Sleep quality is hugely important to overall health and happiness. Your circadian rhythm has a strong impact on your quality of sleep. Being in tune with it can lead to many health benefits. In this day and age, it can be hard to reset your circadian rhythm to be in sync with nature. But it’s not impossible, and it’s something that would likely benefit us all. My boyfriend has been studying more deeply into how to reset circadian rhythm. He wrote this article to help others learn how to do it and why it is important. If you like the information and ideas he has, you can follow him on Instagram @birkholzthephilosopher.
Unplug from technology and reconnect with nature and yourself.
A practical guide to synchronizing your circadian rhythm for better sleep, improved energy and mood using proven methods to shift your inner clock to be in sync with the natural light/dark cycle of the earth.
In a world where we are constantly surrounded and bombarded by electronic screens and advertising, it can be difficult to find peace and connection with nature. Many people struggle with sleep issues like insomnia or irregular sleep patterns, an inability to wake up in the morning, and a lack of energy. I personally struggled with insomnia for years. This leads to less productive and less fulfilling lives and it takes a toll on our mental health. But there’s good news! We can fix that.
A lot of these common problems stem from disruptions of our circadian rhythm. Fortunately, recent research has provided ways to reset our internal biological clock to reconnect with the natural light-dark cycle of the earth. This reconnection with nature and stabilization of our biological clock has many health benefits. It helps us fall asleep, makes it easier to wake up, gives us more energy during the day when we need it, helps us focus better, helps alleviate depression and anxiety, and improves physical health.
Those are significant benefits and have a strong impact on quality of life. Fixing your circadian rhythm can make a serious difference on your life and productivity. It can improve your efficiency at work and your enjoyment at home. So, we are going to go over some proven ways to realign and reconnect with nature and yourself.
The Importance of Disconnecting and The Effects of Electrical Light
Electrical lights have been hugely important for the progress of humanity. They allow us to live very different lives than the generations of humans that came before their invention. Unfortunately, this has also had a negative effect on our sleep. Exposure to electrical light after sunset disrupts our natural circadian rhythm. It breaks our synchronization with the earth’s natural light cycle. This exposure leads to later sleep schedules and less effective sleep. It leads to lower energy levels during the day when we need it and higher energy levels at night when we should be getting drowsy and going to sleep.
But this is only one of the reasons why it is important to disconnect from electronics before bed. A recent study on cellphone use in teens showed that late-night usage was associated with depressed moods, lower self-esteem, reduced coping abilities, and lower academic performance. Those effects are unlikely to be limited to teenage use.
Other studies have shown that using electronic screens like computers and cell phones before bed leads to poorer sleep but most people don’t realize that exposure to electrical lighting has this same effect. So while it is good to read a book before bed, using an electric lamp to do so is still harming your sleep quality. Fortunately, light created by fire doesn’t seem to have this same effect. That means that candles or campfires should be okay and not have a detrimental effect on your sleep. So if you really want to help yourself fall asleep, buy some candles and read something light and enjoyable, like a good fiction novel, by candlelight for 30 minutes or more before bed.
The Benefits of Natural Light Exposure
By limiting our exposure to light to only sunlight and firelight, we can actually reconnect with natural solar patterns fairly quickly. There are a number of benefits to this synchrony. One is that the body starts releasing melatonin earlier which helps in falling asleep. Another is that we stop producing melatonin earlier, about 50 minutes before wake time. This makes it much easier to wake up in the morning. It also helps align our sleep cycles for optimum restfulness while sleeping. That means that we have an easier time falling asleep, get better quality sleep, and have an easier time waking up when our circadian rhythm is aligned with the natural light cycle.
Not only is it important to limit electrical light exposure after dark, but it is also important to increase natural light exposure during the day, especially in the morning. Studies have shown that exposure to sunlight within the first two waking hours helps synchronize our circadian clock and increases energy level and mood throughout the day. A 15-20 minute walk in the morning should be sufficient to gain these benefits.
How to Apply the Science to Your Life
Only one week of removing electric light exposure after dark and increasing natural light exposure during the day is enough to completely reset our internal clock no matter how far off it may be and the effect may last for a month or more. The easiest way to do this is to go camping. But it will still have a strong effect if you do this at home and continue living your life normally otherwise. Even one weekend of disconnecting from electronics and electric lighting and spending more time outside in the sun, especially in those first two hours after waking, can help dramatically to reconnect your circadian clock to the earth’s natural light cycle.
So, if you’re having trouble falling asleep and waking up and you want to sleep better and have more energy, try spending one weekend a month doing outdoor activities and hanging out around a bonfire at night with your friends instead of staying up late playing video games and scrolling Facebook. Get up a go for a walk in the mornings. Get some exercise. That could transform your entire week, or month. And, who knows, you might even have more fun doing it.
Thanks for reading!
I hope this post helps you and gives you ideas to reset your circadian rhythm and get better sleep. One thing that can also help your circadian cycle is daily exercise, which you all know I’m a proponent for! If you want to learn how to create a workout specifically designed for your needs and abilities, check out my post on how to create a custom tabata workout.
If you’re going to try limiting your artificial light exposure, you may want to purchase a few extra candles!
Entrainment of the Human Circadian Clock to the Natural Light-Dark Cycle
Wright, Kenneth P. et al.
Current Biology , Volume 23 , Issue 16 , 1554 – 1558
Czeisler, C. A. (2013). Perspective: Casting light on sleep deficiency. Nature, 497, S13.
Vernon, L., Modecki, K. L. and Barber, B. L. (2018), Mobile Phones in the Bedroom: Trajectories of Sleep Habits and Subsequent Adolescent Psychosocial Development. Child Dev, 89: 66-77.