3 min|Dr. Lawren Chan
Syncing With Your Body's Internal ClockWellness, Health, Education
Your Inner Timekeeper
One of my favourite lifestyle practices to help support the circadian rhythm (the body’s natural internal clock that regulates the sleep-wake cycle) is getting myself out to see the sunset. It’s even better if I can also watch the sunrise, but not being a morning person, this definitely happens less.
Matching your body’s internal clock with the sun brings us back to our roots. It supports the circadian rhythm as it is meant to be set.
In days gone by, when the sun was out, it was time to get up and make the most of the daylight, and once it was dark it was time to rest and sleep. With artificial indoor lighting, we are not tied to the light of the sun to guide the course of our day, and our sleep-wake cycles suffer.
For those who are struggling with sleep disturbances and employing all the different sleep hygiene practices to get themselves to bed at night and up in the morning at the right time, I challenge you to try and get out to watch the sunrise and/or set. Not only are these often the most beautiful times of the day to experience, but this will also force you to get outside where the air is fresh and your skin can soak up some Vitamin D.
Resetting your circadian rhythm has a lot to do with your eyes detecting light and dark. The gradual increase in light from the rising sun helps to wake the body up and the slowly darkening sky at night helps to wind the body down.
The transition from dim to bright light in the morning induces an immediate elevation in cortisol, the hormone that gives us the energy to get up and go, while the darkness and lack of light after dusk detected by the eyes and transmitted to your hypothalamus signals the pineal gland to release melatonin to induce tiredness and allow you to sleep.
I was able to break a particularly poor pattern of sleep by waking up with the sunrise and watching the sunset for a few days in a row. In the days to follow I started sleeping on a more regular schedule and as a result had more sustained energy during the day. Of course, herbal and nutraceutical supplements can also be used to support this circadian reset, however let’s not forget the basics, especially when they are this beautiful!
- Kenneth P. Wright, Andrew W. McHill, Brian R. Birks, Brandon R. Griffin,
Thomas Rusterholz, Evan D. Chinoy.
- Entrainment of the Human Circadian Clock to the Natural Light-Dark Cycle. Current Biology, 2013; DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2013.06.039