Toolbox Genomics - Food & Lifestyle for Your DNA

Published on Sept. 13, 2017

Sleep The Way Nature Intended

Wake up ready to crush your day.

Did you know our bodies have their own internal clock that tries to match nature?

This biological clock tells our body and mind when to fall asleep and when to wake. Some of us are night owls, and may feel the best and most alert during later hours of the day. These people tend to snooze through their morning alarm, skip breakfast, and eat a large meal later in the day.  

Morning types wake up early and are at their best during the first part of the day. They prefer to eat breakfast, and go to bed relatively early after a light dinner. 

Most of us fall in the night owl category because humans have a circadian rhythm with a period slightly longer than 24 hours. This causes many people to stay up and wake up a bit later each day.  By staying up later and waking up earlier than our body wants us to, we can develop sleep deprivation.  So what can you do when your inner clock doesn’t sync up with your work schedule?

Even though your biology may determine whether you’re more of a morning or evening person, sleep is also influenced by what you choose to do during the day. Here are some lifestyle tips to help you better align your natural sleep type with your work schedule:

Need a reason to spend more time outside? Try camping for the weekend. Or at least, get plenty of sunlight in the morning.

A recent study has shown that camping can help reset your circadian rhythm due to the change in environment. Natural light, particularly morning sunshine, which has lots of blue light, has a powerful influence on setting internal clocks.  If camping is not your thing, try to copy a natural light-dark cycle at least on the weekend. Using a sun-spectrum lamp in the morning can also help push your circadian rhythm a little earlier.

As if you needed another reason to turn off your cell phones!

Limiting your exposure to artificial light (e.g. computers and cell phones) at night and waking up to sunlight helps adjust your levels of melatonin to the natural cycle of the day.  Melatonin is a hormone that makes you feel tired naturally when the sun goes down.

Avoid heavy meals when it’s late.

Research shows that evening types have a general tendency to eat fewer and larger meals later in the day. Your body isn’t designed to be digesting while you sleep, so eating big meals too close to bedtime can keep you up at night. If you have to eat late, opt for a lighter meal with less protein, which takes longer to digest.

Get plenty of daily exercise at the right time of day.

Exercise in the morning can help you sleep more soundly at night. Studies show that morning exercisers see the most benefits to blood pressure and greatest increase in deep sleep.  Although your peak athleticism is dependent on your sleep type, athletic ability tends to be highest in the morning for morning types and in the evening for evening types. 

Believe it or not, the worst time to exercise for all sleep types is very early in the morning (6am or earlier) and right before bedtime.  In the early morning, your core body temperature is still low and your muscles and joints are more vulnerable to injury. Exercising too close to bedtime will keep you up later in the night. 

Strengthen the mind-body connection through yoga.

Sleep is both a physical and mental state that allows to reset, and is heavily influenced by the way our mind works. Evening types tend to have more impulsive personalities and are prone to depression. Research suggests that yoga can help all sleep types adjust to a more open-minded, optimistic way of thinking. Some studies have tracked how mood changes among sleep types after a yoga session. Evening types improved the most dramatically.


The Research:

Epidemiology of the human circadian clock.

Circadian Entrainment to the Natural Light-Dark Cycle across Seasons and the Weekend

The effects of chronotype, sleep schedule and light/dark pattern exposures on circadian phase.

Evening Chronotype Is Associated with Changes in Eating Behavior, More Sleep Apnea, and Increased Stress Hormones in Short Sleeping Obese Individuals

The impact of circadian phenotype and time since awakening on diurnal performance in athletes.

Effects of exercise timing on sleep architecture and nocturnal blood pressure in prehypertensives

Sleep Drive And Your Body Clock 

Morningness-Eveningness, Chronotypes and Health-Impairing Behaviors in Adolescents


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