We’re in the dark days and nights of winter, which can cause circadian rhythm disruption and lead to fractured sleep patterns. While some may turn to sleeping pills or regular exercise to try and get a good night’s rest, others are using a new method—circadian hacking.
What Are Circadian Rhythms?
Circadian rhythms are internally driven cycles that rise and fall during the day, helping you fall asleep at night, wake up in the morning and perform other body processes.
Your circadian rhythms are regulated by daily light exposure, primarily the short-wave, blue-white light that peaks between 7 and 11 a.m. and is in low supply in the winter months.
“Morning light sets our circadian rhythms for the day and helps us to be alert when we’re supposed to be alert, be sleepy when we’re supposed to be sleepy and go to sleep and stay asleep,” said Dr. Amy Bender, a clinical sleep scientist.1
While bright light tells the adrenal glands to produce and emit cortisol, the hormone that promotes wakefulness, night-time darkness prompts the pineal gland to create melatonin, causing sleepiness.
Too little light in the morning or too much at night can throw off circadian rhythms, causing sleep problems.
What Is Circadian Hacking?
Circadian hacking refers to a series of solutions people employ to keep their circadian rhythms on track. They primarily use a variety of lighting hacks, including turning on a bright-light lamp in the morning, getting outdoor morning light exposure, wearing blue light-blocking glasses to watch TV at night and choosing candles instead of electric lighting.
Others may try a weekend of winter camping, which can ‘entrain’ circadian rhythms to nature’s light-dark cycle, helping establish earlier winter sleep and wake times.2
While hacking your way to more hours of shuteye may work for some individuals, partnering with a professional sleep expert can help you get to the root of your sleep issue. If you’re having trouble falling or staying asleep, request a consultation with our team today.
1, 2 Howard, Sally. (2022). How ‘circadian hacking’ can help with far more than sleep. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2022/dec/11/circadian-hacking-can-help-with-far-more-than-sleep-sally-howard