Prioritizing and implementing a health and well-being practice is as important as it can be challenging. In this expansive information age where facts and data are readily accessible, there are a multitude of solutions for how to be healthy. Each of us must discern and evaluate the options, keeping in mind that what works for one person may not work for another.
In this ever-growing bank of health suggestions, I have identified three practices for optimum health and well-being. These include maintaining proper Circadian Rhythms, Grounding, and ensuring a full night’s Sleep.
Let us explore each practice.
Circadian rhythms are the natural, internal timekeeping systems that regulate a wide range of physiological and behavioral processes in humans. These rhythms cycle every 24 hours (approximately), aligning with the Earth’s rotation. They play a crucial role in maintaining our overall health and well-being by synchronizing various biological functions with the daily changes in the external environment, primarily the light-dark cycle.
Key aspects of circadian rhythms:
- The Master Clock: In humans, as well as other organisms, a small cluster of cells in the hypothalamus known as the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), serves as the master clock. It receives input from specialized light-sensitive cells in the retina and uses this information to regulate the body’s internal clock.
- Light as the Zeitgeber: The most potent external cue for resetting the circadian clock is exposure to light, particularly natural sunlight. Light helps to synchronize the internal clock with the external day-night cycle, ensuring that biological processes are synchronized with the appropriate time of day. Here are the steps to begin changing your light environment:
- Step 1: Power-Up Your Morning and gaze toward the Rising Sun
- Step 2: Catch the UVA Rise (early morning sun rays within the first 1-2 hours)
- Step 3: Make Vitamin D with UVB (Get More Sunlight in General, preconditioned with sunrise and UVA Rise)
- Step 4: Sunset: Block Artificial and Blue Light!
- Circadian Regulation of Sleep: Perhaps the most well-known circadian rhythm is the sleep-wake cycle. The SCN helps regulate the release of melatonin, a hormone that promotes sleepiness, in response to changes in light exposure. This regulation is why people tend to feel more alert during the day and sleepy at night.
- Metabolic and Hormonal Rhythms: Circadian rhythms also influence various metabolic processes, including the regulation of body temperature, digestion, and hormone production. For example, cortisol, a stress hormone, follows a circadian pattern, with higher levels in the morning and lower levels at night.
- Impacts on Health: Disruptions to circadian rhythms, such as those caused by shift work, irregular sleep patterns, or jet lag, can have adverse effects on health. Chronic circadian misalignment is linked to increased risks of various health issues, including sleep disorders, obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and mood disorders.
- Individual Variability: While there is a general pattern of circadian rhythms in humans, there is also considerable individual variability. Some people are “morning larks,” who are naturally more alert and active in the morning, while others are “night owls,” who are more active at night. This variability is partly influenced by genetics.
- Aging and Circadian Rhythms: Circadian rhythms can change as individuals age, with older adults often experiencing alterations in sleep patterns and reduced sensitivity to light cues. These changes can contribute to sleep problems and other health issues in the elderly.
- Circadian Medicine: Understanding circadian rhythms has important implications for the field of medicine. Chronotherapy, the practice of administering medications at specific times of day to optimize their effectiveness and minimize side effects, is one application of circadian medicine.
In our fast-paced, modern world, it’s easy to become disconnected from the natural world that surrounds us. We spend most of our days indoors, separated from the Earth’s surface by layers of concrete, carpets, and shoes. However, there’s a simple yet profound practice that can help us reestablish a vital connection with nature – grounding bare feet on the Earth.
Grounding, also known as earthing, is the practice of coming into direct contact with the Earth’s surface, typically by walking or standing barefoot on soil, grass, sand, or even water. This age-old practice has gained renewed attention in recent years as people seek ways to reduce stress, improve sleep, and enhance overall well-being.
The concept behind grounding is based on the idea that the Earth carries a natural, subtle electrical charge, and when we connect with it directly, we can absorb its energy.
