Disrupted circadian rhythm

Cat sleeping on a bed.

When your sleep-wake cycle is broken, it can have bad impacts on your day.

I will be the first to confess that I absolutely love sleep. I love naps. I love getting into bed. I love knowing that I can fall asleep at most times and locations, if I wanted to. But recently, I have been struggling with my sleep. I have to get up quite early most days for work or class, or on weekends too, so when I have a day or two getting up at a normal time, it throws me off. My sleep cycle is currently quite disrupted.

What is a circadian rhythm?

Circadian rhythms are 24-hour cycles that are part of the body’s internal clock, running in the background to carry out essential functions and processes. One of the most important and well-known circadian rhythms is the sleep-wake cycle.Sleep Foundation

Circadian rhythms are a natural process that follow a 24-hour cycle that is affected by relevant environmental factors; most often, lightness and darkness. Our body knows that we should we awake during the day, and asleep during the night. They receive signals from these environmental factors that will regulate our blood temperature, and cause us to fall asleep. Most of us who have gone to university straight from high school, where our routines were heavily dictated, are used to getting up in the morning and falling asleep at night. 

But as we start to regularly have more activities at night, whether we are having a late one studying or going out for drinks, our rhythm starts to become unbalanced. Especially when our routines are erratic—which is often the case in our 20s—things start to get disrupted. Our body does not have the same constant, fixed environment to cling to. Other factors that can affect our circadian rhythm include: stress, mental health issues, and travel. 

When the circadian rhythm is disrupted, our body may not function properly. We can have serious issues with our sleep, which might make it harder to get up or fall asleep. And if you're like me, and have lots of work to get done in the day, this can be concerning.

So how can we maintain it better? Sleep Foundation suggests:

  • Building a consistent sleep schedule
  • Getting sunlight
  • Exercising
  • Avoid caffeine 
  • Avoid using electronics in bed

Though, sure, easier said than done! For me, I want to try and slowly introduce some better habits into my lifestyle, because not getting enough sleep can be very problematic. I've started going to sleep earlier, even on nights that I want to keep studying, to make sure that my circadian rhythm can start to better aligned. Working on limiting light exposure at night is also helping, so my brain is less hyperactive from scrolling through my phone or watching videos. 

Hopefully, my sleep can see some improvement soon and my love for it will be restored!

For more helpful sleep tips, visit the Wellbeing Hub.

Tagged in What messes with your head, sleep