Have you ever felt like this?
Do you feel tired around the same time every day say at 3pm? What time do you usually feel sleepy and ready for bed? Do you tend to wake at the same time even without an alarm? I notice this the most on my days off from work. I naturally wake close to the time I wake on work days – which sucks because who doesn’t want to sleep in on their days off?
Chances are you’ve noticed these patterns of tiredness and wakefulness. You can thank your internal body clock for not letting you sleep in longer than you wanted to on those non-work days.
What do you do when you can’t get your mind to shut off and you don’t sleep or wake up in the middle of the night?
Another name for the body clock is the circadian rhythm. When this rhythm is off, we suffer, to say the least. Read further to understand why your rhythm may be off, and how to get it back into sync.
Circadian Rhythm Definition
Your internal body clock is a natural, internal system that helps regulate falling asleep and waking up. It is controlled by an area in your brain which is activated by light and dark. This completely explains why at 5pm when it’s dark outside, I just want to go to bed! It works the opposite on me too when we are in day light savings time. When it’s still daylight out at 9pm I sure as heck don’t want to go to sleep!
Your circadian rhythm is controlled by your brain’s hypothalamus. This part of your brain reacts to light and dark by signals sent by your eyes. When it’s light out, your eyes send the hormone cortisol to wake up. When it’s dark and your eyes send the signal to the hypothalamus the hormone melatonin is released to help make you tired.
So you can guess what happens with this light/dark rhythm is disrupted. Sleep disorders.
Circadian Rhythm Disorder Symptoms
Anyone reading this ever experience any of these symptoms:
- Trouble going to sleep
- Trouble staying asleep
- Sleep that doesn’t make you feel rested
- Experience poor concentration
- Impaired performance especially cognitive
- Poor coordination/off balance
- Experience gas, bloating or abdominal pain
Some of these symptoms are obviously tricky to identify with poor circadian rhythm or a sleep disorder because they’re so common. Speaking with your Doctor about them is your best defense against self misdiagnosis. Here’s a little more specifics about circadian rhythm sleep disorders.
Going to sleep early and waking in the middle of the night could be advanced sleep phase syndrome. This disorder is more common as we age, but can be seen at any age. The circadian rhythm is shifted to make you feel tired earlier causing you to go to bed earlier and get up in the middle of the night. So your body received the rest it needed but not at the ideal times if you’re still working a job for which you have to get up for and arrive early. This disorder really sucks if you’re not retired and can go back to sleep when you want.
Falling asleep at night without issue on weekends, but not on weekdays. Now I have to admit this is one I have a problem with. I always attributed it to work stress though and not wanting to really go to work, but I have now discovered this may be delayed sleep phase disorder. If you have this disorder, you may consider yourself as a night owl.
Another pattern of a circadian sleep disorder occurs when you gradually go to sleep later and in turn wake up later. I tend to do this when I have a week or more off from my day job. It could be a circadian disorder called non hour sleep/wake disorder. This may occur when your brain doesn’t receive the proper signals of light from the optic nerve.
Consistent erratic sleep may cause you to develop irregular sleep/wake disorder. This may be seen as short naps and has a medical reason. Be sure to see your doctor if you haven’t already for this type of disorder.
Jet lag is a circadian rhythm disorder. Most of us, if we’ve traveled into different time zones, have naturally experienced this. Generally jet lag is something we overcome in a day or two of travels, but may last longer if you consistently travel often.
We probably can all relate to one or more of the above sleep problems at one point or another in our lives. I urge you to seek out a medical opinion if any of the above indicators are recurrent for you.
Circadian Rhythm and Health
When the sleep rhythm is interrupted or changed, it can affect our health. There is a pattern to our sleep, and because there are times associated with body functions/organs and healing, when our sleep is out of whack so too can our health.
Think of it this way. If for whatever reason you decide to exercise in the middle of the night when your natural rhythm is to have your deepest sleep then your entire body will be messed up.
Get it now?
More often than not, we know when we don’t sleep like our body clocks naturally tell us to we have a mess of a day ahead of us. Mood is bad, eating is most likely bad, cognitive thinking is bad etc. We feel much better when we get back on our natural sleep cycle.
Circadian Rhythm Chart
The Ayurveda circadian rhythm chart shows the association between time of day and organ of the body and is broken up into 3 main time frames. This way of interpreting the circadian rhythm chart follows the Ayurveda perspective. I am going to summarize this perspective for you. If you’re interested you can read more about the Ayurveda perspective of the circadian rhythm here.
So this perspective has the 24-hour clock broken down into 3 main parts: 10am-2pm/10pm-2am, 2am-6am/2pm-6pm and 6am-10am/6pm-10pm.
10-2 is the time of transformation and metabolism. This time of day/night corresponds to digestion and absorption of nutrients. It is during this time of day and night when digestion is strongest. Thus, the reason for eating your biggest meal of the day as your lunch.
2-6 time frame is the energy if creativity and imagination. We learn better during this time of day.
6-10 time is when the body is waking or preparing for sleep. In the morning it’s a perfect time to workout, and in the evening, it’s a time to start to fall into that bedtime routine.
Circadian Rhythm Disorder Treatment
A non-invasive way to help you get your circadian rhythm back in sync is to get yourself in line with the energies associated with the specific time of day as listed above.
However, here are a few more traditional ways that may help you get that circadian rhythm back in its natural timing.
- Behavior Therapy
- Bright Light Therapy
One thing is for sure. We can all relate to a sleepless night. No matter how you decide to combat it make sure you speak to a Doctor if you can’t resolve the problem on your own.
Good Luck, and please leave me a comment below and tell me how you handle your sleep getting out of whack!