Support: 866.543.6646
Sales: 855.489.1792

Shining a Light on Better Sleep: Understanding Our Circadian Rhythms

Shining a Light on Better Sleep: Understanding Our Circadian Rhythms

posted by: Nicole Hovey date: Nov 30, 2021 category: Blog comments: Comments Off on Shining a Light on Better Sleep: Understanding Our Circadian Rhythms

It’s no secret that Americans are not getting enough sleep. The Sleep Foundation has found that more than one-third of U.S. adults report getting less than seven hours of sleep per night, on average. According to the CDC, more than two-thirds of U.S. high school students report that they get less than 8 hours of sleep on school nights.

One big reason why many of us don’t get enough sleep is because of disruptions to our circadian rhythm. Our circadian rhythm is like an “internal clock” that can dictate our energy levels. But what dictates that internal clock? Let’s find out.

How light affects our circadian rhythm

Many different factors can influence the circadian rhythm. However, light exposure is by far the most significant.

One way to use this to your advantage is to view natural sunlight within 30-60 minutes of waking. This helps stimulate the production of certain daytime hormones and makes you feel more alert. Take note, this works best when you are outside—seeing the sunset through your car windshield during your morning commute doesn’t count!

Whenever possible, repeat this natural light exposure again in the afternoon, before sunset. This can be a challenge in the northern U.S. in the winter!

Once the sun sets, however, it is time to rethink your light exposure. The blue-green light from screens can interfere with your circadian rhythm and prevent the production of sleep-related hormones like melatonin. Keep the lights in your home dim. Try to reduce screen time after dinner. If you must use screens at night, try some blue light-blocking glasses or install an app that has a similar effect on your phone or computer.

Most importantly, you should avoid light exposure between 11pm and 4am, even if you have trouble sleeping or wake up to use the bathroom. Research shows that a pea-sized section of the brain known as the habenula can be influenced by light.

The habenula is involved in many of our behavioral responses, including sleep, stress, pain, and reward. Light exposure may activate the habenula, disrupting our sleep and mood.

Encouraging your natural sleep schedule

What else can you do to encourage your natural circadian rhythm to get better sleep? Follow these steps:

Wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends.
Keep your bedroom cool and dark. Our body temperatures may actually need to drop a degree or two for optimal sleep.
Limit alcohol intake in the evening. While it may make you feel sleepy, it can actually reduce your sleep quality.

What about your caffeine usage? Caffeine can inhibit your body’s use of the chemical adenosine, which helps you feel sleepy at the end of the day.

Pay attention to how your body responds to caffeine, both when you drink it, and how much. Most experts recommend that you avoid caffeine less than 10 hours before bed. This allows adenosine to build up properly.

Sleep is a vital part of overall physical and mental health. This information could help your behavioral health clients and providers better understand their circadian rhythm so they can improve their sleep habits and related health outcomes.

Here at BestNotes, we understand the importance of tracking health outcomes. OutcomeTools, available with BestNotes, is a state-of-the-art delivery and analysis system that helps behavioral health providers track their effectiveness with outcome questionnaires. This helps demonstrate your practice’s value and provide better treatment for your clients, potentially increasing your referrals and revenue. Curious to learn more? Schedule a free demo today!

Comments are closed.