In this article I will introduce the concept of our circadian rhythm’s and answer common questions around optimising our sleep. It is not yet finished but I’ll be editing it over the coming days (first published on 18/04/20).
What Are Circadian Rhythms?
Circadian rhythms are 24-h rhythms in physiology and behaviour generated by molecular clocks, which serve to coordinate internal time with the external world. The circadian system is a master regulator of nearly all physiology and its disruption has major consequences on health. Sleep and circadian rhythm disruption is a ubiquitous feature in today’s 24/7 society, and studies on shift-workers have shown that it can lead not only to cognitive impairment, but also metabolic syndrome and psychiatric illness including depression.
In order for the circadian network to work effectively, it must receive and respond to signals that provide temporal cues (zeitgebers). Light, which signals the dawn-dusk cycle, is the best-characterised zeitgeber. The timing of our food is another key cue/zeitgebers.
How To Sleep Better
- Get some early morning sun exposure – even when cloudy. This will support a healthy circadian rhythm.
- Exercise 4-8 hours before bed time.
- Ensure stable blood sugar levels. Consider a Free Style Fibre Monitor so you can monitor your blood sugar through the day/night.
- Avoid caffeine and stimulants from midday onwards.
- Establish a healthy morning and evening routine. For example journal – ideally first thing in the morning.
- Practice mindfulness.
- Turn off technology two hours before bed.
- Get some blue light blocking glasses.
Natural Sleep Supplements
Home Remedies For Sleep
- An epsom salt bath.
- An oil diffuser in the bed room burning things like lavender.
- Blackout curtains.
- Eye mask – I love this one.
- Ben Greenfield has found that, for him, a ‘potent sleep snack’ is a giant spoonful of coconut oil, topped with a dab of almond butter, a pinch of sea salt and a drizzle of raw honey!
Drinks That Help You Sleep
- Chamomile tea.
- Peppermint are calming choices for bedtime
Which Foods Help You Sleep Better?
This question needs a follow up question (see below). So rather than discuss evening snacks/teas I think it important we think about the bigger picture – blood sugar control and thus protein, healthy fats such as the Omegas, whole grains, fruit and vegetables and dietary fibre.
Food Eaten As a Bed Time Snack May Promote Sleep
The Sleep Foundation state: “Certain fruits that contain melatonin may help you fall asleep faster and wake up less often during the night. For instance, tart cherry juice and whole tart cherries contain a lot of melatonin, and bananas, pineapple, and oranges are also sources. If you have insomnia, eating two kiwis before bed can increase duration by an hour over the course of a month. Other fruits and vegetables that are rich in antioxidants (like berries, prunes, raisins, and plums) may have a similar effect by helping to counteract the oxidative stress caused by a sleep disorder.”
Scientifically, there may be some link between the tryptophan and melatonin content of milk and improved sleep. But a great point made by the Sleep Foundation is that perhaps more powerful is the psychological link between warm milk and bedtime as a child. Just like hot tea, a warm drink of milk can provide the perfect soothing backdrop for a relaxing bedtime routine.
The genetics of circadian rhythms, sleep and health, Human Molecular Genetics, 2017, Vol. 26, No. R2 (click here)
A great 5000 word article by Ben Greenfield: click here.