The Body Clock Challenge
This week’s challenge is all about resetting your internal body clock, otherwise known as Circadian Rhythm. The Circadian Rhythm is the inbuilt 24-hour cycle that influences the timing of daily routines such as falling asleep, waking up and when we eat. Modern life can throw this rhythm wildly out of whack; and with symptoms of seasonal affective disorder and insomnia effecting around a third of the population, most of us would benefit from catching a few more rays during the day and some extra hours kip at night.
Start by opening your bedroom curtains, ready for tomorrow morning's sunlight to flood in. Keep screen use to a minimum in the evenings and let's see if you can feel the positive effect of getting your sleeping and waking hour habits in check? For the moments when after-dark technology is unavoidable, there are some clever technologies available to alter the spectrum of light that our screens emit.
Its not all about switching lights off. It's equally important to get out and enjoy the natural light, making sure that your busy day doesn't get in the way of you and all that Circadian Rhythm stimulating, wakeful goodness. On weekdays, why not try waking up a little earlier and walking (or running) part-of/all the way to work and setting aside some time for an outdoors midday recharge with your lunch on your lap. Its free, and you’ll feel the effects enjoying some fresh air instantly.
The Sleep deprivation test
Courtesy of BBC Doctor, Michael Mosley, here’s an entertaining but useful test to find out if you’re getting enough sleep or not?
Interesting fact: This exercise was strategically used by Salvador Dali to trigger the fluid and hyper-associative sleep state that occurs just as we’re drifting off, helping him manifest the ideas behind his weird and wonderful artwork.
You will need : A comfy spot you can lie down for a nap during the day, a metal spoon, and a metal tray.
Step 1: Take a look at the time on your watch. Then, here’s the important bit – lie with your hand holding the spoon above the tray (placed on the floor) over the side of the bed.
Step 2: Relax and take a nap. When/if you doze off, you’ll be woken by the noise of the spoon hitting the tray.
Step 3: Immediately check the time. If it’s been under 5 minutes, you can assume that you’re very sleep deprived. Under 10 minutes, and it’s a sign you’re not getting as much sleep as your body needs.
Let there be ‘healthy’ light...
Natural, full-spectrum light has been shown to improve concentration, mood and overall health. It’s been that way for most living things for millions of years and us humans are no exception. Light is one of the major triggers to the region of your brain responsible for managing your Circadian Rhythm, with specialized light receptors sending signals that help it to know ‘it’s time to wake up’ or ‘it’s time to start falling asleep’. The firing of the nerve cells in this region, located in an area called 'the Hypothalamus', controls the release of hormones such as cortisol (related to stress) and melatonin (which regulates sleep and wakefulness). An inbalance of these hormones is linked to insomnia, fatigue, stress, anxiety, depression and over-eating. Simply put, waking up with the sun and winding down at sunset is a fundamental part of maintaining a natural sleeping pattern, which plays a key role in being a happy, energised and healthy human being.
But modern technology is interfering….
On a daily basis, many of us are messing with this ingrained sleep circuitry. Most screens emit blue-wavelength light, usually associated with the midday sun. As a result, tapping away at laptops or browsing on our phones can leave our brains feeling rather confused before bed – they’re receiving false signals that the sun is high in the sky, and we need to be active. No wonder we’re finding it hard to drift off. The tech world has begun to recognise this and although there is no substitute for switching off and welcoming the setting of the sun, there are some useful apps and hard wear out there that will help you to align your natural rhythm with your busy urban lifestyle.
how to Get smart with light
You can now get some super smart, ambient lighting ( such as Philips HUE) in your home that can be set to alter light balance, aligning it with the time of day and therefore mimicking the types of light experienced as the sun rises and falls in the sky. You'll also find that many computers, tablets and phones feature an in-built 'night shift' option that transitions your screen towards an orange colour in the evenings to help your brain realise it’s time to prepare for sleep. If not, there's an awesome free app called 'F.lux' that will automatically alter screen ligh-balance - in their words, it's 'software to make your life better' > Get F.Lux Here
Until next week's final Minimalist Month challenge... we hope you enjoy a good night's sleep.
We spoke to Psychologies Magazine’s Wellness editor, Emine Rushton, to get some technology-free tips for creating a relaxing bedtime routine that promotes healthy, restful sleep...
“A few simple steps can have a noticeable impact on how restful you feel in the evening, and how rested you'll feel the following morning. I try to set myself a sort of tech 'curfew' each night – I often need to finish off some work or get on top of emails once the children are in bed, but I am also fully aware that this is the only time I have to also catch my breath, do some yoga, meditate, and that the latter is as important as the former.
Here’s a few simple steps to getting back on track with winding down:
- Aim to have every device turned off by 9pm – it becomes symbolic of switching off from the stresses of the day.
- Try to spend the time between switching off and going to sleep focusing on yourself and preparing for the next day - I like to do an online yoga class with Movement for Modern Life – I keep the iPad on Night Mode to cut out blue light.
- I like to give my body a little extra boost my taking supplements. Each evening I have Wild Nutrition Magnesium tablets, half an hour before bed, to relax me further and replenish the natural magnesium stores that we burn through
- Take a moment before drifting off to be calm and still. Every evening I practice a 20-minute meditation. Will Williams taught me (willwilliamsmeditation.co.uk) and it's become a staple part of my life. For me it’s a bit like clearing the flagged items in the inbox.