Integrating Circadian Synchrony with Contemporary Life
3 Tips for the morning that support circadian synchrony
Get bright light in the early morning ~ The best way to transition from sleep to wakefulness is to get a good dose of bright morning light. Of course sunlight is the best and brightest, but if you need to get going before sunrise, bright interior lights that give off at least 400-800 lumen will help. Even when it’s cloudy, the open sky is 10 to 50 times brighter than typical indoor lighting. Sit outside while you drink your morning coffee or tea, walk the dog, park your car or get off the transit a few blocks from work, try to spend at least 10-20 minutes outside in the early morning. If you can’t get outside, try sitting in front of an eastward facing window and look at the sky. Unless you have trouble with waking up too early, morning sunlight is the most beneficial light of the day. A few precautions: don’t look directly at the sun; don’t wear sunglasses unless you need them for safety reasons; during summer, at higher elevations and in the tropics, get your direct sun exposure before 10 am, and if you take any medication that causes photosensitivity, talk with your doctor.
Wake up hungry ~ Your body’s anticipation of food in the morning helps synchronize the circadian cycle of a key stress hormone, cortisol, to it’s ideal peak upon waking. Our metabolism seems to be optimized and revitalized by a mini-fast during the night, and a large or late dinner prevents that physiological break from digestive activities. Everyone’s diet, schedule and metabolism are different, so experiment with this tip a bit. Eating too early or too little for dinner can cause you to wake up earlier than you want. If you exercise shortly after getting up in the morning, it’s okay if you’re not hungry and don't eat until shortly after your workout.
Eat a real breakfast ~ Similar to waking up hungry, eating enough for breakfast so that your body anticipates a substantial nutritional boost shortly after waking is key to synchronizing the cortisol rhythm and transitioning smoothly from sleep to wakefulness. If you are physically active throughout the day, follow the old adage to “eat breakfast like a king (or queen).” If your livelihood and overall activity level is fairly sedentary, try eating 25-35% of your total daily calories at breakfast so you have more opportunity to burn them off and are less likely to eat a big dinner.