Sleep, along with nutrition and exercise, is one of the three pillars of being healthy and enjoying your life. In short, you must sleep well to be well!
In my previous post on how to sleep better tonight I have discussed why and how to apply nutrition to sleep sounder and longer. The next step in improving sleep quality and quantity is to do the sleep patterns reset, as required on an individual basis.
Our sleep patterns follow circadian rhythms, 24-hour day/night cycles ever present in nature that all living creatures go through. Following these natural body rhythms of activity, rest and sleep, night and day, is very important for sleeping well and optimal health.
Our lifestyles and work patterns tend to interfere with the natural rhythms with dire consequences. Circadian rhythm dysregulation refers to disruptions in a person’s ‘internal body clock’ located in the brain, which regulates the 24-hour cycle of biological processes in the body. The key feature of circadian rhythm disorders is a continuous or occasional disruption of sleep patterns.
Light is the most important external factor affecting the body clock, and sunrise and sunset are the most important times to restore and reset daily circadian rhythm patterns.
Often called the stress hormone, cortisol is closely related to circadian rhythms, as cortisol’s 24-hour cycle reflects the body rhythm (cortisol is highest in the morning and lowest in the evening and night). Resetting these two cycles is the key to resolving many body imbalances including insomnia, disrupted sleep, hormonal imbalances or adrenal fatigue/stress.
Circadian/cortisol rhythm disruption is mainly caused by:
- Not getting enough sleep
- Irregular meal routine
- Not enough natural light exposure during the day
- Excessive exposure to artificial light at night
Importantly, a disrupted sleep/wake cycle can also result in or contribute to adrenal fatigue. Chronic night time exposure to stress and light (which is a form of stress for the body) requires the adrenal glands to produce more cortisol than normal. In time, this excessive production of cortisol leads to adrenal fatigue, impacting many other systems in the body.
In order to successfully recover from adrenal fatigue and restore good sleep, it’s very important to follow the natural rhythms that allow your adrenals to rest and heal.
Notably, the 2017 Nobel Prize in Medicine was awarded jointly to Jeffrey C. Hall, Michael Rosbash and Michael W. Young for their discoveries of molecular mechanisms controlling the circadian rhythm. It’s a fascinating area of research which is very important to grasp to be healthy and well. Here’ the link to the press release summarising their work and discoveries. I highly recommend you take the time to read it.
How to do the sleep patterns reset
A sleep routine is a set of daily activities and bedtime habits and rituals you can do every day to improve your sleep quality and duration, such as having set times for waking up, eating meals, and getting to bed. These activities calm the nervous system, adrenals and other systems, so the body starts to follow natural rhythms and retune its internal clock.
Following these routines sends the signal of safety, calmness and relaxation to the body. Aim to follow your routine every day, rather than trying to adhere to a rigid structure. Here are my recommended daily sleep routines and sleep reset tips:
Get morning light exposure daily
- Each morning, start the day with exposure to sunlight (or morning light if it’s cloudy) for a minimum of 30 minutes. Do this within an hour of waking up and before 10:00 a.m. This activity is most beneficial when combined with morning exercise such as walking in nature, with no sunscreen or sunglasses.
Get sun and fresh air during the day
- We need the sun’s rays directly on the skin (with no sunscreen) every day for 20-30 minutes (depending on the season) to get our vitamin D, stimulate the feeling of wellbeing, alleviate depression and anxiety, correct hormone imbalances, and reset our circadian rhythms, among other things.
- If you work in an office all day, take a walk at lunchtime to a nearby park or around the block. Outside of work time, walk the dog, go for a walk with a friend, or exercise in a park – do whatever you enjoy while resetting your natural rhythms! Read more about the key importance of sunlight and vitamin D for your health.
Dim the lights around the house 2 hours before bedtime
- This will signal the body to get ready to go to sleep and to start producing the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin. Artificial light affects all hormonal rhythms including the adrenal, thyroid and sex hormones. Constant, long-term exposure to artificial light in the evening is a form of stress and it will throw off your circadian rhythms over time, leading to multiple health problems.
Have at least 30 minutes of wind-down time before bed
- Many people with insomnia need this transition time to allow the brain’s activities to slow down and for stressful, compulsive thinking to decrease so that the sleep hormones can take over.
- Do something relaxing and enjoyable such as having a warm shower or bath, listening to relaxing, soft music, meditating or reading a book (not on your tablet!). Aim to keep the mind as quiet as possible without stressing about inevitable mind chatter.
Be in bed by 10:00-10:30 p.m. at the latest, even if you have difficulty falling asleep
- Aim to go to bed at the same time every night. A regular night sleep time balances the body and is extremely calming to the nervous system, the brain and the adrenals.
- If you can’t fall asleep within 15-20 minutes, leave the bedroom, open the window and take 10-20 deep breaths. Then sit somewhere quiet and read a relaxing book (not on your tablet!) for 15-20 minutes or until you get tired and sleepy. Then go back to bed and sleep. Lying in bed awake can create an unhealthy link between your bedroom and wakefulness. You want your bed to be associated with sleep, sex and rest only.
Disconnect from all electronic devices that emit blue light, such as tablets, laptops, phones, TV and alarm clocks, at least 1-2 hours before bedtime.
- Blue light exposure before sleep can disrupt body rhythms and suppress the release of melatonin, the sleep-promoting hormone. It’s best to remove all blue light sources, this will also decrease the electromagnetic radiation emitted by them, which can also disrupt sleep in some people.
Follow the above steps to do your sleep patterns reset, combined with the nutritional strategies listed in my previous post and you will likely start sleeping better within 2-3 weeks. I’ve seen many clients significantly improve or recover from adrenal fatigue-induced sleeping difficulties after using the tactics and steps outlined here. I’m confident that by following this advice, you can get the rest and the good night’s sleep you need and deserve.
Please share your experience and results of undertaking your sleep patterns reset in the comments below. Thank you!
FREE GUIDE: Get a Good Night’s Sleep Tonight!
What you CAN do today to fall asleep easier, sleep longer and wake up rested and refreshed, a step-by-step guide
Having seen many fantastic outcomes of improving sleep in my practice, I was compelled to write a short guide to give you the most important, simplest and common sense steps you can do right now to get sounder and more restful sleep tonight. The post above covering the importance of nutrition for sleeping better, is one of the abbreviated chapters of the Get a Good Night’s Sleep Tonight! Free Guide.
What will you gain from this guide?
If you’re currently suffering from insomnia and/ or sleep difficulties, especially if they are related to adrenal fatigue, this guide will provide you with what you need to do to sleep better. I’ve helped many of my clients to sleep well again utilising the following three keys outlined in the guide:
- Key #1: Nutrition for better sleep
- Key #2: Sleep patterns reset
- Key #3: Daily sleep promoting activities
Your benefits of applying the 3 keys will include:
- Sounder and uninterrupted sleep and rest
- More energy and vitality, feeling refreshed and relaxed
- Clearer thinking, feeling calmer and less stressed
Download the Get a Good Night’s Sleep Tonight! Free Guide here and start sleeping better tonight!
Good health and blessings
Adrenal Fatigue and Digestive Health Expert
Naturopath || Herbalist || Nutritionist || Reiki Practitioner