• Jaclyn Casiero

How To Reset your Circadian Flow and Improve your Sleep Cycle

One of the most common things I hear from clients is that they have trouble falling and staying asleep - even if they have adapted to an earlier bedtime. I hear the constant complaints of being tired all the time, moodiness, brain fog, and the need to reach for sugary, and starchy snacks around 3 o'clock. When I hear these top three things, I automatically think of hormone imbalance and irregular sleep cycles.

There are numerous things in our lives that can throw off the body's circadian flow. One of the most prominent things is the "non-natural" light, specifically the blue light at night, and we'll talk more about this further down the scroll. Circadian rhythms are easily disrupted by the constant need to be glued to our mobile devices, or the endless hours of watching television. More so, our children being subjected to countless hours on video games, which reduces productivity and focus in the classroom.

Sleep should be taken seriously - it is for me! It's a necessity of life when you think of it. It controls our hormones, digestion, mood, stress management and much more. Let's dive in more to find our why circadian rhythm is so important for reset and reboot of normal bodily function.

How do circadian rhythms affect sleep and health?

We hear the term circadian rhythm being tossed around loosely but really what is it? And why is it so important to our health? Plain and simple - a part of your hypothalamus (a portion of your brain) controls your circadian rhythm, and circadian rhythms help determine our sleep patterns. Circadian rhythm is the biological mechanism that controls the sleep-wake cycle. As well as when hormones are released for ovulation and digestion, and when it's time for your body to sleep so your muscles can rest, your memories can consolidate, and your immune system can get stronger.

Scientifically, our "Master Clock" or "Biological clock" is an organism’s innate timing device. They’re composed of specific molecules (proteins) that interact within cells throughout the body. Biological clocks are found in nearly every tissue, organ and nerve. Our master clock is influenced by caffeine, blue-light electronics, and natural light. According to the National Institutes of Health, our master clock coordinates the brain, and all the biological clocks in a living thing, keeping the clocks in sync.

The master clock is a group of about 20,000 nerve cells (neurons) that form a structure called the suprachiasmatic nucleus, or SCN. The SCN is located in a part of the brain called the hypothalamus, and receives direct input from the eyes. [1] When sunlight comes in through the eyes, the SCN picks up the cue that it's daylight and time to get up and be active. As the light diminishes and then disappears—like at night—the SCN signals to the body that it's time to sleep by telling the pineal gland in the brain to produce and secrete more of the hormone melatonin, so you get drowsy.

How to fix your clock naturally

1. Open the blinds as soon as you wake up.

Rise and shine! No, really. Taking in a hefty dose of sunshine first thing in the morning can help you wake up. Daylight first thing in the morning cues your brain to stop producing melatonin, and signals your adrenals to stop producing excess cortisol. This sets the clock on your circadian rhythm so you can feel energetic during the day, and tired at night. [2]

2. Manage stress levels throughout the day—and get outside!

Higher stress levels can lead to elevated cortisol levels, and reduced melatonin levels, leading to internal body clock problems. This is why incorporating regular stress-countering practice—yoga, jogging, meditation, reading, gardening, etc.—into your routine is key for overall hormonal balance. [3] Consider doing your higher intensity workouts in the morning since exercise naturally increases cortisol levels, which can mess with quality sleep.

3. Make lunch your biggest meal.

Did you know that when you eat can affect your sleep? Have a filling breakfast containing a variety of macro-nutrients, protein, fats, carbohydrates; a moderate lunch and a smaller dinner at least two hours before bed. By following this pattern you'll sleep better with less of a chance of experiencing indigestion or gastric re-flux prior to bedtime. Also, if you eat a heavy meal prior to bed melatonin production may be dampened. This is because the gut is responsible for producing serotonin, which converts to melatonin - the sleep hormone.

4. Eat foods rich in melatonin before bed.

While there are many of the vitamins and minerals that are on this list are there because they help aid in the production of turning serotonin into melatonin. There are four main vitamins and minerals that can be found in food that aid in promoting sleep: tryptophan, magnesium, calcium, and B6. Tart cherries being one of my favorite recommendations along with foods containing tryptophan, such as poultry, eggs, cheese, beans, oats, and pumpkin seeds.

I have the perfect breakfast, snack or dessert that not only included cherries but has a lot chocolate too. Check it out Chocolate Cherry Chia Pudding.

5. Avoid (or block) blue light at night.

Blue wavelengths—which are beneficial during daylight hours because they boost attention, reaction times, and mood—seem to be the most disruptive at night. Our bodies have a good understanding when it gets dark outside and when we need to start producing melatonin for sleepy night. [4] Using bright blue electronics at night can confuse our circadian rhythm by tricking our bodies to think its daytime. Replace blue light systems such as computers, mobile phones, television and video games with reading a book prior to bed or light up your Himalayan salt lamp.

Hi. My name is Jaclyn Casiero and I am a Registered Holistic Nutritionist. If there is one thing you should know about me and why I am in the Health and Wellness industry, its because I love the science behind food and how it affects our well-being and physical body.

Food is Medicine.

I believe Nutrition, Mental and Physical health are the key components to living a healthy lifestyle. My main focus is to help you achieve your long-term goals, whether it be weight-loss, digestive health, aging or disease prevention. I am here to help you! I encourage clients to create balance, and add positive lifestyle changes, such as physical activity and mindfulness to their daily regime. When you invest in a Holistic Nutritionist such as myself, you’re not only getting one-to-one customized plan to fit your health needs but your also receiving the best investment of your life – I mean literally.

In health and happiness,

Jaclyn Xo