It’s been years now that my poor little alarm clock was cast aside. I was so done being jarred awake, whether it be by the local DJ talking or playing music, even my iPhone alarm… made no difference. I always felt on edge waking up that way. My heart would race and I felt a sense of panic. It took me a while to settle down and re-focus, so I could get out of bed and get on with my morning routine. Waking up devices were not for me. The alarms were probably interrupting a deep sleep that I wasn’t ready to wake up from. Even then I knew something wasn’t right and there had to be a more therapeutic way to start each day. Enter the body clock.
When you let the rhythm wake you up naturally, you feel alert because you were ready to stop sleeping.
Enter The Body Clock
The body clock (or biological clock) is your body’s natural internal timer, which regulates your daily rhythm. Most of us are awake during the day when it’s light and sleep at night when it’s dark. Your body clock is the reason for this. We’re already programmed to a 24-hour timing system, but to keep it running smoothly, it needs the right cues.
As females, we learn about our biological clocks as it pertains to our menstrual cycles very early in life. This clock is always present in our minds. Well, it’s the same clock.
This timekeeper also controls functions like mental alertness, hunger, heart rhythms, mood and immunity.
I was surprised to learn that my body clock could also wake me up at a set time without the assistance of an alarm. And, repeat the cycle the next day, and so on. Seriously!?! How?
A key factor in how human sleep is regulated is exposure to light or to darkness.
It would have to start with my sleep schedule. If I wanted my internal clock to be my wake-up call, I’d have to get on a set schedule. No more staying up watching late-night talk shows until 2 am. In order to get my desired 7 hours of sleep a night, I’d have to go to bed at a decent hour. To wake up for 6 am, I needed to be in bed by 11 pm.
To be alert and function efficiently for a 8:30 to 4:30 daily shift, I needed to give myself the right cues. The key is to create a consistent rhythm so you get enough sleep each night. If you’re exhausted, it won’t work.
How It Works
The body clock is regulated by a section of the brain that responds to light. Our brains need the proper signal telling it to sleep at night and be awake during the day. (Think of a camera’s sensor and how it reacts to more light or less light). In simplest terms… hey, it’s dark, it’s nighttime, you need to activate that hormone that makes me sleepy so I can have a good nights sleep in order to get up at 6 am. On the flip side, the sensor in your brain signals the sun is up, it’s 6 am and you need to slowly wake up from that hopefully deep and fulfilling snooze.
And, then it’s just a matter of repeating the process. Once you awaken it, it becomes easier. I would even try to keep to a similar schedule on the weekends. I mean, nobody wants to wake up at 6 am on a Saturday if you don’t have to, but I did. My mindset was I wanted to carry this through every day of the week. So much was riding on it.
New Outlook On Life
It unlocked a lot more than just better snoozes at night and a peaceful wake-up. It improved my overall health. This just wasn’t a sleep thing, this was a health and philosophy mind shift.
Maintaining this set schedule changed my outlook. Before this, I was a raging night owl who dreaded mornings. Removing the panic from my unassisted wake-up call unlocked the key to a whole new way of thinking. Mornings were okay, nothing to dread and I had a lot more energy. I enjoyed getting up with the sun, eating breakfast (I never ate breakfast because of that silly alarm clock). My days just started off right. Mentally, physically… in every possible way. Even my subway commute into to work was more positive. The philosophy shift was how morning daylight could set me up for the entire day. Light fed me like fuel.
Obviously, not all days smell like roses or your favourite perfume. You’re tired, you’re grumpy (it’s that time of the month) and you would prefer to stay in bed. But, you learn how to manage those days, like listening to your body and having that afternoon nap if you can. I know some think daytime naps are counterproductive but research says otherwise. Naps don’t interrupt my daily rhythm, especially if I keep them short… 30 minutes or less. Another boost is stretching your legs. I admit, a lot of times it was a short walk to Starbucks for a caffeine break, but if I wanted something more fulfilling I’d talk myself (and hopefully a friend) into a longer walk to getting a Booster Juice power smoothie. Sometimes just the walk outside would do the trick.
This body clock re-alignment helped regulate my moods and balance them out.
Overall, it really showed me the true importance of light. After living in a generally dark South-facing Condo that didn’t get much natural light, I moved to a larger space with West-facing large windows. It got light all throughout the day. At work, when our office renovation and expansion meant my team had the opportunity to choose desks in a new area, we headed straight for the corner with large windows.
This one small change made a huge impact in my life. I’m being serious here. I’m not writing this for hyperbole sake. My rhythm was finally in balance.
I’m a huge proponent of using your body clock as your natural wake-up call. Tapping into it truly helped me embrace a new way of thinking. Let’s face it, getting up at 6 am every weekday can be a grind, but my new outlook was a lesson in maturation. If I treat my body better, it will be better to me. If I give it the right cues and proper rest, it will reward me each day with energy.
Our health and well-being depends on this clock ticking all the time. This also needs to tick at the same time as everything around us. This is called being ‘synchronized’.
Tap Into Your Body Clock
- Set a sleep schedule and be strict with it. Go to bed at the same time, which will ensure you get enough sleep and allow you to wake up unassisted and energized each morning.
- Make it a 7 days a week thing. Try stick to the above schedule even on the weekends. Don’t sleep in or take extra long naps during the day.
- When you wake up, expose yourself to light right away. Open your blinds and soak it in. Something I like to do is not close my blinds completely at night. So in the morning, the light peaks through and I get my instant wake-up call.
- Take a walk outside during the day. As mentioned earlier, go for lunch or a break. While at work, sit near a window. If your desk can’t be near a window, try sitting in the lunchroom near a window. The point is, inject some daylight into your routine. Don’t sit inside a dark office all day.
- Power down electronics or anything with harsh lighting at least an hour before bedtime. Wind down with a book or meditation, not your Instagram feed.
There Is A Downside
The only downside to living by body clock (and it’s a small one), is my clock is thrown off twice a year because of Spring Forward and Fall Back, when the clocks are adjusted for Daylight Savings Time.
Disrupting our body’s natural cycles can cause problems. Studies have found there are more frequent traffic accidents and workplace injuries when we spring forward and lose an hour of sleep.
This rings so true. I’m always a little off after the clocks change, and it takes me a full week to get my mind and body in sync again. But, once I do I’m back to my normal routine.
Do you wake up to your body clock?
How has it benefited your overall health?
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