improve our circadian rhythm in several ways:
Diet – Foods that cause inflammation in the body in turn influence the circadian rhythm. This includes alcohol, caffeine, processed foods, sugar and any allergies or intolerances people may personally experience. Diets high in animal protein, fat and salt have also been shown to raise cortisol production. Avoiding these triggering foods can prevent cortisol spikes, especially later in the day when you want to keep levels low.
Nature – Exposing yourself to natural light, particularly first thing in the morning helps to balance your circadian rhythm. Getting up and outside for a walk is ideal for this. Similarly, grounding reconnects your body to the Earths bioelectrical environment, helping to balance the biological clocks and reduce inflammation. This can be done by connecting with the Earth through contact such as barefoot walking.
Movement – Daily activity helps to keep the body functioning to its natural clock and consequently makes it easier to fall asleep at night. High intensity exercise is best limited later in the day as this will cause a rise in cortisol production.
Limit artificial light – While it may be difficult to limit indoor lighting, blue light exposure from electrical devices can be limited through using blue light blocking glasses and light changing settings that are now provided on many devices. It is also recommended to avoid and switch off devices a couple of hours before sleep.
Routine – Following a sleep routine can help to regulate your internal clock, sleeping and waking at the same time consistently, including weekends. It can also be beneficial to have some sort of wind down routine in the evenings to prepare your body for rest if you are someone who struggles to get to sleep.
Article written for The Health Zoc by Alexandra , Integrative Nutritional Health Coach - Root to Wellness