Here are reasons why grounding bare feet on the Earth is worth incorporating into your life:
- Stress Reduction: In our hectic lives, stress can take a toll on our mental and physical health. Grounding can help rebalance the autonomic nervous system, reducing the body’s stress response and promoting a sense of calm and relaxation.
- Improved Sleep: People frequently struggle with sleep disorders and insomnia. Grounding can help to regulate circadian rhythms and improve sleep quality, making it easier to fall asleep and wake up feeling refreshed.
- Pain Relief: Grounding may have anti-inflammatory effects, reducing pain and discomfort. This can result in the relief of conditions such as chronic pain, arthritis, and migraines after regularly grounding themselves.
- Enhanced Mood: Connecting with the Earth’s energy can elevate mood and boost feelings of well-being. It is not uncommon to experience a sense of peace, joy, and increased vitality when practicing grounding.
- Increased Energy: Grounding has the potential to replenish the body’s energy reserves by restoring its electrical balance. This may result in increased energy levels and improved vitality.
- Connection to Nature: In our increasingly digital and urbanized world, grounding is a straightforward way to reconnect with the natural world. It reminds us of the Earth’s beauty and the importance of preserving our environment.
There is also evidence of a reduction of inflammation, and pain, and improves blood pressure.
To practice grounding, find a natural surface like grass, sand, or soil, and simply take off your shoes and socks. Stand or walk on the surface for at least 20-30 minutes daily, preferably in a quiet and peaceful environment. You can also sit or lie down if that is more comfortable.
The universal key to health is sleep. It is the dishwasher for the brain as it cleans the brain from waste toxins. The shorter you sleep, the shorter your life span. Sleep is the most effective thing we can do to reset our brain and body health each day. Your circadian rhythm is one of two factors determining wake and sleep. Melatonin helps regulate the timing of when sleep occurs by signaling darkness throughout the organism but has little influence on the generation of sleep itself.
To identify sleep deficiency:
- If you don’t set an alarm, do you wake up on time?
- Do you find yourself re-reading things?
- Can you function optimally before noon without caffeine?
12 Steps for Healthy Sleep
- Stick to a sleep schedule (WAKE UP AT THE SAME TIME EVERY DAY!!)
- Exercise is great, but not too late in the day. Try to complete 2-3 hours before bedtime
- Avoid caffeine and nicotine
- Avoid alcoholic drinks before bed
- Avoid large meals and beverages late at night
- Examine your meds – do the ones you take during the day cause drowsiness? Swap them for the evening and vice versa
- Do not take naps after 3 p.m.
- Relax before bed
- Take a hot bath before bed
- Dark bedroom, cool bedroom, gadget-free bedroom
- Sunlight exposure for 30 min every day
- Do not lie in bed awake
Author – Steven Terry, InteraWorks Relationship Lead + Facilitator
- Grounding Mat www.Earthing.com
- Earthing Movie (YouTube) Josh and Rebecca Tickell
Suggested Apps for Light, Circadian and Sleep tracking:
- DMinder, Tracking your Vitamin D
- Circadian Your Natural Rhythm
- Rise: Sleep & Energy Tracker
InteraWorks is a global learning company on a mission to elevate the human experience at work. Specializing in professional development and performance enablement, we offer top-rated learning programs based on four defined conditions that must exist for individuals, and teams including Effective Edge, Best Year Yet, and the Essentials series. Our integrated learning framework and online tools generate immediate and sustainable breakthroughs in performance. Through decades of working at all levels in enterprise companies across many industries, we’ve built a reputation for helping people and organizations harness their focus, mindset, talent, and energy to produce results that matter most.
We’ve defined four conditions that must exist for an individual, team or organization to be effective within the arena of performance and development; Accountability, Focus, Alignment, and Integrity. We’ll continue to explore these and more in our blog and look forward to your engagement and interaction with us. Stay tuned as we engage the edges.