Circadian Rhythm - how nutrition, stress, and exercise impact your sleep

Is circadian rhythm a new dance move?

No! It’s not.

In simplest terms, a circadian rhythm refers to the 24 hour inner clock all organisms have that signals when it’s time to sleep or wake up.1

Throughout a 24 hour period, your rhythm will dip and change slightly. The average healthy person will have the strongest need to sleep from 2am-4am and from 1pm-3pm.1 So there’s science behind why you feel that 2pm-3pm energy crash!
Pro Tip: An energising whole food snack or beverage will help give you the end of day push you need! Try making our chai spiced truffles, vegan chocolate or an energy boosting drink like our vanilla bean matcha latte or spicy cacao elixir!

circadian rhythm

It should be noted that restful and regular sleep is crucial to your body’s performance and health. According to Stats Canada, 1 in 3 Canadians do not get enough sleep.2 Sleep deprivation affects your body in a negative way. Everything from weight, immunity and mental health can be directly correlated with the amount of sleep one gets.3 This is where your circadian rhythm comes into play. What many people don’t understand is they might be fighting with their own Circadian Rhythm to get to sleep. If your CR (circadian rhythm) is not a regular, synced rhythm, you’ll be fighting with both your biological clock to fit in a natural sleep cycle, as well as your alarm clock!!

What time is it? It’s Biological o’clock

Your biological clock is the real deal. Think of it as being the mother of your circadian rhythm, as biological clocks actual produce your CR.4 Our bodies naturally produce a CR based on our own slightly unique bio clock. Bio clock’s can be affected greatly by environment (see stress paragraph) which causes the CR to adapt or change. The problem is the standard 21st century environment isn’t great. This leads to our CR functioning in an unnatural way, very different from its original rhythm.

So basically the CR is a rebellious teenager and our bio clock is a single parent just trying to do its best!! Sadly, our environment is like “Well, I’m not going to make this easy for you!” and that’s the whole story. #science

The role of light

circadian rhythmOkay maybe that’s not the entire story, as many environmental factors impact our CR. Take light for example! Light is considered to be the primary regulator of our circadian rhythm.5 There is actually a group of cells located in the hypothalamus of our brain that solely respond to light and darkness.1 Much like how your aunt Genine responds solely to daytime talk shows and freshly poured glasses of wine.

Light travels through the optic nerve in our eye and tells the Suprachiasmatic Nucleus (SCN); what. is. going. down. By this I mean if your optic nerve is picking up bright lights, your SCN is told to keep the party going, because your body thinks it’s daytime, as there were no artificial lights when our biological systems were created. Just the mac daddy of all lights; the sun. This is why it’s so important to avoid use of electronics right before bed, as the light that comes through tricks our body into thinking it’s still light out!A Pro Tip: Sip on our Night Nite Tonic to help your body prepare for a restful sleep!

This works both ways, if your work area is in a dark space, your optic nerve will tell your SCN it’s time for some shut eye. This might be the reason why you’re not energized during work.

Pro Tip: We obviously have some other work friendly energy tips because we know that 9-5 struggle and we want you to be an all star.

You can see how easily your CR can be thrown off due to lighting. Set your circadian rhythm up for success by lowering the lighting at least one hour or so before bed, ditch the electronics before bed (just got a random flashback to sleeping beside my tamagotchi when I was 8, now I know better) and make sure your working area has bright and lovely lights!

 

circadian rhythm When to exercise

Your circadian rhythm adapts to exercise as it does to light. If you work out right before bed, your body will experience a burst of energy, and you might find it hard to get to sleep after!6 This is due to

 the adrenaline your body still has post workout, as well as the dopamine. Choosing to exercise shortly after you wake up, or generally in the morning is the best option. You can always opt for a Yin/restorative yoga or meditation class before bed, as these classes will help your body calm down and release melatonin. Which is a natural chemical that signals your body to rest. 7

Food and nutrition

Yes, even food plays a role. Our bodies crave routine with sleeping patterns and food. Irregular eating habits can confuse your body and actually lead to higher blood pressure,8 weight gain,9 increased blood sugar levels and difficulty falling asleep.10

It’s hard for your body to doze off right after eating because your digestive system is now working hard to digest food, and converting that food into energy! If you can’t help it and have to eat right before bed, try going for a short walk to give your body that extra time to absorb the nutrients and digest your food properly.

