Why I Aligned my Lifestyle with My Natural Circadian Rhythm (And How You Can, Too)

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Over the last few years, I’ve really dove into health and wellness. Both of my parents have had various cancers and I knew that if I didn’t want to share their same fate – I needed to make some changes. Overhauling my lifestyle to prioritize my long-term health has had so many positive shorter-term outcomes. I’m the happiest and healthiest I’ve ever been! One of the biggest changes I made was aligning my lifestyle with my natural circadian rhythm. Here’s Why I Aligned my Lifestyle with My Natural Circadian Rhythm (And How You Can, Too)

As a reminder: I am not a doctor, nor do I claim to be! Any claims in this article are based on my personal experience and research. Please read my full medical disclaimer before engaging with my content or anecdotes. Also, as a reminder, this post contains affiliate links to certain products and I may earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you!) if you make a purchase based off of my suggestions. 

What is a Circadian Rhythm? 

Many of the descriptions and explanations of the circadian rhythm over-explain it and use unnecessarily complicated terms. So, I’m going to describe the circadian rhythm as if we’re in elementary school. Our bodies have a special built in clock. This clock assists our body in knowing when it’s time to wake up, play, eat, work, go to the bathroom and sleep. This special clock is known as our “circadian rhythm”, and it is aligned with and controlled by the rising and setting of the sun. 

The same way that the sun comes up in the morning and goes down at night – our body also has times when its bright, up, ready, and awake and times where it gets dark, down, and sleepy. Our special clock (our circadian rhythm) helps our body to know when its daytime and when its nighttime.

As such, during the day – our bodies are more active, ready to play, learn, work, move. But when the day ends, and it gets dark outside – our bodies start to feel sleepy and ready to rest. Our circadian rhythm doesn’t just control our alertness and how awake we are but it also controls some of our most important body functions like our hormone release, our eating habits and digestion as well as our body temperature. 

Why is it Important to Get Aligned with a Natural Circadian Rhythm? 

It’s important to be aligned with our natural circadian rhythm if we want to feel good in our bodies. The circadian rhythm controls so many of our human functions that if we are misaligned with our circadian rhythm.. a lot of things can end up out of sync within our bodies.

For thousands of years before modern conveniences and technologies – humans lived by the sun. We would wake with the sun and sleep with the sun. Prior to electricity – we used candles (which omit red-light) to light our homes after the sunset. Now, humans use LED lights and screens (which omit blue light) after the sunset. In the timeline of history artificial blue light is relatively new, and studies continue to pour out about the harmful effects of excess blue light. From shortening our lifespan to neurodegeneration to creating sleep disorders (especially in children and young adults) to “an increased risk of many of the diseases of modern life, including not only certain cancers but also obesity, diabetes, and psychiatric disorders” – the science shows that these screens and devices are detrimental to our overall health and well-being. 

I believe that it’s especially important for us to align with a natural circadian rhythm to mitigate the harmful effects of our modern lifestyles. Have you ever been really tired, and you lay down to get ready for bed but also start watching tv or scrolling and end up staying up for hours? That’s because the blue light sends a signal to our brain/circadian rhythm that its midday – as the sun only produces blue light midday. The blue light being omitted from the screens are throwing us off our natural cycle!

While we are humans, with modern technologies and conveniences, we’re also mammals that are part of an ecosystem. We have all time high rates of suicide, depression, anxiety, sleep disorders – and we have never been more disconnected from our ecosystem, the earth. Our mammal bodies require certain things of us in order to survive and especially to thrive and in our modern lifestyle we aren’t getting our basic necessities. Aligning with our circadian rhythm, at the very least, allows our bodies to function to the best of their abilities and fulfills one of those basic needs.

Why I Aligned my Lifestyle with a Natural Circadian Rhythm:

I was tired. Tired of being tired. Tired of waking up groggy. Tired of not having energy. Tired of drinking multiple cups of coffee every day and still not being alert. Tired of being susceptible to mood swings. Tired of being angry for no real reason. Tired of being bloated. Tired of having other stomach issues. 

I was tired of not feeling good and I wanted to take my health and well-being into my own hands. 

I aligned my lifestyle to a natural circadian rhythm because it was one of the easiest ways to fix most of the health issues I was experiencing. I didn’t want to have to take the Xanax I was prescribed for anxiety. I didn’t want to have to drink coffee to wake up and smoke weed to make myself go to sleep. I didn’t want to be grouchy anymore!

I aligned my lifestyle with a natural circadian rhythm because its natural. And the lifestyle I was living prior was unnatural and left me feeling like shit.

