Time Change & Circadian Rhythms
Daylight Savings Time change is happening this weekend. We 'fall back' so we will gain an hour. Mornings will be brighter and evenings will get dark earlier, and most of us will still be moving about with the same schedule. But for just one hour of change, it sure can cause disruption of our circadian rhythms, especially when we're obligated to abruptly adjust to the new time change.
Why can this wreak havoc on our circadian rhythms?
Every single cell in our body has an internal clock that is regulated by the rhythms of Nature (light/dark cycle, seasonal changes) and by a part of our brain called the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), which is located in the hypothalamus. All of our organs, which are made up of many cells, and our hormones, our sleep/wake cycles, and all body processes are regulated by this part of our brain that is intimately linked with the rhythms of Nature.
At sunrise, as we are sleeping, our optic nerve will notice the room getting lighter. We detect light through our eyelids. This is why it is best to sleep with no shades or sheers on bedroom windows so that we can naturally wake up with the rising of the sun. Light-blocking shades disrupt this important connection to Nature and can cause an imbalance in our health and wellness, particularly our energy levels, mood, and digestion, just to name a few.
Once our SCN detects light noticed by the optic nerve, our brain shifts production of hormones - our melatonin production ceases and cortisol takes over, waking us up for the day and getting us ready to take action. So gaining an hour this DST will come in handy for the mornings, as your body is designed to rise with the Sun.
As the late afternoon comes around, the Sun has well past its peak for the day, our body stops producing Cortisol in high amounts and starts to produce Melatonin to help us wind down for the evening to support restful sleep. Melatonin is the hormone produced by the pineal gland when it is notified of less light in the environment by the SCN. This is a very important hormone that regulates our sleep/wake cycles. It also slows down digestion and all other bodily processes.
Melatonin is often called 'the Dracula of hormones’ because levels rise when it gets dark out. It makes us feel drowsy and helps us wind down for the night. It also plays a role in the body's antioxidant defenses and helps regulate blood pressure, body temperature, and cortisol levels, as well as sexual and immune function.
Now think about all the artificial light in our environment, the blue light from all the gadgets we stare at well into the evening, and how this ”after-dark bright light” easily disrupts our natural sleep/wake cycle, which is designed to give us adequate and rejuvenating sleep. Deprivation of true high-quality sleep is literally an epidemic in our modern, artificial-light-steeped culture, if not the world. Many people suffer from insomnia simply from not aligning with this rhythm of Nature.
As the days get shorter, the rest and digest parasympathetic nervous system is activated for shorter days and longer nights. Circadian changes (our biorhythms) in the Fall encourage the body to get more sleep and have less daytime activity than we enjoyed in the Summer. So it is preventative medicine when we start to lighten our schedule in the Fall allowing for more time to rest earlier in the evening.
So how do we become aligned with the sleep/wake cycle (aka light/dark cycle) and the natural rhythm of our hormones?
Here are some general guidelines:
Know your dosha & follow the guidelines to pacify it - we can find our rhythm much easier when we align with our true unique nature, when we understand the dominant energies present in our constitution and understand better how to balance them
Have consistent sleep/wake routines - the body & mind are easily entrained. It doesn’t take long to inform your body that you are establishing a pattern, the body and mind move toward rhythm, if there’s a pattern, it will work toward that
Wake up with the sunrise and get movement & center yourself before 10 am
Turn off screens by 8 pm at the latest - some do better with earlier - and start winding down activity for the night - allow the nervous system to settle down, become less active, ride melatonins wave
Drink some herbal tea with sleep-supportive herbs - see here for a recipe for Moon Milk to help lull yourself to sleep the Ayurvedic way, and to learn more about the light/dark cycle
Bed by 10 pm, maybe 11 pm for some kaphas
For more specific recommendations, check out my Discover Your Dosha guidebook by going to my website at: www.nature2balance.com/contact.
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If you’d like a more comprehensive look at your very own unique constitution, connect with me. I provide very thorough and detailed diet & lifestyle guidelines for individuals so that one can naturally find true mind-body-spirit wellness, balance, and bliss.
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