The term “circadian rhythm” gets thrown around a lot and, after having countless people sort of nod their heads vacantly when its invoked, I figured it’d be a decent time to give a brief overview of what it is so that next time someone says it around you, you can nod with confidence.
Most people know that our bodies have a sleep cycle, that that sleep cycle is dictated by some sort of internal clock, and that “circadian rhythm” has something to do with the whole convoluted deal.
If this is where you’re at, then I have some good news for you. Your circadian rhythm is your internal clock. Gasp!
Your circadian rhythm is what causes your level of wakefulness to rise and dip throughout the day. The average person has the strongest desire to conk out around 2:00pm, which is why some cultures honor(ed) the beautiful siesta, and why you probably want to do nothing but find a corner to huddle in after lunch.
You can blame it on your “food baby” all you want, but I’m here with a permission slip to blame your sleepiness on your ancestors and Darwin and capitalism next time your boss or friend tries to tease you about being tired.
Another dip happens around 3:00am, but this one is a little more volatile and sort of what dictates who are morning people and who are dead to the world until they get some coffee people. These dips are preceded by some all-powerful melatonin secretion to get your body prepared for shutting down.
Staying in tune with your circadian rhythm is important - break tempo, and you’re in for a world of grogginess and pain. Sleep is your body’s way of recharging and healing itself, and if you futz with your body clock your body won’t be able to fully recharge and next thing you know your battery is gonna die when you need it most. You heard me. Sleep or die, kids.
Here are five ways that you can aid your body in maintaining a robust body clock:
CONSISTENT SLEEP SCHEDULE This is probably the most important. Whatever you’re doing at night or in the morning, if you keep the time that you start sleeping and the time you wake up consistent, your body has a good chance of adjusting to the demands you place upon it. If you have a standing obligation every Saturday that gets you to bed at 10pm, try and go to bed at that same hour on the other days.
- DON’T MAKE BIG CHANGES, THE RULE OF 15 If you’re trying to change what time you’re going to bed and waking up, don’t try and shock your body into obeying. Ease it along. When I made a promise to wake up earlier so I could go to the gym before work, I learned about the Rule of 15: instead of setting your alarm for an hour earlier over-night, just move it 15 minutes. Eventually you’ll get to the hour you need to be at.
- FOSTER DISCOMFORT FOR THE MORNING This one might sound a little masochistic off the cuff, but hear me out. We’ve talked before about screens at night but it’s worth repeating something that’s helped me refuse the tantalizing offer to sleep in on cozy mornings: take your phone out of your room. Invest in some other alarm system, whether it’s an analog clock, a watch, or getting a chicken. Set some clothes out the night before, maybe do someovernight oats to facilitate you getting your butt UP!
- SUNLAMP! Some people recommend going for a morning walk to wake up: it gets the blood flowing and, more importantly, exposure to the sun can give you a little energy boost AND reset your circadian rhythm. But! If you live in a dark place where the sun don’t shine no mo’, or you just can’t be assed to go on a walk because you have stuff to do, invest in a sunlamp or similar light that mimics the friendly infusion of our friendly gaseous ball of death that hangs out with us everyday trying to get us some >mm mm, cancer. It a) won’t give you cancer because it’s a lamp and not a giant ball of radiation floating out in the endless void and b) will still wake you up and nurture your best body clock.
- DIGITAL CURFEW This is a tough one to sell to this crowd, and for good reason. How lame is it to be told “Don’t play video games at night”? That’s when all your friends are playing, what the heck. Still, it’s the best idea to put your stimulation-by-light some distance away from your night-night time. Three hours is best, two hours is good, one hour is fine, thirty minutes is - hey, at least you’re trying. It’s the thought that counts.
If you just want a sick-nasty bandaid to knock you out and enable your vices, check out some Reboot. We make it, obviously, but we make it and promote it because we believe in it, our last name is Sleeper, and we like gaming at night with our friends and guilds as much as we like sleeping and doing our best impressions of a mammoth stuck in ice.