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Anyone who has flown across time zones and suffered the effects of jetlag understands what it is like to be out of synch with your body’s internal clock.  It can be disorienting.  It can feel like you are exhausted no matter how much sleep you get.  It can be difficult to fall asleep and wake up at the right times and new research shows that it may impact when you eat as well.

Our circadian rhythm is like our body’s Outlook Calendar. Scheduling sleep, energy highs and lows, and when we will need to eat to ensure we have adequate energy to survive are part of this rhythm.  Aligning your life and schedule with your internal clock means things work the way they should.  However, if your job requires you to be up at unusual hours or your life requires an erratic schedule, it doesn’t take long for this to get out of synch.

Our bodies are generally wired to get tired and sleep when it’s dark and wake-up and be alert when it gets light out.  With the introduction of the electric light, darkness no longer meant time to go to bed.  This works for modern life but not for our biology.  Bright lights like televisions and computer screens trick our body into thinking it is still daytime, upsetting the natural rhythm that triggers sleep, waking, hunger, and other biological functions.

So what can you do, if you are out of synch with yourself?  Here are a few ways you can try to restart or synch-up your biological clock with the clock in your kitchen.

1.       Chronotherapy

This is a simple process that takes time and consistency to get you back on the right schedule.  For some reason, similar to regular clocks, our body clock does better if we shift time forward rather than trying to wind it back.  This means that instead of trying to go to bed earlier in order to get back on a regular schedule, we should be shifting our bedtime later each night instead.  It will take several days or even weeks to gradually move your bed and wake times around the physical clock until they are where you need them to be.  Consistency is the key to making this approach successful.

2.      Light Therapy

Our circadian rhythm uses light and the absence of light as triggers to help our body determine where we are in the 24 hour cycle of our day.  When it gets dark, melatonin is released and we get tired and go to sleep.  When the sun comes up, the light triggers a biological response that wakes us up.  Light therapy mimics this pattern and exposes you to bright lights for a specified amount of time upon waking.  Over several weeks this can help adjust your waking time to be earlier in the morning.

3.      Stop Eating for a Day

New research from Harvard Medical School indicates there may be a secondary food clock that functions as part of our overall circadian rhythm and takes over when we are hungry.  Initial research shows that not eating for 12-16 hours can short-cut the normal triggers and reset the circadian rhythm using this food clock.  If you stop eating 12-16 hours before the time you want to be your new “morning” and then eat a healthy meal right after waking, you can reset your internal clock to believe that time is morning and therefore time to wake up.


About Valley Sleep Center:

Since 2002, Valley Sleep Center, accredited by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, has provided Arizona with diagnostic sleep disorder testing in a home-like atmosphere, ensuring a comfortable, relaxing experience for patients.  Their Board Certified Sleep Medicine Specialists consist of experienced and knowledgeable physicians who provide expert advice across a multitude of sleep related disorders including insomnia, sleep apnea, snoring, excessive daytime sleepiness, hypertension, sleepwalking, and pediatric sleep problems.  They accept most insurance plans as well as Medicare.  For more information contact Lauri Leadley at 480-830-3900; http://www.valleysleepcenter.com.


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