By: Dr. Mike Baker, ND
How to support your Circadian rhythm
Our body’s sleep wake cycle naturally follows the rotation of the earth. This is called the circadian rhythm and our biochemistry and wellness depend on it.
There are two important hormones involved in the circadian rhythm: cortisol and melatonin. Melatonin is our main sleep hormone. When the sun sets, melatonin levels begin to rise and we gradually get tired and fall asleep.
Cortisol is our wakefulness and “stress” hormone. Its primary action is to raise our blood sugar to give us energy to deal with stressors. Cortisol reaches it’s peak approximately 30minutes after waking and declines throughout the day. Its levels are lowest at night; right about the time that melatonin is at its peak.
To support melatonin production:
– Turn the lights down about two hours before bed. This means shutting off tablets, computers, TV, and phones. Make your bedroom a “screen free” zone. Choose to read a book with a light that doesn’t shine directly into your eyes. If you need to use a computer or phone before bed, try blue light blocking glasses or computer programs. Blue light produced by these devices reduces melatonin production and can prevent a restful night’s sleep.
To support healthy cortisol levels:
– Have a healthy snack before bed: keeping your blood sugar level steady will help you stay asleep. As we sleep we aren’t eating (unless you sleep walk and raid the fridge) and our blood sugar level drops. When blood sugar levels are too low, Cortisol is released. It tells the body to raise blood sugar to give it a source of energy. But as a result, it wakes us up because it is also a stress hormone. To prevent this, eating a light snack rich in protein, fat or fiber before bed can help to keep the blood sugar levels steady and keep you sleeping longer. Good bedtime snack examples include an egg, peanut butter and toast, veggies and humus. Avoid sugary foods like fruit and cereal or else your blood sugar will rise and then come crashing down as you try to sleep.
– Go to bed and wake up at the same time on a consistent basis – even on the weekend. The more consistent you are with your sleep/wake cycle the better you will sleep and more energy you will have during the day.
– If you need a little bit of caffeine to get your day started, drink your coffee when your morning cortisol isn’t at it’s highest. Cortisol levels peak approximately thirty minutes after waking. To get the best boost from your cup of joe, drink it as your cortisol levels begin to fall, about an hour after waking. When you drink caffeine at your peak cortisol level you won’t experience the jolt coffee has to offer, because your body is already naturally energized.
– To prevent caffeine from affecting your sleep, try to minimize caffeine consumption after lunch.