How to Use Your Body’s Circadian Rhythm to Your Advantage

Written by Allison Bordewick on

The phrase has been tossed around casually, but if you’re not familiar, circadian rhythm is your body’s internal clock. It regulates when you feel tired and awake in a 24-hour period. This rhythm can be altered by light (for example, the blue light that emits from mobile devices) and body temperature, and it directly influences sleep-wake cycles, the release of hormones, and other bodily functions.1 It’s a pretty powerful internal force we all have. Here are a few tips on how to use the power to your advantage.

Be More Creative

  • When your brain is tired, it has a hard time filtering distractions and focusing. This sets you up for the perfect window of creativity, and helps you make different connections by thinking in new ways.2 By becoming familiar with your circadian rhythm, you’ll know the time of day you typically fall into a slump. Try to plan a block of creative thinking (even a block of daydreaming) during that time, and you might just have the “ah ha!” moment you’ve been waiting for.

Say Goodbye to your Alarm Clock

  • We’ve all been there during the dreaded moment the alarm clock goes off in the morning, rudely interrupting a deep stage of sleep. It’s such a different scenario from when we have the time/schedule to wake up naturally. If you know how much sleep you need, count backward from when you need to be awake in the morning, and make sure you’re in bed by that time at night3 (i.e. if you need to be up by 7am and require 8 hours of sleep, you need to be sleeping by 11pm). Keep a consistent schedule and bedtime routine and before long, you’ll be waking up on your own instead of to a blaring, horrible buzzer.

Have a Better Sweat Session

  • According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, muscle strength, lung function and eye-hand coordination all peak in the late afternoon.4 Because your joints and muscles are more flexible in the evening, you’re also less likely to be injured if you exercise in the afternoon. That means you get to sleep in an extra hour in the morning as long as you fit in some physical activity later in the day.

Maintain a Healthier Body Weight

  • Instead of grazing all day, try to keep your entire food intake to an eight-hour period, specifically during your eight hours of peak activity. You want to avoid eating too late in the day so your digestion doesn’t interfere with your body’s tendency to start winding down. Your body tends to hold on to glucose later in the evening too,5 so it’s best to stick to lighter meals in the evening if possible.

Now that we’ve discussed the how great mastering your circadian rhythm can be, you’re probably wondering what you need to do to reap the benefits. Having good sleep hygiene habits are the most important (i.e. going to bed and waking up at the same time each day), as well as practicing good eating habits (remember, chocolate has caffeine in it!) and getting in some physical activity during the day. What do you hope to accomplish after mastering your circadian rhythm?

1Pinola, Melanie. "Make Sure You Don't Get the Worst Room with These Hotel Manager Tips." Lifehacker. The Gawker Media Group, 12 June 2014. Web. 08 Apr. 2016.
2"Earplugs and Eye Masks Help Promote Sleep." National Sleep Foundation. National Sleep Foundation, n.d. Web. 08 Apr. 2016.

1"Circadian Rhythms Fact Sheet." National Institute of General Medical Sciences. National Institute of General Medical Sciences, 14 Mar. 2016. Web. 01 Apr. 2016.
2Cooper, Belle Beth. "Master Your "Body Clock" to Eat, Sleep, and Work More Efficiently." Lifehacker. The Gawker Media Group, 27 July 2013. Web. 01 Apr. 2016.
3"How to Wake Up Without An Alarm Clock." Sleep.Org. National Sleep Foundation, n.d. Web. 01 Apr. 2016.
4Shellenbarger, Sue. "The Peak Time for Everything." The Wall Street Journal. Dow Jones & Company, Inc., 26 Sept. 2012. Web. 01 Apr. 2016.
5Cooper, Belle Beth. "Master Your "Body Clock" to Eat, Sleep, and Work More Efficiently." Lifehacker. The Gawker Media Group, 27 July 2013. Web. 01 Apr. 2016.

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