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Your Circadian Rhythm: What It Is & How To Boost It

You’ve heard all the advice: stay off your phone at night, wake up at a reasonable hour, and limit caffeine intake. It’s all supposed to help you somehow, but it’s not clear why. Why would anyone subject themselves to these measures, when you could instead stay up late at night binging your favorite new series instead? People take these measures because it’s meant to boost a little thing called your circadian rhythm.

So what is your circadian rhythm, anyway? Well, circadian means something that occurs throughout a 24-hour cycle. Your circadian rhythm refers specifically to your sleep cycle. This can include things that may seem unrelated, such as hormone balance and metabolism. It is called a rhythm because the daily changes in your body should be relatively consistent. By adopting healthy habits, you can teach your body the right time to fall asleep and wake up naturally.

The easiest way to jump into fixing your circadian rhythm is to focus on light intake. In fact, some people even participate in light therapy to boost their circadian rhythms, which is where artificial light is used to introduce bright lights to a patient in the early morning to help them wake up.

The different types of lights are:

  • White light – white light, which includes all of the different visible lights, helps you wake up. The sun is the greatest source of white light, with fluorescent and LED lights following shortly after.
  • Blue light – blue light has the strongest impact on the circadian rhythm. It is incredibly disruptive to the natural sleep cycle, particularly at night.
  • Yellow and orange lights – yellow and orange lights have a very small effect on the circadian rhythm, so if necessary, these two can be used at night.
  • Red light – red light has no effect on the circadian rhythm.

Screens produce blue light, which makes it difficult to fall asleep. Blue light interferes with the body’s ability to produce melatonin, and tricks the brain into thinking it’s time to get active. Even though it’s hard, it’s best to stay off of electronics for about 2-3 hours before bed. Take this time instead to take a warm bath or shower, lower the thermostat to a cool 65 degrees, and curl up with a good book.

Aside from these tips, a few other ways to boost your circadian rhythm are to:

  • Exercise in the morning
  • Go outside early in the morning
  • Create a consistent sleep schedule

It takes practice to maintain your ideal circadian rhythm, and it’s not going to come after just a day. But by picking up these little habits, you’ll start to notice an overall improvement to your sleep schedule.

Adopt some or all of these habits, and stay mindful of what you’re teaching your body to do. Then someday, hopefully, these habits will come naturally. While it may be difficult at first, stay off your phone at night! You’ll thank me when you wake up feeling well rested and ready to start your day.

Chloe Barth

Manhattan '24

Freshman political science major
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