With the ending or beginning of daylight savings, many people feel thrown off for days — if not weeks.
It takes time to adjust to new realities and to have to move your daily walk to a different time to get the most of the bright hours. When daylight savings both starts in the spring and ends in the fall, that hour time change messes with our bodies’ circadian rhythms. (1)
Your circadian rhythm is responsible for many different body functions and can have a large impact on your health and overall well-being. But your circadian rhythm is not limited to being affected only by daylight savings changes.
Knowledge is your best tool — here’s what you need to know about your circadian rhythm, how it can impact your health, and what you can do to regulate it.
What Is Your Circadian Rhythm?
Your circadian rhythm is your body’s internal cycles that naturally rise and fall. These happen during a 24-hour period and reset with the sun’s cycles from light to dark. (2)
Cycles affected by your body’s circadian rhythm include: (2) (3)
- Your body temperature
- Sleeping and waking cycles
- Release of hormones
- Digestion and eating habits
Essentially, your circadian rhythm is your body’s natural clock. Most living things, from tiny microbes to plants and animals (including humans), have a circadian rhythm.
What Can Impact Your Circadian Rhythm?
There are a number of different things that may affect your circadian rhythm and throw it off.
Research has shown that even just an hour’s time difference with a shift in the time the sun rises and sets can disrupt your body’s circadian rhythm. (1)
Traveling to a new time zone can naturally throw off your body clock. (4) If you travel to a city that has a 6-hour time difference, you’re naturally going to have a hard time adjusting.
Late or Changing Work Shifts
If you work nights at your job or if your hours are constantly changing, this can make it difficult for your body’s circadian rhythm to stay regulated. (4)
As your progesterone and estrogen levels fluctuate naturally, research has shown that these changes can affect women’s quality of sleep and other aspects related to the circadian rhythm. (5)
A range of sleep disorders — including delayed sleep disorder, advanced sleep disorder, irregular sleep-wake disorder, and free-running disorder (non-24 hour sleep-wake disorder) — can all affect your body’s circadian rhythm. (6)
Impacts of Your Circadian Rhythm
From regulating the time you wake to affecting your body’s hormones, knowing how your circadian rhythm impacts your health and a host of body functions is essential to staying your healthiest and happiest self.
Your body “clocks” in different organs affect your body’s glucose and insulin levels (7):
Central clock: Regulates your intake of food, energy use, and your entire body’s insulin sensitivity
- Gut: Manages absorption of glucose
- Muscle, adipose tissue, and liver: Regulates insulin sensitivity
- Pancreas: Controls release of insulin
If your circadian rhythm — and these body clocks — are thrown off, it can contribute to insulin resistance. (7)
Insulin regulation is crucial to balancing your blood sugar. (8) If you develop resistance, your cells don’t respond to insulin. This leads to high blood sugar as your pancreas tries to make more, which can later cause weight gain, prediabetes, and type 2 diabetes.
Estrogen and Progesterone
Research shows links between hormones including estrogen, progesterone, and women’s menstrual cycles and their circadian rhythms. (9)
The week before women have their period, fluctuations in these hormones have been linked with poorer sleep quality, and in more serious cases:
- Disturbing dreams
- Trouble focusing
Perimenopausal women often also commonly suffer from insomnia, which has been linked with these hormone changes. (9)
Progesterone changes have also been shown to likely be the cause of the body’s natural set point temperature. (10)
Disruptions in womens’ circadian rhythms have also shown possible links with: (11)
- Changes in menstrual function, including irregularity and/or longer cycles
- Risk of breast cancer
- Mood changes
Cortisol and Stress Hormones
Cortisol is commonly known as the “stress hormone.”
Research shows that cortisol — which rises and falls as you sleep — plays a key role in your circadian system that regulates cardiac (heart) function. (12) Your cortisol levels are lowest shortly after you fall asleep, and highest shortly after waking. (13)
Studies on animals have shown that your circadian rhythm can affect your stress level responses — and vice versa. (14)
If you experience stress throughout the day and your cortisol levels spike, that can affect your circadian rhythm — especially when it happens over prolonged periods of time. (13)
Tips for Regulating Your Circadian Rhythm
Getting Enough Restful Sleep
Poor sleep habits — including not getting enough restful sleep — can impact your circadian rhythm. (4) If you’re constantly tired throughout the day, taking long naps at odd hours, or going to bed at inconsistent times, these can all impact your quality of sleep.
Try to create a regular nighttime routine, and ensure you’re getting enough rest for your body. The CDC recommends adults ages 18-60 get 7 hours or more of sleep each night. Those ages 61-64 are recommended to sleep around 7-9 hours, and those 65 and older are advised to sleep 7-8 hours. (15)
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Early Morning Sunlight
Getting exposure to natural sunlight can help reinforce your body’s circadian rhythm. This is especially true when done early in the morning. (16)
On the flip side, limiting your exposure to artificial light at nighttime can help ensure you are ready for bed in alignment with your body’s natural rhythm. (16)
If you have trouble getting exposure to natural sunlight, natural light therapy can help you regulate your body clock one — to help you either rise earlier or sleep later — and align your natural cycle. (17)
There’s a host of research that shows how intermittent fasting can provide different health benefits. (18) After all, our bodies’ cycles are in sync with our eating habits.
In one small study, men with prediabetes who ate over an 8-hour period had lower insulin levels, improved insulin sensitivity, and lower blood pressure compared to those who ate over a 12-hour period. (19)
Other studies have shown that eating more at breakfast and earlier in the day and less at dinner and late in the day is linked with improved weight loss, glycemic control, and lipid levels. It’s also shown to reduce hunger. (19)
Research shows that fasted workouts may help reset the body’s natural circadian rhythms. (20)
Try a fasted workout early in the morning to get out in the natural sunlight and get your body’s natural clock regulated.
Taking care of your body is important — not just for your physical well-being, but for your mental health as well. Make time each day to care for yourself.
It doesn’t have to be anything big — set aside 5 or 10 minutes to go through your skincare routine, rather than rushing through it. Go on a walk over your lunch and get out in the sunlight — especially on days when it’s dark by the time you get off work. Make sure you’re fueling your body with healthy, nutritious foods, but don’t deprive yourself of treats if you enjoy them, too.
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Listening to your body and giving what it needs is one of the most powerful tools to regulate your circadian rhythm and body cycles and guarantee your overall best health.
Regulate Your Circadian Rhythm and Restore Balance
Your circadian rhythm is responsible for many different processes in your body, so it’s important for it to be balanced.
If you’re still feeling thrown by daylight savings ending, or generally struggle with rising with the sunlight and getting the most restful sleep, restoring your circadian rhythm can help.
It doesn’t have to be hard — and I’m here to help every step of the way. Getting sunlight early in the day, trying intermittent fasting, and making time for daily self-care are all easy changes you can make to help restore balance in your life.
To get the best night of rest, Zen Sleep helps you be calm so you can fall asleep and stay asleep. Magnesium Restore aids in regulating all your body processes to get your circadian rhythm back on track. You deserve to have balance in your life — and your body!
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