Are you an owl or a lark? How to take most of your natural biological clock?

“You are a lark” says the sleep profile report from The BBC Sleep Profiler. No big surprise here, as morning clearly is my prime-time, but it makes me think. As my energy level is highest in the morning how can I adapt to my natural biological clock even better? And how can I avoid the slump in the afternoon? Here’s my advice, for larks, obviously. Regarding owls I need to ask an owl to share his/her best tips.

Light and sleep

I love the first sun beams in the morning. This is my prime time: I feel naturally energetic, driven and creative. But I want to enjoy my whole day, read below how I have improved it.

To start with, take the BBC sleep profiler – even if you know which one you are. It takes about 10 minutes and includes the Epworth Test – an assessment tool used by sleep experts worldwide. The test gives you a little report with a short overview whether you are lark or owl, how to boost your alertness, about your environment and lifestyle challenges & tips and also a psychological angle. This is a nice report and gets you going with your own analysis.

How many are larks vs owls? Sleep researcher and professor of neurology Markku Partinen tells that  1/3 of population are larks, 1/3 owls and 1/3 neither. World (still) functions in the rhythm of larks, even though flexibility of working hours is important and people who can’t influence their working hours tend to be sick more often than those who can. Being able to adapt to our natural inner clock makes most out of our productivity.

What is circadian rhythm? Our internal 24–hour sleep–wake cycle, otherwise known as your biological clock or circadian rhythm, is regulated by processes in the brain that respond to how long you’ve been awake and the changes between light and dark. At night, your body responds to the loss of daylight by producing melatonin, a hormone that makes you sleepy. During the day, sunlight triggers the brain to inhibit melatonin production so you feel awake and alert.

Insomnia is often a disharmony in the circadian rhythm and our biological clock. Our circadian rhythms and sleeping rhythms can easily become disturbed due to stress, intoxication, allergies, eating habits, various diseases/disorders, and other lifestyle factors.

Ph.D Casey Adams explains in his holistic book Natural Sleep Solutions for Insomniahow our circadian rhythms are driven by light. Light over 5000 lux can impact our rhythms so that it can change the onset and timings of our rhythms. This is literally what sun light does to our body clocks. As soon as we get enough light (note: even the cloudiest day light exceeds artificial light) into our body system (through our eyes), signals are sent throughout the body. This in turn changes the timing for the release of hormones and neurotransmitters which drive our metabolic cycles. As a summary, light has a key role adjusting our body clock. This also means that light therapy – either sunlight or electrical lights – can be used to balance our disturbed circadian and sleeping rhythms. More about light treatments in here.

I am pretty sensitive to light so I can make (as the report suggests) my bedroom very dark with blackout blind (tick). I also use eye masks in the summer. This is all pretty self-evident. However, I have noticed that exposing me to daylight improves my energy level and balances my inner clock. If I can combine this with exercise event better. This combo before lunch means that I can often avoid the afternoon slump that follows lunch and feel naturally tired later in the evening.

Besides light and exercise I have also noticed two other things play pivotal role keeping my energy level more balanced throughout the day. The first one is nutrition. As most sleep expert advice I now prefer to have protein-heavy lunch and carbohydrate-rich supper (brown rather than white carbs). This clearly works for me and I can notice the difference immediately when I have too much carbs at lunch (I can fall asleep in the middle of my own sentence) or too much meat in the evening (restless body and mind). Thirdly, if I still feel a bit tired in the afternoon I try to take a little nap (15-30 minutes) if circumstance so allow. The key here is to take it with good conscious and enjoy it, and while we do so we also rebuild a healthy relationship to sleep. Napping is like art, lovely beyond words. You can find more about napping in here. It doesn’t matter whether I fall asleep or not. Even dozing and just-letting go is enough and I feel refreshed again.

Are you an owl or a lark? What is your method to take most out of your natural biological clock, or do you have to cope with opposite/other requirements?

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