As human beings we all have a built in body clock – this is referred to as our Circadian Rhythm which is basically our biological clock, controlling our hormones like Serotonin, Melatonin, Cortisol and Adrenaline amongst many others.
In an ideal world these all rise and fall accordingly throughout the day to help prop us up, calm us down and control a variety of other factors like energy and metabolism. Unfortunately through modern life these rhythms have been thrown out of sync, which make waking up in the morning a chore and leaving us restless at night.
Our bodies clock even dictates our body temperature at different times of the day (it should peak early evening) and times when we are detoxing as well as the time of day we are best geared towards exercise – once we have our bodies clock in some kind of order we can go about taking advantage of these optimum rhythms, working with our bodies for improved health. Ideally our bodies clocks should work to make a typical day something like this:
Wake up in the morning at a reasonable time naturally, slight grogginess is normal but anything beyond that is not – this is because Cortisol peaks in the morning and this provides up with a bit of get up and go.
Appetite should kick in shortly after waking up, not necessarily requiring a huge breakfast but at least something substantial and slow burning to fill the hole and provide sustaining energy.
Mid morning energy should be good – making us feel productive at work and also making it an ideal time to workout and get rid of excess energy.
Hunger picks up again at lunch time but this should be a stable hunger allowing you to be flexible with what time you eat lunch.
Although some will disagree I feel it is quite normal to have a slight afternoon energy slump – go with it, take a nap if you can. There is a reason why some cultures take a siesta.
Energy and productivity usually gets a slight boost again after 4PM.
At 6-8PM hunger should pickup again with an appetite for a fulfilling meal. Although you will probably find this appetite to be smaller and less intense than the morning.
Two or three hours after eating the last meal yawning and sleepiness set in allowing us to drift of to sleep easily and within 10-20 minutes of going to bed.
So that is how the clock should work in an ideal world - but how many people do you know who would sleep until midday if they could and stay up all night watching TV or lie in bed restless? Our body clocks can easily be regulated though, it may take time and some effort but the pay off is worth it in the long term.
For me the following factors make the biggest difference:
Having a regular bed time routine - this means getting to bed at a similar time most days of the week and having a routine that puts you in the mindset of going to sleep, whether it be reading, taking a hot bath or listening to music. Just something to get you in the habit and tell your body its time to go to bed. See this article for some good advice.Regular Exercise at the right times - Exercising on a regular basis when energy is highest is key to a good functioning body clock. For most people this is between 10AM and 2PM and can even be from 4PM to 7PM. Just don’t leave it too late as this will interfere with sleep and winding down in the evening. Exercising at the right times helps flush out stress hormones and increases body temperature and wellbeing for the whole day.
Have a Morning Routine - This helps us get up at a certain time as it gives us something to look forward to, maybe some time to start the day slowly reading the news and drinking some tea or coffee and doing some light stretching . Either way setting some time aside in the morning allows us to avoid a frantic rush to get ready for the day ahead.
Eat the right food at the right times - Its the little things like having a higher protein breakfast can make us more alert in the morning, emphasising things like yoghurt and fruit which are light and refreshing, yet satisfying. In the evening we can calm ourselves by eating more sustaining and wholesome foods.
In general the ability to figure out and get in a good circadian rhythm is key to health. waking up easily in the morning and getting sleepy in the early evening is very natural and means your body is working well. It is natural to have ups and downs during the day – but they should be at the right times.
In my experience having a regular rhythm to the day is a key to triggering the body into not only feeling good in terms of mood and energy but it can often be a piece in the puzzle in terms of triggering weight loss and muscle gain- probably due to the hormonal regulation it induces.