Circadian rhythms are 24-hour cycles, they are part of the body’s internal clock, and are crucial to carrying out many essential functions and processes. One of the most important and well-known circadian rhythms is the sleep-wake cycle.
When properly aligned, a circadian rhythm can promote consistent and restorative sleep. But when the circadian rhythm is thrown off, it can create significant sleeping problems, impacting both physical and mental health.
Melanopsin plays a key role in regulating the circadian rhythm. Melanopsin is a photopigment expressed in retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) of the eye that is believed to be our circadian photoreceptor. What this means is it senses light coming in and sends a signal to our brain about what time it is.
It’s very sensitive to blue light. When it senses bright blue light we become more energized and alert. This is the type of light the sun gives off...but it is also the same type of light given off by screens and devices like phones and laptops.
In order to reset our circadian clocks so we are alert during the daytime, and sleepy at night we just need to pay attention to our blue light exposure. Purposefully exposing ourselves to the TRUE blue light during the day, and avoiding the artificial blue light at night will begin to regulate our circadian rhythm.
Early morning light is a key player in resetting your circadian rhythm and resetting your sleep. All you need to do is expose your eyes to the sun when you first wake up in the morning to help your body clock synchronize.
I have a lot of clients that are busy moms that have high morning cortisol and poor sleep. This high morning cortisol tells me that they are waking up stressed out and their circadian rhythm is thrown off.
I have them grab a cup of coffee before their kids wake up and sit outside for just 5-10 minutes in the sun and allow that blue light to hit the photoreceptors while they do something nice for themselves like gratitude journaling, prayer, or meditation. It’s a really great way to start the day for several reasons.
1. One is you’re activating that melanopsin and telling your body it’s time to wake up.
2. And another is that you’re starting the day off right, with some time to yourself so you feel energized and ready to take on the day.
As the day goes on, we want to spend as much time as we can outside during the day. Take a walk on your lunch break or sit by a window if possible. But even if a mid day light le for you, you can at least start your day off right by going outside when you wake up in the morning to start the clock off on the right foot.
In the evening you want to avoid blue light. You can do this by installing apps on your phone and computer that tone down the blue light in the evenings and switch over to a more gentle orange glow that WON’T trigger the “daytime” photoreceptor response. You can also try using blue-blocking lenses. These are my favorite, in fact, everyone in my family owns a pair! Swanick Blue Blockers.
Grab some blue-blockers for night time
Grab a cup of coffee and sit outside in the morning
And see it how goes!
You should be feeling calmer and energized as the days go by and with time, your circadian rhythm will reset allowing you to fall asleep quickly and easily and stay energized and alert all day long!