 

Nutrition or lack there of greatly affects your circadian rhythm.11 Your body can’t function optimally if you are faced with vitamin or mineral deficiencies. There’s increasingly more evidence that shows the bacteria in our gut affects our CR greatly, and actually our microbiome has a mutual relationship with our Circadian Rhythm, meaning they both affect each other.H Nutritional deficiencies will lead to poor colonisation of good bacteria in your gut. Many factors can cause nutritional deficiencies including stress, lack of fresh, organic and bioavailable foods and environmental toxins. It’s important to find a high quality, organic, whole food supplement that will give your body the nutrition it needs.

With this information in mind, it’s important to take steps to ensure your microbiome is healthy and rich with good bacteria. Eating lots of fermented foods is a great way to ingest all of the good bacteria! Look for organic whole foods like tempeh, kombucha, sauerkraut and even fermented pasta! We’ve linked our favorite companies so check out their delicious, fermented goods!

 

Stress

circadian rhythmHopefully by now you know it’s not ‘cool’ to overwork yourself and it’s definitely not trendy to be diagnosed with a chronic illness due to all the stress you put on yourself. Additionally nobody likes that person at the office that runs around telling everyone how busy they are.. Don’t be that person.

Stress can impact how your body operates at every level.12 Unfortunately that means it plays a major role in your CR (circadian rhythm). You see, your adrenal glands kick into high gear when faced with stress. This also happens when you drink caffeine! I get it, one fight at a time. BUT by putting your body under stress it is faced with multiple fights at a time! Okay maybe not fights, but it is forced to release the very same chemicals that are needed when you come in contact with a fight or flight situation. Overworking yourself leads to more of these chemicals being released; catecholamines, glucocorticoids and of course the well known cortisol.4

The interesting note about this, is naturally we are supposed to have a high cortisol release the morning as the sun rises, to allow our body to naturally wake up. D This is a prehistoric system that has helped humans evolve and survive.

So, why aren’t you like Fred Flinstone the caveman and ready to go with energy in the morning? Many factors have contributed to the loss of our intended natural CR. Ultimately adrenal fatigue is the biggest symptom, which is caused by: Environmental toxins, lack of nutrition in our food, regular consumption of caffeine, over stimulus of technology, capitalism (makes people believe their productivity defines their worth in society which leads to rewarding those who overwork themselves) and lack of education around holistic health and wellness.

In addition stress affects your microbiome in a negative way which further perpetuates an unhealthy CR.13 Coping with stress and avoiding unnecessary amount of it will ensure you don’t get sucked into this vicious cycle! Meditation is one way that has proven to combat stress and give your body other amazing benefits.

 

Improve that CR pronto

The best way to combat environmental factors that are affecting your CR is to get as far away from society as possible, and live the rest of your life as a mountain nomad. If for some strange reason this isn’t realistic for you, we have some more practical tips.

  • Eat whole organic plant foods as much as possiblecircadian rhythm
  • Exercise regularly by doing something you love
  • Build a strong community of friends and loved ones to support you
  • Find an organic, whole food supplement that can support you nutritionally
  • Get out in nature as much as you can
  • Meditate
  • Drink filtered water
  • Read books that make you feel good
  • Learn, grow and smile as much as you can!

Working towards a more healthy and regular circadian rhythm will benefit you in many ways. Here are more resources to help you:

What do B vitamins do?

The stigma that comes with asking for help

Why am I tired all the time? Iron deficiency could be the culprit.

Master your metabolism

 

References:
1  https://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-topics/sleep-drive-and-your-body-clock

2  http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/82-003-x/2017009/article/54857-eng.htm

3  https://academic.oup.com/sleep/article/37/1/9/2454038

4  https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352289516300194

5  http://symposium.cshlp.org/content/72/579
6 https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/proceedings-of-the-nutrition-society/article/sleep-circadian-rhythm-and-body-weight-parallel-developments/72AB313DB902E28EA300324E9C181FEC

7 https://www.nigms.nih.gov/education/pages/Factsheet_CircadianRhythms.aspx

8 https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/proceedings-of-the-nutrition-society/article/shiftwork-is-time-of-eating-determining-metabolic-health-evidence-from-animal-models/8206519ACC4CA25C459525F01DB94280

9 http://www.cell.com/cell-metabolism/fulltext/S1550-4131(17)30349-2

10 http://www.cell.com/current-biology/fulltext/S0960-9822(17)30504-3

11 https://academic.oup.com/nutritionreviews/article/75/9/673/4077011

12 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2568977/

13 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3039072/