How Tech Can Improve Your Circadian Rhythm for Better Sleep

Circadian rhythms are the natural cycles of the body that occur in the course of a 24-hour cycle. In humans, they are best known for determining sleep-wake cycles. However, circadian rhythms also influence many other body functions, such as your mood, hunger level, and body temperature.

Changes in your body and your environment can disrupt your circadian rhythms, as you’ll know if you’ve ever experienced jet lag. Maintaining your body’s natural circadian rhythms is advisable for optimum health. Here’s how to do so, and how technology can help you.

1. Maintain Good Blood Sugar Levels With the mySymptoms Food Journal

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Because there is a very close link between your body’s circadian rhythms and blood sugar levels, eating the right food at the right times is important. For your circadian rhythms, the most efficient time to digest food is earlier in the day. So, if you have a meal less than two hours before sleep, or snack late at night, it’s likely to raise your blood sugar and affect your sleep patterns.

To avoid this, try using a food journal app such as mySymptoms, which will allow you to record all the food and drink you consume daily. You can also log health factors such as energy and stress levels, enabling you to spot any link between your food consumption and your well-being.

Download: mySymptoms for iOS ($5.99) | Android (Free, in-app purchases available)

2. Avoid Overconsumption of Caffeine by Using HiCoffee

Caffeine is a stimulant, so while it’s great to kickstart your morning, that last cup of coffee at bedtime can dash any hopes of a good night’s sleep. Caffeine disrupts your body’s circadian rhythms and can cause problems in both getting to sleep and staying asleep. Alcohol has a similar effect.

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Track your intake of caffeinated drinks with the HiCoffee app, which analyzes your caffeine intake, allowing you to see at a glance how your body is processing the substance and how your consumption will affect your sleep health (your caffeine metabolism).

Log each caffeinated beverage you drink throughout the day at a tap, with all the major coffee brands represented. HiCoffee will send reminders not to exceed your daily intake, and you can track long-term patterns to better understand your intake. It also integrates with Apple Health. HiCoffee is free, but you can upgrade to HiCoffee Premium for extra features.

Download: HiCoffee for iOS (Free, subscription available)

3. Relax and Meditate Each Evening With Insight Timer

Because it’s not always easy to switch off and relax at the end of a busy day, many people struggle to fall asleep. That’s why it’s important to make time to unwind at night, allowing your circadian rhythms to operate naturally so that your body can produce the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin.

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One way to ease an overburdened mind is to use an app that will help you to unwind with mindful meditation. While we can show you how to get started with meditation, many great relaxation apps include sleep programs, music, and soundscapes. The Insight Timer app has thousands of free audio tracks to help you unwind your mind, with a sleep timer included so that you can nod off, and the app will stop without disturbing you.

Download: Insight Timer for iOS | Android (Free, subscription available)

4. Follow a Good Sleep Schedule With Sleep Cycle

Perhaps the most important factor of all for regulating your circadian rhythms is maintaining a good sleep schedule. There are many great apps for tracking and improving sleep. One example is Sleep Cycle for iOS and Android.

This free app tracks your sleep cycle and attempts to wake you up at the lightest phase of your sleep, keeping those natural rhythms intact. It doesn’t even require you to wear a wearable device. If you upgrade to a premium plan, extra features include the ability to record additional factors that may be affecting your circadian rhythms, such as caffeine.

Download: Sleep Cycle for iOS | Android (Free, subscription available)

5. Avoid Blue Light at Night With Twilight

A person using GarageBand on a laptop under a blue neon light

Sleep researchers at Harvard have found that while exposure to light of any kind suppresses the body’s secretion of melatonin, blue light at night does so more powerfully than any other light type. You’re often exposed to this kind of light when looking at your phone and electronic gadgets.

Harvard recommends avoiding bright screens for two to three hours before bed and installing an app to filter the blue wavelength at night if you can’t avoid using the device. Or you can use a blue light filter app like Twilight if you’re an Android user. However, blue light filters cannot currently be used with iOS devices, so use Night Shift on your iPhone at night if you’re an Apple user.

Download: Twilight for Android (Free)

6. Get Natural Light Each Morning

Just as important as avoiding disruptive blue light is enjoying natural light, which your body’s circadian rhythms require. So, it’s crucial to get outside and experience daylight soon after waking each day. This is also a great way to boost your mental health and stop you from feeling overwhelmed at the start of each day.

For anyone who can’t get exposure to sufficient natural lighting, such as night shift workers, a sunlight therapy lamp could be a good investment.

7. Move Regularly Throughout the Day With Wakeout

The health benefits of movement and exercise throughout the day are well known. And activity is essential for regulating your circadian rhythms, too.

Use a movement tracker like an Apple Watch or an app to remind you to get up and move at regular intervals throughout the day.

Wakeout is a fun exercise app that encourages you to take regular breaks from work. It takes a light-hearted approach, prompting you to get up or even stay seated and move around for a moment or two each hour. You can set timers and reminders to schedule these breaks throughout your day.

Download: Wakeout for iOS (Free, subscription available)

8. Exercise Regularly and at Optimal Times

While exercise is essential for sleep quality, the timing of your training is critical for maintaining your circadian rhythms. Exercising during daylight hours is thought to be best for stabilizing circadian rhythms, and this has the added benefit that you may be exposed to natural daylight while you work out.

On the other hand, evening trips to the gym might have a negative impact. If you leave your exercise until less than 90 minutes before sleep, you aren’t allowing your endorphin levels and core body temperature to return to a suitable level for rest. Set a reminder or a notification on your smartphone or watch to schedule exercise at a good time for you.

9. Take a Power Nap

A power nap of around 20 minutes is thought to have significant health benefits, according to research published in Sleep Medicine. And rather than disrupting your circadian rhythms, it can actually improve your cognitive function and relieve your stress levels. As long as you make it short and effective, it won’t interfere with your night’s sleep. You can make power napping easier using your smartphone.

Maintain Good Routines to Optimize Your Circadian Rhythms for Better Well-Being

The human body is designed to work in harmony with the natural passing of time through periods of daylight and darkness. When you disrupt your routines with travel, work, and even the wrong type of activity, you throw your circadian rhythms out of sync. That can leave you feeling tired and short of energy. By following these tips, you’ll be able to keep your circadian rhythms in check and make the most of your natural energy each day.