“At break of day arising”
My circadian rhythm has historically been off and only since motherhood, righted itself. Oppositely than the way Helena’s rhythm changed (see her post below), once a sleepless night owl, since my daughter I am now a morning lark. Beginning with the exhaustion of first trimester pregnancy, my body’s circadian rhythm changed. Wee morning hours became my most alert time. Every day during pregnancy I would wake up between 5:00 and 5:30am, no alarm clock needed. It was almost clockwork – my eyes would open and I’d be on.
After my daughter was born, she and I woke almost simultaneously between 5:00 and 5:30am, which went on until just recently. This school year she no longer wakes as early (although still early by most measures), but I still do, rarely requiring an alarm to wake me – and by chance (you’ll understand in a moment), my alarm has been set to the sound of songbirds for years (I still love it and the early morning songbirds outside my window).
Morning is my favorite time of the day now. I look forward to the peace and freshness of the early hours, and often write most of my pieces during that time. No longer does my circadian rhythm peak at night. In my case, a hormonal shift most likely occurred, but there are many ways science has discovered to right your own rhythm. Helena mentions a few and here’s an article from the New York Times for anyone who’s struggling with insomnia or impossible sleep patterns and looking for additional information.
Helena’s piece on reclaiming your circadian rhythm is apropos. I think we can all agree New England’s spring has final sprung; it’s a new beginning. What better a time than now to right your rhythm? Thank you, Helena!!!
Much love and happiness,
The Lark and the Alarm clock: Circadian Rhythms and Seasonal Changes
By Helena Sweet
I had always been an early riser – that lark-like kind of person who wakes before the alarm clock and doesn’t see the glares from roommates over cups of coffee as I enthusiastically greet them at the breakfast table. Then kids. The long nights of motherhood changed my relationship with mornings. The lingering in bed and morning mantra of “just put your feet on the floor” replaced my early bird self.
Both the human and electronic kind of alarm clock woke me instead of my internal clock. The jarring noise of waking up to bells and buzzers makes me downright grumpy. I have even been known to curse the bird noises that come from my window in the morning. (This I blame on my experiment with a bird-noise alarm clock.)
We all have a natural relationship with sleep and light that changes with seasons or circumstances. Our bodies have their own energy levels and connection to nature. These are our circadian rhythms. These rhythms are the chemical reactions our body has in response to light, the green of trees, cold, etc. We are, of course like everything else in nature, connected to its cycles. Wake and be active in the light, rest in the dark.
Our modern age of work and technology often pushes us to ignore this natural relationship. Becoming aware of our natural tendencies and adapting accordingly is more important than ever. Seasonal changes are a great time to observe our patterns and perhaps to make positive changes to take advantage of our personal cycles.
If spring’s later nights, more outside time and light energize you, embrace them, stay out, enjoy and simplify your nighttime schedule so you’re not squeezing in too much. Or if they lead you to bed late and make for a groggy next day, get thicker curtains.
Start first by noticing the nature around you. When is there more light in your world? Then notice how your body responds to the season. Are you a lark, an owl or something in between? Start with sleep schedules. Also watch what you eat and drink and when. (Need more coffee to adjust?) A journal or note pad may help.
The last step is to pick two or three things that you can try on for the season. Find ways to reset your circadian rhythms in healthy ways. This can be going to bed in spite of it being light out. Finding a time to be more active and outside to wear out your energized self. Adding a new wind-down to your bedtime routine, like reading on paper instead of looking at a screen. Maybe even buy yourself a new alarm clock.
Whatever you try on, be your own best observer. See the rhythms that work for you and the season.
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There’s never been a better moment to indulge and reset your rhythm with simple. pure. love.