Quality over quantity — for food, for beauty and, most importantly, for sleep! While getting a full 8 hours every night sounds as deliciously rejuvenating as an actual vacay, it isn’t the only factor we need to bask in the benefits of better sleep. Enter: your circadian rhythm. Holistic nutritionist, Kelly LeVeque, is convincing us about the importance of a sleep schedule… 

Sleep is proven to reduce the risk of many chronic diseases, improve memory, increase cognitive function, reduce stress and keep you slim. But new research is proving it’s not only how much you sleep but when you sleep that will ultimately determine your waist size. At Be Well by Kelly, my clients are encouraged to prioritize sleep above all else because mind over matter will never win when your body is overriding your consumption decisions with powerful hunger hormones fueled by poor sleep.

Circadian Rhythm 101

Your “circadian rhythm” (or internal clock) regulates physical, mental and behavioral changes over a rough 24-hour cycle responding primarily to light and darkness in your environment. Circadian rhythms are found in most organisms, including animals, plants and tiny microbes. The term circadian comes from Latin words that literally mean “around the day” and our brain wave activity, hormone production, cell regeneration and other biological activities are all linked to these light cycles.

Circadian Rhythm Disorders

Circadian rhythm sleep disorders (CRSD) are a family of sleep disorders affecting the timing of sleep where people are unable to sleep and wake at the times required for work, school and/or social needs. CRSD are disruptions in a person’s circadian rhythm linked to insomnia, fatigue, depression, Type 2 diabetes, cancer and weight gain. Sources of CRSD include shift work, pregnancy, time-zone changes, medications, changes in routine such as staying up late or sleeping in, medical problems including Alzheimer’s or Parkinson disease and mental health problems.

Circadian Rhythm Disrupters

Blue light or blue wavelengths are the main source of light from the sun and have been proven to be beneficial during daylight hours because they boost attention, reaction times and mood. Unfortunately because this blue light is present in computer screens, phones, tablets and florescent lighting it is also the main disruptor of our circadian rhythm, due to its effect on melatonin.

Suppressed Melatonin Production

The verdict: Your excessive Instagram use is suppressing melatonin production and interfering with your sleep. Most disruptive after sundown, the proliferation of blue light through electronic screens and energy-efficient lighting is suppressing melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone (made by the pineal gland in the brain) that helps control your sleep and wake cycles. Melatonin is a potent antioxidant, DNA protector, helps regulate other hormones and maintains the body’s circadian rhythm. When it is dark, your body produces more melatonin; when it is light, the production of melatonin drops. Normally, your melatonin level begins to rise in the evening and remain high for most of the night, and then it drops in the early morning hours as cortisol rises to wake you up.

two XL: Light and a Lack of Melatonin

The constant light keeps us up and stimulated, which not only suppresses the melatonin and restful cleansing sleep but “blue light” is also having an effect on our insulin sensitivity and weight gain. In a chronobiology study (the study of circadian rhythm), mice exposed to constant light became less sensitive to insulin, began eating more and their resting metabolism dropped by 13%. The mice had lost the normal variation in insulin sensitivity that occurs over a 24-hour period and they became more efficient at storing fat, gaining weight almost immediately.

“IT’S Just another hour..”

I know what you’re thinking, I am fine! You’re not. You aren’t immune to the consequences of a disruption to your circadian system and shorter sleep cycles, it doesn’t matter if you are in college, workout like crazy or try to make up for it over the weekend. The next time you’re binging your next favorite Netflix show remember the results of this 2017 study: “Later sleep time was associated with higher estimated insulin resistance across all groups.” And this 2008 meta analysis, 634,511 participants from around the world (with ages ranging from 2 to 102 years and included boys, girls, men and women) proved “an increased risk of obesity amongst short sleepers along with an increase in appetite and caloric intake associated to reciprocal changes in leptin and ghrelin.”

Here’s What To Do…

Block the light:

New amber lenses that block blue light are proven effective! This is a huge advantage for working late, watching TV or taking your phone to bed. The lenses should be worn after dark until you go to bed.

Limit the light:

Dim florescent lights or turn them off completely. Lower the brightness of your phone and computer screen as the you move into the evening hours or set your “nightshift” setting on your iPhone. You can also download apps like f.lux to alter the color and quality of that light after dark.

Wake up with the sun:

Aim for 8 hours of sleep at night but try your best to wake and go to bed with the sun. The closer you can get your sleep hours aligned with natural light cycles, the more benefits you will receive.

Be Consistent:

Go to bed and get up at the same time every day. Using your bedtime setting can help remind you its time to go to bed.

Eat low carb in the PM:

This minimizes blood-glucose excursions and proclivity for fat storage and goes along with circadian nutrient timing. According to the Alves study, a low-carb protein-rich dinner best preserves lean tissue during weight loss.

Want higher-quality sleep?
Learn more about sleep hygiene here and how to build a better routine here.

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