How to Feel Better Without Changing your Diet or Exercising

When I work with clients, before I explore diet and exercise we discuss something called their circadian rhythm.
We all have one but what is it?
Essentially the circadian rhythm is the oscillation between day and night and the shift in biochemistry and hormones.

Sunlight

The strongest influence on our circadian rhythm is the light, and in particular sunlight.

By and large, if we can sync with the natural flow the day/night we are setting ourselves up for health. It’s when our behaviour flies in opposition to our diurnal nature then cracks in our health can appear.

Two mechanisms influence and control when and how well we sleep, one is chemical and the other hormonal. The chemical adenosine is found in our brain and body and gradually builds over the day, as the accumulation of adenosine increases so does the inclination and urge to sleep. When we wake the levels of adenosine are low and build over the day.

Caffeine will interfere with the build-up of adenosine as it occupies the adenosine receptors in our brain which is why some people struggle to sleep after consuming coffee even if their last coffee was relatively early in the day. For some people who experience a crash after coffee, particularly later in the day, this can be explained by adenosine latching onto the adenosine receptor ‘tighter’ once the caffeine is removed inducing a tired feeling.

The hormones which influence wakefulness and sleep are cortisol and melatonin respectively.

The timing of these hormones is strongly influenced by the sun. When we wake and open our eyes the blue light emitted from the sun hits neurons in our retinas called melanopsin receptors which inhibits melatonin (sleep hormone).

This in combination with cortisol ensures we are alert, focussed and ready for the day ahead. It also sets an internal timer for when the sleep hormone melatonin is released later in the day, this is usually between 10-14 hours after the sun’s light hits our eyes.

So we can affect our wakefulness and sleep by adjusting when we first exposure ourselves to sunlight – essentially setting the tempo/timing of our hormones.

Exercising in the morning will strongly influence our circadian rhythm also – helping us to wake earlier.

Long before dissecting diet there could be some big wins for your health, energy and immunity by looking at your circadian rhythm and how in sync it is with the natural diurnal nature of the day. Wearing sunglasses or poor exposure to natural light will negatively affect our circadian rhythm as will looking at screens later into the afternoon/evening and early morning. Your physiology doesn’t distinguish between sunlight or the light from an iPhone so when you look at your screen late at night it can be enough to bring you out of sleep and into wakefulness due to it triggering a hormonal effect.

Syncing into the natural order of the day is what our ancestors have done for thousands of years and promotes a restful night of 7-8 hours of sleep, however, modern life, drinking, TV, Netflix, internet browsing and stress has impacted our circadian rhythm negatively. So before you start working on your diet, or in unison with, investigate where improvements can be made to your circadian rhythm and how it can better sync to the natural order of the day.

Despite being highly evolved creatures capable of existential thought and ingenuity we are, on a base level, primal beings and part of the natural world. We are not separate from the natural world rather just part of it so it should come as little surprise that our physiology is significantly governed by the sun.

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