Improving your sleep is all about training your body to feel awake and tired at the right times. We sleep poorly and experience low energy levels when our internal clocks are out of alignment with our external schedules. There are two main factors that determine when you feel calm and sleep vs. alert and awake:
- Your Circadian Rhythm (or your body’s internal clock)
- Sleep Pressure
While we closely associate the circadian rhythm to sleep quality, this internal clock regulates many other physiological and behavioral processes over a 24-hour cycle. Things like eating, drinking, moods & emotions, body temperature, and metabolism are all impacted by the circadian rhythm.
Your circadian rhythm responds primarily to changes in light and darkness in the environment. While other environmental cues (such as mealtimes, social activities, and exercise) can also have an influence, light is by far the most powerful and reliable tool for regulating your internal clock. Exposure to light at specific times of day is a key factor in maintaining a healthy sleep-wake cycle.What is sleep pressure?
Sleep pressure is the second main factor that determines when you feel tired and alert. “ Sleep “pressure” refers to a buildup of the body's need for sleep over time. It's the feeling of sleepiness and fatigue that we experience after being awake for an extended period, and it's caused by a molecule called adenosine that accumulates in the brain.
The longer we stay awake, the more adenosine builds up, acting as a natural sleep aid, helping feel relaxed and drowsy. This makes it an essential component of our circadian rhythm and the regulation of sleep-wake cycles.
Regulating your internal clock will naturally allow your body to build up adenosine at the right times. Fortunately, there are several ways to manage sleep pressure and improve your sleep quality:
Five ways to train your internal clock and manage sleep pressure:
- Maintain a consistent sleep schedule: Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends.
- Control your exposure to light: Get plenty of natural light during the day and avoid bright screens (such as phones, tablets, and TVs) in the evening, as the blue light from these screens can disrupt your sleep-wake cycle.
Try plant-based Melatonin or Ashwaghanda, which can help regulate your cortisol levels and realign your body clock during stressful period or jetlag.
- Avoid stimulants close to bedtime: Avoid caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol in the evenings, as these can interfere with your ability to fall and stay asleep.
- Create a relaxing bedtime routine: Try a warm bath, some reading, deep breathing or meditation.
- Exercise regularly: Regular exercise can help regulate your circadian rhythm and improve sleep quality, but try to avoid exercising too close to bedtime.