Aligning your Daily Clock for Quality Sleep
By Allison Brager, O2X Sleep Specialist
Have you ever wondered why you’ll oddly have a second wind at 9 PM even if you are dog tired a few hours before? You can thank (or curse) your circadian rhythm. When we talk about sleep in our O2X workshop, we talk about why sleep is a complicated and complex process and can be a difficult problem to crack. The reason for the challenge with sleep – our circadian rhythm.
When it comes to sleep, two biological systems regulate it. One is sleep amount. This system, known as the homeostatic system, is pretty straightforward: the longer you are awake, the greater the drive to sleep. The second system – our beloved circadian rhythm – is not so straightforward. This system controls peaks and troughs of nearly every physiological process of the body over a time span of 24 hours (circa = about; dia = day). It is often referred to as the “body clock.”
In order to maximize sleep amount and sleep quality, the homeostatic system and the circadian system must be aligned. When the two systems are misaligned, as is common when working the night shift, staying up too late, or waking up earlier than normal, sleep suffers and next-day performance suffers.
Napping to make up for this misalignment can help, but if you nap too long or at the wrong time, then sleep suffers again the next night. Thus, it can indeed be a vicious cycle. Fortunately, at O2X we have a tested and proven “formula” to help reduce sleep disturbances and the extent of misalignment. Here are five tips for making sure your daily performance, nutrition, and mindset goals are aligned with your body’s clock.
5 Tips to Align Your Body’s Clock
1. Watch the sun rise or get natural light ASAP in the morning.
The body clock is extremely sensitive to light. Our body clock relies on natural light to set the pace of when we perform at our best throughout the day. If we remind our body clock early in the day that, “Hey, it’s time to seize the day,” then it will do just that, seize the day.
2. Plan your workouts around when you think you perform at your best.
The beauty of the O2X program is that you don’t need two hours in the gym to get in a quality workout. 10 – 20 minutes of functional movement can be sufficient. The quality of your workout is directly tied to when the body clock is best able to provide the appropriate fuel, blood flow, and nutrients to get the job done. So, if you know you perform best early morning or mid-morning, plan for a quick workout during that time.
3. Nap in the middle of the day when you feel it the most.
The beauty of our body clock is that it isn’t on high alert at all hours of the waking day. It actually needs a break too. Usually the afternoon is when our body clock wants to nap and chill. If you feel sleepy, seize the opportunity. Utilize one of the guided meditation or relaxation tools on the O2X app.
4. Plan your nutrition accordingly.
There is no one size fits all nutrition plan. Pay attention to what and how you eat throughout the day and how your eating patterns make you feel. The body clock is very sensitive to the nutrients we put in our bodies. But also, try not to eat too much sugar close to bedtime. This can spike blood glucose and interfere with sleep quality.
5. Dim the lights early after the sun sets and sleep in complete darkness.
Like light, darkness is also a major cue for the body clock. Darkness catalyzes the production and release of melatonin, the hormone released from the pineal gland that helps us fall asleep and stay asleep. A gradual transition into sleep that includes dimming the lights beginning at least ninety minutes before bed will relax the brain. Watching TV and being on your phone is not part of this routine though. Finish those up beforehand. Lastly, any light source at night, including that from a cell phone or night light disrupts the body clock and can shift it no matter how little light there is. Try to minimize light in the room at all costs. In fact, when I am sleeping in the barracks during military courses, which are known to have the most awful hallway lighting, I will literally take a pair of my combat pants I’m going to wear the next day and shove them under the crack in the door.
1% Change, Big Solutions
Aligning your circadian rhythm to your daily schedule may be a 1% change with a 90% solution. The body clock literally controls everything we feel and do, so make sure you are taking care of it as best you can!