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Is Your Sleep Out of Sync? Here's How to Reset Your Body Clock

When your circadian rhythm is functioning optimally, you naturally start feeling sleepy around the same time every night and wake up naturally around the same time every day. Like a cat who scream-meows outside the bedroom door daily at 4:30am without fail, a healthy internal clock never misses a deadline. But an unhealthy body clock can leave you feeling depressed, daytime drowsy, bad with friend- and work-related obligations, and generally out of sorts.

So if you're spending most of your time at home, struggling to see a reason to change out of your pyjamas in the morning, and generally forgetting what day it is and who you even are as a person anymore, chances are you're too tired to know where to start when it comes to getting back on track. To help, we've compiled a list of dos and don'ts to keep in mind when you're trying to get your sleep pattern back to normal and reset your internal body clock, from when to eat, whether to nap, and the best time to go to sleep.

Try these simple ways to get your body's circadian rhythm back on track – even if you're still lacking normal routine.

Don't nap

When your body clock is working well, a well-timed nap (usually around 2:00pm) can help you feeling alert and thinking clearly upon waking. Don't exceed 90 minutes or you'll have trouble sleeping at night. But when you're dealing with a dysfunctional internal clock, it's best to skip naps until you've got things under control. Chances are, any nap you take isn't going to leave you feeling better and will probably stretch long past the recommended 90 minutes.

Get some sunlight

Our brain needs input of sunlight through the eyes in order to properly reset itself each day. If you were inside continuously with no access to real sunlight, your body's daily cycle would extend to around 25 hours. This is definitely one way you want to conform to society at large – open the blinds and help get your body back on a 24-hour cycle. 

Do make your bed

When you do wake up, no matter what time it is, make your bed. This is a healthy ritual that externalises the idea of the reset you want to make internally. Plus, going back to a nicely made bed that night will make you excited to get under the covers and get some sleep. Washing your linen will help make bed time pleasant, upgrading your linen will help make bed time special.

Don't live in bed

While you're in reset mode, only use your bed for sleep. Keep work out of the picture, no bedside snacks allowed, and watch TV in another room (even if you're doing so on a laptop or tablet).

Do exercise

For most people, exercise is never going to be bad advice, and it's no different if you're sleeping in way too late and not falling asleep till the early morn. You don't need to do a full F45 session or go rock climbing, just go for a light walk or do a short at-home yoga video.

Don't sleep in

Set an alarm for a reasonable time and get out of bed at that time every day, even if you went to sleep late. Oversleeping will cause headaches, lack of concentration and bad moods, meaning the time you are awake won't be very productive or much fun.

Do go analogue

Your phone emits blue light that restrains the production of melatonin, the hormone that controls your circadian rhythm. Plus, it's full of distractions that are designed to distract you (hello Treat your phone like a job and "clock off" at the same time every day. While you're resetting your own internal clock, choose a time to retire your phone every evening. So at 9:30 (or whenever works for you) put it on silent and plug it in somewhere far from your bed. Get yourself a simple, old-school alarm clock for backup while you wait for your biological clock learns to wake you up naturally. It'll be like Groundhog Day, only every new day will be better than the last.

Do eat early

When we eat as just as important as what we eat. The simplest way to do it right is to eat with the sun. Our circadian rhythm wants us to eat during the day and fast during the night. Eat most of your calories before 3:00pm and keep dinner light. Don't snack after 8:00pm. 

Don't drink

Cut the alcohol while you reset. Drinking might help you fall asleep, but you won't sleep well. Plus, you'll probably wake up feeling extra groggy and craving foods that aren't optimal for healthy sleep.

Don't wait

Start today! You don't have to do everything all at once, just start making small adjustments and in time you'll be rising with the sun just like your ancestors intended it. If you slip up and sleep in, you haven't failed. There are still choices you can make that day to contribute to your body clock reset (see list above). If after a while you're still struggling – go see your doctor. Help is on the way!

Want to know more about when you should be eating? We asked a dietitian for the best times to eat for optimum sleep.

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