Many doctors and scientists have studied the connection between sleep patterns and different health risks and weight gain. It is so important for us to be true to our natural body clock – also referred to as circadian rhythms. Circadian rhythms are the (approximately) 24-hour natural cycles that govern the body, regulating appetite, sleep, and mood.
Chinese medicine has always believed that these cycles are controlled largely by light, or the cycles of the sun. Energy should be exerted during the day, while the nighttime is meant for rest and recuperation. Here are a few tips to help you tune into your natural body clock and maintain your weight, health and vitality.
“Social Jet Lag”
A recent study from University of Munich’s Institute of Medical Psychology has shown that when we have a hard time waking up at an imposed time – at the sound of our weekday alarm clock, for example – it means that our circadian rhythms are not in alignment with our daily schedules. This often occurs because many of us have two different sleep schedules – an early work schedule and a late-to-bed, late-to-rise social schedule during the weekend. Researchers have coined the term “social jet lag” to describe these mismatched sleep schedules.
Of the 65,000 adults surveyed, those who were living with two different sleep schedules were three times more likely to become overweight! As the differences between the two schedules became greater, the overall BMI (or body mass index) of the individuals involved rose. Over a longer period of time, risks for cancer and diabetes increase, too.
You’re probably wondering, “How does sleeping in on Saturday make me gain weight?” When we live with such disparate sleep schedules, we are living in disharmony with the natural rhythms. On a deep cellular level, the metabolic functions are interrupted. We end up doing activities that our bodies aren’t prepared for – like eating when our bodies aren’t able to digest food properly, negatively affecting how food is incorporated into our body’s fat content and increasing our risk of obesity.
Get In Synch To Sleep Well
How do we move toward living in synch with our natural circadian rhythms?
1. Practice aligning your schedule.
Parents know kids function best on a regular schedule for eating and sleeping, so it should be no surprise that it is the same for adults! Choose one activity that you will do at the same time every day, such as eating breakfast at 7 a.m., meditating at noon, exercising at 6:30 p.m., or getting into bed at 10 p.m. If you are up to it, choose two or more activities to do at the same time every day, preferably one cognitive and one physical, and your body will get even more practiced at maintaining rhythm and stability. When you are exercising your mind or body at the same time every day, your performance rate and brainpower will increase.
2. Sleep well.
Sleep deficits will affect your natural clock, so make sure you are getting plenty of sleep. It helps to go to bed at roughly the same time every night. If you find yourself having a hard time falling asleep, or staying asleep, drink a calming cup of herbal tea before bed, or try a natural sleep aid, such as my Calm/Sleep formula. It contains herbs such as Jujube seeds and Chrysanthemum flower, which can help calm your spirit, relax your mind, and give you a restful night of sleep.
3. Chart the peaks and valleys.
You can analyze the times when you feel a performance high or low by charting them. Log your energies, activities, and feelings every hour for a week and you’ll be able to spot trends. Try to work on challenging or unappealing projects at your peaks and you’ll find that they come together with much less effort!
4. Go for slow and steady progress.
When you are making changes to your lifestyle, make sure to make small changes regularly. Drastic changes to your life don’t work overnight. Working slowly but surely will help you feel a solid difference in all areas of your life.
May you live long, live strong, and live happy!
Dr. Mao Shing Ni, best known as Dr. Mao is a bestselling author, doctor of Oriental Medicine and board certified anti-aging expert. He has appeared regularly on “Dr. Oz,” “The Doctors,” and “EXTRA.” Dr. Mao practices acupuncture, nutrition and Chinese medicine with his associates at the Tao of Wellness in Santa Monica and Newport Beach. Dr. Mao and his brother, Dr. Daoshing Ni founded Tao of Wellness more than 25 years ago in addition to also founding Yo San University in Marina del Rey. To subscribe to his tip-filled newsletter please visit www.taoofwellness.com. To make an appointment for evaluation and treatment please call 310.917.2200 or you can email Dr. Mao at email@example.com.
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