Guest post from local Nutritional Therapist Sarah Gale
Do you find yourself caught up in the demands of your busy life, unknowingly neglecting your circadian rhythm – the internal body clock responsible for regulating your sleep-wake cycle and overall wellbeing?
Do you often find yourself scrolling through your phone late at night or first thing in the morning? Do you struggle to get outside into nature every day and instead are confined to your desk or playing taxi service? Do you frequently go to bed later on the weekends or eat dinner at 8pm in front of the TV?
These common habits can negatively affect our circadian rhythm which can have a profound impact on the rest of our health and wellbeing. The circadian rhythm is the internal biological clock that regulates various physiological processes within our body over a 24-hour cycle. It influences our sleep-wake cycle, hormone production, body temperature, digestion, and much much more.
This intricate system is primarily regulated by the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) in the brain, which receives signals from light exposure and helps synchronise our body's internal processes with the external day-night cycle. When our circadian rhythm is disrupted it can impact the body as a whole.
So let’s dive into the 7 compelling reasons why supporting our circadian rhythm should be a priority.
Establishing a consistent sleep schedule that aligns with your circadian rhythm is vital for enhancing both the quality and duration of your sleep. Adequate sleep not only improves cognitive function but also has a positive impact on your mood and productivity levels. By prioritising your circadian rhythm and getting enough sleep, you allow your body to engage in its natural repair processes during the night, leading to improved immune function and overall better health.
Our circadian rhythm plays a significant role in the production and release of essential hormones like melatonin, cortisol, and growth hormone. Disruptions to this internal body clock can lead to hormonal imbalances, potentially causing irregular menstrual cycles, mood swings, and increased difficulty losing weight.
Supporting our circadian rhythm is essential for optimising our body's energy levels throughout the day. By following a consistent sleep-wake schedule and exposing ourselves to natural light during daylight hours, we can effectively regulate our body's internal clock and energy levels. Research shows that when we align ourselves with our circadian rhythm, we experience increased vitality and improved cognitive performance, allowing us to approach daily tasks with heightened enthusiasm and enhanced efficiency.
Proper sleep and a well-aligned circadian rhythm have a profound impact on our mental health, and scientific studies provide strong evidence supporting this connection. A study published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research found that individuals with irregular sleep patterns and disrupted circadian rhythms had a higher risk of developing mood disorders, including depression and anxiety. The research suggests that disruptions to our sleep-wake cycle can disrupt the delicate balance of neurotransmitters and hormones that regulate our mood. So by aligning with our circadian rhythm, we can effectively safeguard our mental well-being and promote a positive mindset.
Our circadian rhythm has a significant impact on the functioning of our digestive system, affecting the release of digestive enzymes and the regulation of bowel movements. Yes, your gut is controlled by rhythms too! To optimise digestion and nutrient absorption, it is crucial to maintain regular eating patterns that align with our circadian rhythm. By doing so, we can reduce the risk of gastrointestinal issues like indigestion, bloating, and constipation.
Disruptions to our circadian rhythm, whether caused by irregular sleep patterns or shift work, can have significant implications for weight gain and obesity. Our internal body clock plays a vital role in regulating metabolism, hunger hormones, and the delicate balance between energy intake and expenditure. Prioritising our circadian rhythm and maintaining consistent sleep patterns and meal timings is often one of the most overlooked pieces of the puzzle when it comes to losing weight.
Maintaining a healthy circadian rhythm is closely linked to a decreased risk of chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and certain types of cancer. Disruptions to our circadian rhythm can trigger inflammation, insulin resistance, and other physiological changes that pave the way for the development of these conditions. However, by actively supporting our circadian rhythm, we can significantly reduce the risk of chronic diseases and foster long-term health.
So, you might be wondering how best to support your circadian rhythm?
As our circadian rhythm is most strongly influenced by light exposure, this is the powerful tool we have to help better align to our natural rhythm.
One effective strategy is to expose ourselves to natural sunlight in the morning, as it helps regulate our internal clock and boosts our energy levels for the day ahead. So, step one, kickstart your morning by spending time outdoors, whether it's enjoying a cup of coffee on the patio or taking a walk around the block. Research published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine suggests that just 30 minutes of morning sunlight exposure can have a positive impact on our circadian rhythms and promote better sleep quality.
In the evening, it's crucial to reduce our exposure to artificial light, especially from electronic devices, as it can suppress the production of melatonin, the hormone that signals our body to prepare for sleep. Step two, create an evening routine that includes minimising screen time for ideally at least an hour before bed. Instead, opt for relaxing activities like reading a book, taking a warm bath, or practicing gentle stretching exercises.
Setting similar sleep and wake times is another highly effective strategy for supporting our circadian rhythm. Our body thrives on routine and consistency, and our internal clock operates best when it follows a regular schedule. Try to stick to the same sleep and wake times, even on the weekends, to help establish a predictable pattern that aligns with our body's natural rhythm.
By embracing the power of light exposure and implementing simple yet effective strategies to support our circadian rhythms, we can optimise our sleep patterns, enhance our energy levels, and maintain a harmonious balance in our daily lives. These changes not only positively impact our sleep, hormonal balance, and energy levels, but also have far-reaching effects on our mental health, digestion, weight management, and long-term well-being.
Sarah Gale is a Registered Nutritional Therapist, Clinical Nutritionist DipION mBANT and hormone expert and helps women who just can’t lose weight break free of the diet cycle, rebalance their hormones and feel confident in their own skin again.
After a lifetime a hating her body and chronic yo-yo dieting, Sarah realised that yo-yo diets didn’t have the answers and by balancing her hormones, fixing her metabolism and working on her mindset she could finally lose the weight and get her self-confidence back.
You can find out more about Sarah and the services she offers over at Sarah Gale Nutrition