By Ashley Tibbits
Sleep can be elusive to so many people — especially with a busy schedule and the stress of work, the current state of the world, relationships, and other common lifestyle factors. And while you know that lack of sleep can make you feel lethargic, unfocused, and downright moody at times, there’s even more to it: science shows that there’s a strong connection between sleep and your overall health. According to Harvard Medical School’s Division of Sleep Medicine, your likelihood of developing chronic illnesses, including diabetes and heart disease, is exponentially increased when you’re not getting enough sleep.
But, from sleep issues from everyday stress or occasional restlessness, a solution might be simpler than you think — and it all has to do with your biological rhythm. Read on to discover how to leverage your body’s natural cycles to get your sleep back on track.
Biological Rhythms & Sleep
Otherwise known as your circadian rhythm or your sleep-wake cycle, your biological rhythm is your body’s internal clock. The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) explains that normal, healthy adults have an approximately 24-hour sleep cycle, with the most significant dip in energy between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. — when (ideally) you’re fast asleep. Everyone has a rhythm that is slightly different, which can help explain why you can’t force yourself to become a morning person no matter how hard you try. Some of us have an energy peak earlier in the day and others later, and trying to compensate for these to fit a traditional work/school schedule can easily throw your natural rhythm out of whack. Other factors that can throw off your biological clock include light/darkness in your environment, traveling to different time zones, and not giving your body enough time to wind down due to a burnout-inducing schedule.
How to Reset Your Circadian Rhythm
The good news is that just as easily as you can get off track with your body’s circadian rhythm, you can get yourself back on. Ahead, find a few techniques that can help you reset your internal clock—and get the quantity and quality of sleep you need for optimum health.
Reassess Your Lighting
The NSF says that your exposure to light could be a major factor in why you’re not getting enough sleep. If you’ve gotten into the habit of leaving the television or a lamp on when you go to bed, the light travels from the eye to the brain, essentially telling you how awake or sleepy you feel. With that in mind, minimize light sources as much as possible during desired sleep hours. Try blackout curtains or a sleep mask if you’re in a space that lets in a lot of light. And if you can, shut off all light-emitting devices when it’s time to lie down. Conversely, be sure you’re getting some sunlight during your waking hours (so you may want to steer clear of blackout blinds if you’re a notorious snooze-hitter).
Avoid Eating During Normal Sleeping Periods
A 2008 study conducted by Harvard found that animals’ circadian rhythms were turned upside down when they were fed during normal periods of rest. That said, allowing for a short fasting period of about 12 hours between dinner and breakfast could help you reset. Eating too soon before bed can also increase the likelihood of acid reflux or digestive issues, which could keep you from sleeping soundly. Yet another reason to try to stick to a normal meal schedule.
Getting your biological rhythm back on track is all about sticking to a schedule. As tempting as they are, too frequent or too long naps can actually hurt when it’s time to go to bed in the evening. The NSF found that while all napping isn’t necessarily sleep sabotage, there are a few factors to be aware of. If you’re going to nap, the ideal time is between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m., when there’s a natural dip in energy levels. If it’s later than that, your bedtime schedule could get thrown off.
And it’s also advised that you keep your naps short — between 20 and 30 minutes. Sleeping longer than this time period can put you in a deeper sleep, which might leave you feeling groggy when it’s time to get up and be productive again. Another tip: if you’re able to nap somewhere with limited light and distraction, all the better.
Watch Your Caffeine Intake
It can be tempting to reach for the coffee when you hit a mid-afternoon energy slump — but the caffeine can affect your circadian rhythm. To work with your body’s internal clock, and not against it, try to consume caffeine in the morning only when your natural energy levels are on the rise. Or, go for something that more gently promotes energy, like caffeine-free herbal supplements.
It’s no secret that stress affects your overall health, and that includes your sleeping habits. There are many natural ways you can try to reduce your stress, including breathing techniques, meditation, taking up a creative hobby, listening to music, and trying plant-based supplements like CBD, which has been shown to help minimize stress and bring your body back into balance naturally.
Taking a CBD capsule-like FOCL Night that combines all of the calming benefits of CBD with sleep-inducing adaptogens can be a great way to help give all of the methods above a bit more muscle. Try taking two before bed each night to ease yourself into sleep naturally — your body and your mind will thank you.