I'm going to write a few articles over the next few weeks on sleep. I believe that relaxation, including sleep, is something that is very undervalued by many of us. Getting enough sleep can be the difference between being be able to deal with stress and anxiety with resilience and not coping at all. I am fairly certain that most of us do not get enough sleep.
So, today we’ll focus on your body’s circadian rhythm.
The body has an internal clock called a circadian rhythm, helping you to sleep in the evening and wake in the morning. Your sleep health and overall wellbeing is dependent on your circadian rhythm working correctly; and remaining synchronized with night and day. The most important external indicator to help keep your body synchronized with this routine is light.
When the eye senses light, it sends a signal to your brain to be awake. When it becomes dark in the evening, your body produces melatonin, often called the sleepy hormone signaling your body to sleep at night. The combination of biological processes in response to light and darkness are crucial factors for your body to remain synchronized and able to sleep at the right time.
Artificial light is one of the biggest causes of sleep deprivation in modern humans, and, stay with me here, it’s all to do with blue and red light. In the morning you will find that light has a blue tone, and in the evenings, the light becomes more red. If you pay close attention you will see it for yourself. Get up early and check out the colour of the light, then later in the day see how the light is. I have no doubt you’ll notice the difference.
“One of the best biological cues we have to what time of day it is is light. And it turns out that blue light in particular is very effective at basically predicting when morning is,” chemistry researcher Brian Zoltowski says in a video from the American Chemical Society.
Unfortunately, smartphones and tablets are really messing with our sleep cycle – they are keeping us awake by making our bodies think that it is morning. They do this because they let off bright blue light.
In the evenings, there’s more red light than blue, which signals your body to prepare for bed. The red light does this by interacting with the protein melanopsin in cells deep inside your eyes — these cells are specifically made to regulate circadian rhythms and don’t play a role in how we see.
When the light hits this protein, it changes, and these cells send a signal to the “master clock” of the brain, which dictates when we wake and when we get sleepy. So when we check our smartphones at night, sending our brain a ‘blue light’ signal, it also sends a “wake up” signal and our body clock gets all screwed up.
So, now you understand how your body's circadian rhythm works, what can you do?
Once you get your body back on track, you find you sleep so much better and wake up more easily in the morning.
So, if you’re having problems with any of the following then try the tricks listed above and get back into your circadian rhythm:
Poor sleep quality
Insufficient sleep duration
Sleepiness and fatigue
Impaired overall well-being in family and social life
Decreased motor and cognitive performance
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