Looking for ways to hack your circadian rhythm so you can sleep better at night and feel more energetic during the day? Here are some quick-and-easy ways to get back into synch with nature, the way your ancestors were:
- Pay attention to natural cycles. This is a great place to start. There are apps (or good old-fashioned books and almanacs) that will tell you when the sun rises and sets each day, how full the moon is, and when the seasons change. If you start paying attention to this, even if you don’t always get up at sunrise or go to bed at sunset (because let’s be realistic), you will be at least aware of those cycles, and that’s a step in the right direction.
- Step outside in the morning. As soon as you wake up, after using the bathroom but before reaching for that first cup of coffee, step outside and look around (when the sun is up—this won’t work if you get up before sunrise). Stand outside for about 5 minutes letting blue light into your eyes and into your brain. This is one of the best ways to wake up. If the weather doesn’t permit, you can look through a window, or better yet, open the window. If you really do have to get out of bed before sunrise, or if it’s a densely cloudy day, a few minutes in front of a blue light box can simulate this effect.
- Turn off all blue light sources at night—or wear blue-blocking glasses. Screens—your computer, your phone, your television—all emit blue light, and not just nice sunny blue light, but shorter-wave, more intense, bright blue light than we would normally be exposed to, prior to technology. But even overhead lights can mimic that sun effect. To synch up your circadian rhythm, turn off all overhead lights and only use red-toned lights at eye level of below, and turn off all screens right around sunset. If you absolutely need to look at screens after sunset, invest in a pair of blue-blocking glasses to wear after sunset. It’s a circadian rhythm hack that really works.
- Go dark. Finally, sleep in total darkness. Our ancestors didn’t have nightlights so why should you? Get all light sources out of your room, or wear a sleep mask. After a few weeks (or sooner), these changes should have you feeling much better, both during the day and at night.