Want to feel alert and awake in the morning and sleepy at night? You should. And making that happen is as easy as 1, 2, 3, (4, 5).
Your circadian rhythm is how your sleep and wake hormones (chiefly melatonin and cortisol) cycle throughout the day. Research shows that a malfunction of this system – circadian disrhythmia or mismatch – causes depression, weight gain, and increased risk of illness.
So it’s clear that we want our circadian rhythm to be functioning properly.
But Why Does my Circadian Rhythm Need to be Invincible?
Even more than that, we want our circadian rhythm to be robust. Everything will work well if you live the right way all the time (duh). But as we all know, life gets in the way. We’re all faced at some point by a big trip across time zones, restless children at home, or a deadline at work. If your rhythm isn’t robust, you’re in for a world of hurt when something suboptimal is thrust upon you.
Screaming toddlers and late hours at your desk are bad enough without throwing poor sleep, grogginess, and a bad cold on top.
So beyond getting our circadian rhythm functioning properly, we want our rhythm to remain proper even through adversity.
What Does an Invincible Circadian Rhythm Even Mean?
Thanks to an awesome article from caloriesproper, we’ve really solidified our thinking here. There, the author posits that the amplitude of your circadian rhythm is a marker of resiliency. Here’s what your circadian rhythm looks like over the course of a day:So a hallmark of an invincible circadian rhythm is the amplitude of the curves for melatonin and cortisol. The shape and position of the curves defines how “proper” your rhythm is, and the height of the curves defines its resiliency.
The 5 Steps to Building an Invincible Circadian Rhythm
1. Get Your Light Right
Light has a huge impact on your circadian rhythm (even 2 milliseconds of light can mess things up), and it’s dead simple to control. As we detailed in the past, you want bright white light in the morning, and red/orange light in the evenings. This can be as simple as taking a walk when you wake up and turning your bedroom lights orange. You could even try blue-blocking glasses after sunset.
2. Eat Protein for Breakfast
As you can see in the graph above, your circadian rhythm requires melatonin. Melatonin is synthesized in the body from tryptophan. Tryptophan is an amino acid (part of protein). That melatonin synthesis requires one extra input: white light coming in through your eyeballs. Getting some protein first thing in the morning gives your body ample time during daylight hours to synthesize all the melatonin you need.
3. Ensure Ample Micronutrient Availability
Bodybuilders have been supplementing with Magnesium and Zinc before bed for decades, and for good reason. Building muscle requires deep, restful, restorative sleep, and that requires plenty of Magnesium and Zinc. Supplementing with the two also decreases inflammation, reduces risk of depression, and improves immune health. Oh yea, and if you’re American ,you’re likely deficient. We recommend Magnesium Malate due to its increased bioavailability (your body can actually absorb it).
4. Get Moving When You’re Awake
A reasonable amount of exercise improves both the timing and resiliency of your circadian rythym. Exercise is also good for your health in a plethora of other ways (duh). Finally, humans are meant to exercise. Movement and fitness should be a core part of your life because that’s the way we are designed to live. The human body is an elegantly capable machine. Leaving it to rust on the couch dishonors the beauty of your design.
5. Prioritize Sleep and Health
“Just one more episode.” We’re here to let you in on a little secret. An extra hour of sleep will ALWAYS make you happier than an extra episode of Cupcake Wars or whatever other garbage you’re binge-watching on Netflix. ALWAYS.
And don’t come back with some story about how you have no time. The average American watches 5 hours of TV per day! That is not improving your life.
Making time for sleep isn’t about time – it’s about priorities. No matter how busy you are, you still make sure to brush your teeth twice per day, right? Give sleep the same respect in your priority hierarchy and you’ll end up happier and healthier for a longer life. Now that’s a good deal.
Wrapping Up – Your Circadian Rhythm is Your Responsibility
Reading this article is a great first step. But you won’t end up with an invincible circadian rhythm unless you actually go do this stuff. No one else is going to do it for you. On the bright side, that means you get to claim all the credit and enjoy all the benefits of getting it done. Start today, even if you start small.
Have you ever noticed how your circadian rhythm affects your life? Let us know in the comments.