What Shifts I Made to Align my Lifestyle with a Natural Circadian Rhythm:

The first, and biggest, shift was my sleep schedule. I was a proper night owl and would go to bed between 12a-3a most nights. I would wake up between 8a-10a.

Aligning with my natural circadian rhythm meant trying to be asleep by 10p and up by 6a. I am human! So, I’m not perfect. I find myself up after 10p sometimes! I try to live by the 80/20 rule. Meaning 80% of the time, I stick to what I know is best for me. But 20% of the time, I don’t. I’m not perfect and living by 80/20 helps me to create a bit of balance.

The second shift I made was limiting my screen time, especially before bed. I put my phone down and turn the tv/computer off around 8p and don’t pick them back up until around 10a. As I mentioned, I am not perfect! I find myself on the phone, scrolling at 9 or 10pm sometimes. However, 80% of the time turning the screens off by 8p is the rule I try to stick to.

Other than those two changes, I really didn’t shift much at all. Everything else kind of naturally fell into place once I switched around my sleep schedule and my relationship with my phone/tv/computer. 

At first it felt like I was missing out on something by going to bed earlier. I also realized that none of the things that I did while I was “up late” were particularly productive or purposeful. I was essentially just consuming – consuming weed, consuming food, consuming mindless tv, consuming other people’s thoughts and posts on social media. I wasn’t going to miss out on much by adjusting my sleep schedule. 

The more I leaned into it the more I realized that I had been missing out by going to bed later. I was missing out on feeling the most optimal in my body! I was missing out on utilizing my body to its full potential. I really had nothing to lose except a bunch of things that made me feel like shit!

Changes I’ve Noted Since Switching Onto my Natural Circadian Rhythm

Since switching onto my natural circadian rhythm there has been a few noted changes in my overall lifestyle. Many of these changes just make sense when you know that the circadian rhythm controls our hormone release, our body temperature, and our digestion. Some of these changes are:

-less afternoon fatigue 
-higher quality sleep
-more energy
-better overall mood
-no afternoon crashes
-increased productivity
-enhanced focus
-less bloating
-healthier skin
-better sleep
-less grogginess upon waking
-no coffee cravings
-also no longer “need” coffee for energy
-less food cravings

Most importantly: I feel better in my body.

How You Can Align with Your Natural Circadian Rhythm

Create a Sleep Schedule: One of the most important changes to make is to set a sleep schedule to help support and set your body’s internal clock. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on the weekend.

Sunlight Exposure upon Waking: Getting some sun early in the morning helps to reset your body’s internal clock, alerting your body that it’s time to be awake!

Dim Lights at Night: After the sun sets, use candlelight, red light or dimming warm lights. This will send a signal to your body that its time to slow down.

Limit Screen Time: We’ve established that blue light can be harmful to our body’s circadian rhythm. Turn phones, computers, and other screens off at least an hour before bedtime.

Take Breaks from Screens: Limiting screen time, unfortunately, isn’t possible for all of us. Between work and school alone, many of us are consistently tuned into a screen. Take a break from the screens every hour or so (bonus if you can get in the sun during your break!).

Create a Bedtime Routine: Creating a relaxing bedtime routine will help send a signal to your body that it’s time to relax and prepare for sleep. I like to take a warm bath, do a skincare routine, and read via red-light before bed.

Daily Movement: Exercise can look different for everyone but finding some form of movement each day can be beneficial to our bodies, helping us to sleep better. 

Eat Whole Foods: Processed foods can take a toll on our digestive system. Eating whole, real food is a great way to bring some ease into your digestion.

Stay Consistent: Adjusting to a new routine isn’t something that happens overnight! Staying consistent, especially with sleeping and waking times, will help your body to settle into its natural circadian rhythm. 

Be Kind to Yourself: As I mentioned earlier – I aim for 80% perfection and leave 20% as a wiggle room. Aiming for 100% will set you up for failure. Be kind to yourself! Making changes, especially in your lifestyle, is a rocky road at first. Don’t make it harder on yourself by beating yourself up mentally. 

While aligning with my natural circadian rhythm didn’t necessarily, “fix all of my problems”… it made them a lot easier to handle. My mood and hormones (including my cortisol hormone) are better regulated meaning that I can handle stress better. My sleep is MUCH better meaning that I feel more awake during the day. Not crashing mid-afternoon has definitely helped my productivity as well as my creativity. Have you tried to align your lifestyle to your own circadian rhythm? What worked for you?

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