Circadian rhythm cycles are our bodies’ 24-hour light/dark clock.
As humans, we are designed to move. We have a natural built-in clock which controls our circadian rhythms. It is controlled by the hypothalamus (part of the brain), which senses night and day and adjusts our feelings of tiredness accordingly. On average, a person needs 6-9 hours of sleep a night with the deepest sleep normally between 2-4am. Some people also require a power nap in the afternoon from around 10-20mins to reboot their energy and clarity levels. Getting enough good quality sleep will ensure your body has the time to complete all of its vital cellular repair. Your circadian levels work best when you have regular sleep patterns.
When we have poor sleep patterns, it affects the rest of the day, often causing poor metal concentration, lack of physical endurance, low mood, poor memory retention, digestion problems, low sex-hormone balance, and compromised thyroid function.
The SCN (suprachiasmatic nucleus), located in the hypothalamus, controls the production of melatonin (one of our sleep hormones). The hypothalamus is positioned just above the optic nerve, which relays information from the eyes to the brain. When the body senses less light, the brain makes more melatonin so that you can become drowsy and ready for sleep. Unfortunately with today’s technology, many of us are still very wired late at night with is causing disruption to our circadian cycles.
The Sleep Cycle lasts about 90 minutes in which we move through 5 stages of sleep.
The first stage is what we call non-rapid eye movement (NREM), and the last stage is called rapid eye movement (REM).
NREM sleep is from when we fall asleep (light sleep) to stage 4 (deep sleep). It is difficult to wake someone up from stage 4 sleep. Our muscles have little activity and our eyes do not move around much, yet all of our muscles retain their ability to function if needed.
During REM sleep, we have bursts of rapid eye movement. It is during this stage in which we tend to dream. This sleep cycle tends to happen later in the night around 3-4am and can go on ’til around 7am. This is also the sleep cycle in which the body undertakes critical repair work.
Try these simple suggestions to help with your sleep cycles:
Go to bed at the same time every night.
Make sure the room temperature is cool enough that you require a light blanket for comfort.
Check out how old your mattress is! Your mattress should be updated every 7-10 years, and if you are experiencing sore shoulders or hips, it might be time for an upgrade!
Your room should be dark like a cave, so make sure you don’t have any bright alarm clock lights or other lights shinning into the room (outside lights).
The bedroom should be a TV and screen free zone.
Avoid salty foods, such as various high fat meats, as this will create a feeling of thirst in your body which may wake you up for need of a drink.
Don’t eat dinner at a late hour – the body needs time for digestion so you don’t feel full when going to bed.
Avoid alcohol! Though this may help you get to sleep quicker, it will disrupt your sleep (REM) cycle and more than likely you will wake up between 2-4pm because your body feels hot. (Remember this is the repair sleep cycle of the body!)
Something on your mind: when we are stressing about a situation, our minds find it hard to shut off and find a relaxed state. Try to resolve the issues before retiring, and if that can’t be done, try using meditation to calm your mind down to a more relaxed state. If we are worrying too much, we are sending a message to our stress hormones produced by our adrenal glands, which keep us in a state of ‘fight or flight’. You can help your body to become calm by concentrating on your breathing (taking deep breaths).
Last but definitely not least, I am a big believer in taking magnesium before going to bed. Magnesium helps the muscles of the body to relax. When we are stressed and producing adrenaline, each unit of adrenalin that is made utilises extra magnesium, so often people are magnesium deficient. Taking a magnesium powder supplement before bed can help with this.