We don't sleep when we should

Many people live like shift workers to some degree. The majority of people either go to bed after midnight or wake up early without getting enough sleep.

Shift work is a probable carcinogen, according to the WHO. Moreover, there is a list of health problems associated with shift work. The reason is that shift work interferes with your circadian rhythm. Humans are diurnal - we are designed to be awake in the day and asleep at night. While we can be nocturnal, we weren't built for it long term.

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Every cell and organ in your body has a clock. If things are working right, they are in sync with your brain. But if things aren't in sync, your hormones are out of whack, causing problems with your energy levels, hunger, stress and overall health.

The most important factor to your circadian rhythm is light. We have complete control over the amount of light we're exposed to. This essentially makes us shift workers. If we want to fix this, we have to focus on what we do at night.

Light at night means less melatonin - which means poor sleep and a foggy brain the next day. Blue light sends a powerful signal to your brain that it is daytime, but it's not the only problem. All light is a problem. After dark, all light should be reduced, with as little light as possible after 8 PM.

While we probably won't sit around during the evening in the dark, we can reduce overhead lighting and reduce the blue light on your screens.

Eating signals to your body it's daytime.

People who eat in an 8 - 11 hour window and stop eating 3 hours before bed are healthier and are better able to pay attention the next day.

You need around seven hours of sleep a night. Children need more, and older folks less. Sleeping much more or notably less than seven hours is associated with a shorter lifespan.

Consistency is as important. You need a regular schedule for when you wake up, when you have your first and last meal, when you dim the lights and when you go to bed. If any of these factors shift by two hours over a week, it's an issue.

As soon as you wake up, go outside and get sunlight onto your eyes. (Don't stare directly into the sun.)

Your retinas get more sensitive as the day goes on, and they are less sensitive in the morning. You need to spend about 2 - 10 minutes outside, depending on how bright it is. Getting some sunlight will set your internal clock properly.

  • Your brain will be most alert between 10 AM and 3 PM. That is when your best work or learning is done.
  • If you still don't feel awake, you may need even more early sunlight. You need at least 1 hour of daylight exposure outside to reduce sleepiness and stay happy and productive throughout the day.
  • If you still feel tired throughout the day, 150 minutes of moderate activity a week can affect how well you sleep and how energetic you feel the next day.

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