Circadian Rhythm: The Elusive Good Night’s Sleep

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“There is a time for many words, and there is also a time for sleep.” So says Homer, who might have been on to something.

For many people, a good night’s sleep is as elusive as a Yeti. Tossing, turning, bathroom breaks – there are myriad reasons that we try to get the recommended 7-8 hours of restorative sleep but fall short. The human brain is a complicated machine, and there is something that a lot of people don’t understand about how to program their own internal clock.

We are ruled by our Circadian rhythm, a natural, internal process that regulates the sleep-wake cycle and repeats roughly every 24 hours. Circadian rhythms have been critical throughout evolution, allowing animals (that’s us, by the way) to prepare for upcoming changes to their environment. The study of circadian rhythms is called chronobiology. 

Today, research is charting the harms of a disrupted circadian rhythm, such as sleep disorders, obesity, diabetes, depression, and bipolar disorder—not to mention difficulties concentrating and staying productive.

There are numerous gadgets and websites that are designed to help us understand our own sleep patterns in an effort to improve them. How many people have a sleep tracking app – come on – admit it – many of you do. People track their sleep hours as much as they do their calorie intake.

We are not saying that you shouldn’t – we just feel like there might be other ways to improve your sleep that don’t involve looking at your wrist or hooking yourself up to a monitor of ANY kind.

The Sleep Foundation (yes there IS a Sleep Foundation) tells us that, “Your circadian rhythm works best when you have regular sleep habits, like going to bed at night and waking up in the morning around the same times from day to day (including weekends).

When things get in the way, like jet lag, daylight savings time, or a compelling sporting event on TV that keeps you up into the wee hours of the morning, you can disrupt your circadian rhythm, which makes you feel out of sorts and can make it harder to pay attention.”

What are some other things you can do to keep your circadian rhythm on a healthy schedule which would mean a better night’s sleep? Here are some tips that we’ve gleaned from our research:

1. Eat A Protein-Rich Breakfast
Protein gives you strength and energy to get on with your day. If you’re not getting enough protein, your body is always a bit out of sorts.

2. Get Some Sun – But Wear Sunscreen!
Vitamin D straight from the sun is vitally important for your physical and mental health. Going outside for as little as 15 minutes every morning can help you wake up and feel refreshed.

3. Exercise Daily
There are many studies that show that the benefit of exercise – even in the morning, helps you at night.

4. Lower Stress
A big reason many of us stay up late is stress, and lowering stress levels is easier said than done. Organizing and managing stress is a slow and achievable process. While some factors are out of our control, just changing your mindset can help improve your sleep. Deep breathing, yoga, reading, watching a movie…laughing at jokes (good and bad), all help relieve stress.

5. Limit Naps
If you find that you are so tired during the day that you need a nap, experts recommend keeping the nap to no longer than 20 minutes, otherwise you risk upsetting your nighttime schedule.

6. Limit Wi-Fi In Your Bedroom
We know this is a tough habit to break. Before you go to bed, make sure to turn the Wi-Fi off. Not only does being away from your smartphone reduce distractions and stress, but the blue light from the screen will throw off your circadian rhythm and keep you awake.

7. Set a Bedtime
The routine of your actions is what will change your circadian rhythm for good. Establishing a bedtime you will adhere to no matter what is essential. Always go to bed at the same time every night to get yourself used to sleep at the right time.

8. Keep It Cool
Keeping your bedroom cool is the best way to help you sleep. The suggested bedroom temperature should be between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit for optimal sleep.

9. Sleep in Darkness
Whether your schedule allows you to sleep at night hours or not, sleeping in total darkness can help. Many homeowners use blackout blinds and facemasks to achieve the ultimate in darkness.

10. Use Steam Therapy
Frankly, we’re surprised that this isn’t the #1 recommendation from sleep experts – because studies have shown that along with all the other benefits of steam showers (improved circulation, muscle restoration, help with allergies), a steam shower can help your body and mind relax.

ThermaSol’s Tranquility mode offers relaxing video scenes to help create a totally immersive steam shower experience. Accessed and viewed on our ThermaTouch 7″ or 10″ Smart Control, a user can view and listen to the soothing sounds of the ocean, or the whisper of wind through a forest. Maybe watching an underwater scene will be just the right amount of “ahhh…” to reset your circadian rhythm.

For more information on circadian rhythm and health, you can visit The National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) website.

What are some of the therapies you use to get a good nights’ sleep?