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The Great Wake-Up Program: Is It Possible To Re-Set Your Biological Clock?

Posted: 07/29/11 05:35 PM ET

Your Biological Clock And Sleep

Monitoring your exposure to light is one of the easiest -- and most effective -- ways you can improve your sleep. Light plays a crucial role in maintaining healthy sleep and wake cycles because of its powerful influence on our biological clocks. This is why Lark Coaching contains tips about when to get bright light and when to avoid bright light.

Your Biological Clock

Your body's clock, or body clock, is the time-keeping system inside you that controls your natural 24-hour sleep and wake cycle (also known as your circadian rhythms). It determines the timing of your daily activities, like when you should be eating, working, exercising and sleeping.

If you follow your body clock's commands, you will find it easier to accomplish what you want. But if you don't listen to those commands, you're setting yourself up for a poor night's sleep and disruptive activity during the day.

Our biological clocks are stubborn creatures -- they don't like change. This works in your favor if you're already in tune with its cycles and getting the rest you need. However, many of us aren't. Because of our busy schedules and even more so, our constant exposure to light sources, our body clocks are often caught in a vicious, out-of-sync cycle.

But there's still hope. You can gradually get your clock back on track by working to reset it every day. And that means changing your habits around what probably threw your clock off in the first place -- light.

How Light Affects Your Clock

Environmental time cues are what reset your clock every day. Among other cues, such as physical activity and social interactions, light is one of the most effective ways of controlling the timing of your internal body clock to sync with the external world. Light delivers messages to the master body clock that ultimately regulate our 24-hour cycle.

The problem today, however, is that we are exposed to bright light all day long, and this artificial light use at night has caused an unhealthy de-synchronization between our body clock and desired daily schedule.

When's the last time you went to sleep right after watching TV, using your computer or reading in bright lights? Because light -- whether from the sun or from an artificial LED -- can only deliver the "daytime" signal, getting exposure to it at night can really confuse our bodies. Basically, you are telling your body to remain awake for a few more hours rather than easing it into sleep. The same idea applies with morning light. If you don't get ample light in the morning, you are not signaling your body clock to reset and begin the day properly.

Basic Tips on Resetting Your Body Clock

AT NIGHT

 Avoid light as you near bedtime. This includes the light from TVs and computers.
 Try using adjustable lights or dimmers so that you can control the amount of light that you are getting at night. Try dimming the lights at least an hour before your target bedtime.

IN THE MORNING

 If you have trouble waking up, be sure you are getting ample sunlight in the morning so that you can reset your clock
 If you have trouble staying awake at night or find yourself waking up too early in the morning, then your body clock is probably starting earlier than it needs to be. In this case, try to prevent sunlight from coming into your room too early by utilizing better curtains, for example.

The Result

A consistent, well-regulated light schedule will reinforce the healthy rhythms of your body and help you remain more alert during the day and sleep better at night.

 

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