How to Reset Your Body Clock

Understanding the Body Clock
Blue Light at Night

Understanding the Body Clock and Circadian Rhythm

Circadian rhythm, often referred to as our 24-hour body clock, regulates our sleep-wake cycle. This cycle is significantly affected by SCN (suprachiasmatic nucleus), a bunch of almost 20,000 nerve cells which are located in the hypothalamus.

When our eyes perceive daylight, a nerve signal tracts to the SCN, which informs our brain it’s time to wake up. Then, a series of hormones (including cortisol) are released by SCN to wake up our body properly. On the other hand, when the light diminishes during the nighttime, the signal reaches SCN, and our brain releases melatonin, which is responsible for sleep.

What Can Affect Your Natural Body Clock?

Your circadian cycle or natural body clock can be affected by the following things:

  • A busy daily schedule
  • Travelling
  • Stress
  • Late-night work shifts
  • Your eating habits

Helpful Tips to Reset Your Body Clock

Consider a Morning Walk or Workout

After a light workout or walk in the morning, you feel more alert and active throughout the day. Moreover, it also has an impact on the quality of your sleep. Doing high-intensity workouts in the evening will keep you extremely energetic and may hinder your sleep, disturbing your circadian rhythm. Therefore, exercising earlier in the day is recommended so your body becomes tired at bedtime, making you sleep early.

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Avoid Blue Light at Night

The blue light that usually comes from electrical devices has the strongest impact on the circadian rhythm. When this light enters your eyes during the night, it causes your body to think that it’s daytime, which suppresses melatonin production, disturbing you from sleep.

For better sleep, try turning off your mobile phones and TV, and dim the bedroom’s lights at least one hour before bedtime. It will reduce your exposure to blue light and stimulate melatonin secretion, helping you sleep better.

Avoid Caffeine and Alcohol in the Evening

Take note of the time when you drank your last coffee cup. Being a highly effective brain stimulant, caffeine will keep you awake late at night when you would prefer to calm down.

Alcohol can have drastic long-term effects on your circadian rhythm. So, if you are an alcohol addict, think twice about consuming alcohol in the evening. While alcohol may cause you to feel drowsy or sleepy, it may affect your cycle in the future.

Make Dietary Adjustments

A balanced diet is essential for regulating your body clock and maintaining good energy levels. Eating foods with high levels of caffeine and sugar before night can disturb your body’s natural circadian rhythm, so try to avoid these foods. Instead, consume foods rich in carbohydrates and protein to keep you energised throughout the day.

Create a Good Sleep Environment

To establish a good sleeping environment, you can follow these guidelines:

  • Turn off the lights, make your bedroom dark and sleep in darkness.
  • Stop any light from entering your bedroom.
  • Use heavy-lined curtains or room-darkening shades and secure drapes with pins.
  • Sleep with eye masks or block or remove sources of blue or white light (cell phones, computers, any watch or clock with a blue or white light dial, or television).
  • Avoid working, reading, or watching TV in the bedroom.
  • Maintain a cool temperature.
  • Reduce noise to a minimum by using earplugs and keep your cell phones on silent.

Melatonin Supplements

Melatonin supplements are available that can help you regulate your sleep cycle. These supplements were designed to aid in rearranging circadian rhythms when taken at the appropriate moment.

However, consuming melatonin supplements over the prescription may also disturb your sleep cycle and might cause you to sleep and wake at different times of the day. If you want to take melatonin supplements, you must keep in mind the following pointers:

  • You should consume more than 0.5 milligrams (a normal dose of melatonin).
  • Melatonin supplements should be consumed a few hours before night.
  • Before you start taking any supplements, consult your doctor.

Sunlight Exposure

When you wake up, exposure to sunlight notifies your brain that it’s time to be awake and helps set your circadian rhythm for the rest of the day. Natural sunshine is preferable, but if you can’t get outside or there isn’t enough sunlight, there are specific indoor lights (bright lights) that can help.

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Symptoms of Circadian Rhythm Sleep Disorder

Among the symptoms of circadian rhythm sleep problems are:

  • Excessive drowsiness during the day.
  • Insomnia (difficulty falling or remaining asleep).
  • Depression
  • Difficulty getting out of bed in the morning.
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Inability to fulfil social responsibilities.
  • Poor school/work performance.

Does Our Circadian Cycle Change with Age?

Yes, our body clock develops some changes as we age, but this happens very slowly.

According to anecdotal evidence, circadian rhythms do vary over our lifespan, peaking in youth. Circadian rhythms gradually move back as we age, and beginning in middle age, they shift by 30 minutes per decade. While there is substantial evidence that as we age, we tend to sleep and wake up earlier, we don’t know why.

A study shows that as we age, the circadian output of the SCN, the core biological clock, declines. This can result in less melatonin produced at night, disturbing your circadian rhythm.

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