The human body is fueled by routine. One of the most important aspects of an individual’s daily routine is having a regular sleep schedule, as sleep is essential for proper body and brain functioning. Sleep allows your mind and body to recharge, allowing your mental and physical health to slowly heal and repair itself each night.
Despite sleep playing a critical role in wellness, there are many circumstances where our sleep routines are disrupted. Work shift changes, traveling, illness, having a busier-than-normal schedule, and stress tend to be some of the most common causes of sleep pattern disruptions. Trying to get better sleep can be even more difficult for those in recovery, as the mind and body are always actively working to recover and reverse the harmful effects of substance use.
Although it can be incredibly challenging, working to achieve a regular sleep schedule should be a top priority for individuals both in and outside of recovery. It is essential to recognize the importance that sleep has on an individual’s well-being and actively work to develop a healthy, regulated sleep schedule.
Understanding Your Circadian Rhythm
A circadian rhythm is a combination of mental, physical, and behavioral changes that the body and mind experience in a 24-hour period. These cycles are a part of the body’s internal clock, which helps to regulate an individual’s sleep-wake cycle.
Circadian rhythms are vital because they help better prepare your mind and body for expected changes in the environment. These changes can include preparing for future activities and adequate time for sleep and eating.
One of the most critical external cues that impact circadian rhythms is the solar cycle. Sunlight helps the body identify waking hours, while the dark of the night helps the body identify sleeping hours. Circadian rhythms are developed over time, which is why switching shift hours at work can be so exhausting on the mind and body.
Everyone will experience a subjective understanding of what a healthy circadian rhythm looks and feels like. Generally, a healthy circadian rhythm is maintained by receiving quality sleep, regular eating habits, adequate and balanced exposure to daylight, exercise, and healthy stress management.
On the other hand, unhealthy or unbalanced circadian rhythms can lead to cognitive and behavioral issues. These issues can affect memory, attention, performance, motor skills, and increase the likelihood of accidents, among many other things. A person may recognize that their circadian rhythm is off when they experience:
- chronic, persistent difficulty with falling asleep or staying asleep
- excessive exhaustion during the day or at work
- chronic fatigue
- decreased alertness and issues with concentration
- impaired judgment and issues with regulating mood
- aches and pains
- stomach issues
Suggestions of Ways to Fix Your Internal Clock
Regardless of why you struggle with regulating your sleep, there are some valuable tips and tricks that can help you secure a balanced sleep schedule in your life. It is essential to understand that while many of these tips can help fix your internal clock, it may still take quite a bit of time for your mind and body to become acclimated to the changes that you are making in your environment.
#1. Prioritize Sunshine
One of the easiest and most effective ways to fix your internal clock is by prioritizing your relationship with the sun. Try to plan your day around exposure to light. If you are someone that struggles with getting up in the morning, allow the heat from the sunshine to touch your skin before you get out of bed. When your mind and body are exposed to light, your brain brings its melatonin production to a halt, making you feel more awake and alert.
Oppositely, darkness will tell your brain to start producing melatonin again, which is your sleep hormone. Once you plan your day around your exposure to light, your body will accommodate to regularly creating melatonin during the nighttime hours.
#2. Incorporate Exercise Into Your Routine
Reset your internal clock by exposing your mind and body to moderate exercise daily. Working out helps promote melatonin production as well as improve your quality of sleep, as working out tires your body. Be aware that working out at night can overstimulate your body instead of tiring it out. Choose a time to work out during the day that works for you. Perhaps if you feel like you need a nap, a workout will better benefit you.
#3. Evaluate Your Bedtime Comfort
If you spend nearly a third of your life in bed, wouldn’t you want it to be comfortable? A comfortable bed sets the tone for a quality night’s rest. It is crucial to evaluate your mattress, pillows, sheets, and even room temperature to ensure that you are sleeping in a comfortable environment. Typically, colder bedroom environments can produce the best sleep results.
#4. Practice Healthy Sleep
Practicing healthy sleep should seem like a no-brainer, although it is easier said than done. Healthy sleep can be achieved by:
- limiting exposure to technology and blue light before bed
- getting to bed early enough to get an adequate amount of sleep
- avoiding naps longer than 20 minutes
- creating a relaxing bedtime routine
- thinking about sleep in a positive way
- maintaining a strict and consistent sleep schedule
A regular and balanced sleep schedule is essential for an individual’s well-being. People experience disruptions in their internal clock for several reasons, such as job shifts, traveling, and even general stress. It is imperative to work towards achieving a healthy circadian rhythm for optimal performance of the mind and body. West Coast Recovery Centers recognizes that sleep plays a vital role in health, especially for those recovering from mental illness, addiction, or substance use. We offer several different treatment programs and therapeutic opportunities to help individualize every client’s treatment experience. We provide a compassionate, safe, and comfortable treatment environment so that people feel confident enough to heal through their trauma and associated distress. To learn more about the treatment options we provide, or to learn more about the importance of a healthy internal clock, call West Coast today at (760) 492-6509. We look forward to helping you regain a healthy body and mind.