What is Keeping You Up At Night? We’ve Got Some Thoughts..

We all know we SHOULD be getting 8 hours of sleep every night…

But whether or not that happens, well… that’s a different story! Maybe you stumble into the dreaded “scroll hole” and then can’t fall asleep for hours. No matter how hard you try, you toss and turn until sunrise only to fall asleep two hours before your alarm goes off. 

It’s frustrating. It makes you feel like a trash bag getting dragged through the ocean. And you know that 3rd cup of coffee ain’t doing you any favors…

So what’s to blame?

You, boo!

I hate to break it to ya, but if the above sounds familiar, your circadian rhythm is probably out of whack. And there are 5 surprising things you might be doing that are keeping it that way.

Let’s dive into them!

1. NOT GETTING MORNING SUNLIGHT IS KEEPING YOU UP AT NIGHT.

If there’s ONE tip I want you to take away from this blog, it’s this: get some sunlight within an hour of waking up!

Whether you step outside for a walk and get some steps in, or you enjoy your breakfast and coffee outdoors, this simple practice can significantly boost your energy levels during the day and improve your sleep at night.

Our eyes contain specialized receptors that detect light and send a signal to our brain, saying, “Hey, it’s daytime! Let’s start producing cortisol to get things moving.” 

This helps synchronize your circadian rhythm, which is your body’s internal 24-hour clock responsible for various mental and physical processes throughout the day, including sleep-wake cycles, digestion, metabolism, and mood.

Light exposure during the first hour of the day kick-starts our energy levels and mental alertness. As the sun goes down and it gets darker, cortisol declines and melatonin is produced to make us sleepy. 

One common question is whether sitting by a window provides the same benefits. While you do get some sunlight exposure, windows filter out many of the rays that have a significant impact. To fully reap the benefits, it’s best to get direct sunlight on your skin, even on cloudy days.

I’m a huge fan of synching my schedule with the sun. Going to bed and waking up with the sun means early bedtimes and rising with the sunrise. This is what our bodies were designed to do before the invention of artificial light.

So much of your ability to sleep at night is reflective of your morning routine, not just your bedtime routine. Lace up your shoes and head outside within an hour of waking. It’s one of the best things you can do to get better zzz’s at night.

NOT GETTING MORNING SUNLIGHT IS KEEPING YOU UP AT NIGHT

2. WEARING BLUE BLOCKERS DURING THE DAY IS KEEPING YOU UP AT NIGHT.

It seems like everyone is on the Blue Blockers bandwagon these days to combat the effects of staring at screens all day. 

These glasses are made to reduce the blue light that screens emit, which can mess with our sleep by affecting melatonin production.

But here’s the thing about blue light: it’s actually good for us during the day, especially in the morning and early afternoon. Natural blue light from the sun helps regulate the circadian rhythm and keeps us awake and alert. As the day goes on and the sun sets, the light changes to warmer tones, which tells our bodies it’s time to wind down and get ready for sleep.

Wearing Blue Blockers during the day, especially outside, isn’t that helpful since we actually need exposure to natural blue light to help regulate our circadian rhythm. These glasses also don’t offer much in terms of protection from screens unless they’re prescription, have magnification, or are anti-reflective.

WEAR THEM AT NIGHT

Instead, save your Blue Blockers for nighttime use, especially when you’re using screens before bed. This can help your body reduce blue light exposure to keep melatonin production rolling and improve your sleep. 

And remember, Blue blockersdon’t totally negate the effects of screens on our sleep. They don’t completely block the light and flashing/changing screens are still stimulating for the brain so it’s important to reduce screen time before bed in general even if you are wearing the glasses. 

Swap your screens for reading good ol’ fashioned books, journaling or meditating to help you unwind.

WEARING BLUE BLOCKERS DURING THE DAY IS KEEPING YOU UP AT NIGHT

3. NOT HAVING A DAILY STRESS MANAGEMENT PRACTICE IS KEEPING YOU UP AT NIGHT.

 

Yeah, yeah, yeah, you should meditate, journal and breathe deep throughout the day.

I get that this recommendation may seem super generic like someone telling you to eat healthy, drink more water or exercise but daily stress management is crucial for our mental health, which is just as important and intertwined with our physical health.

We often wait until we’re on the brink of breakdown or our stress levels are sky-high before trying to start meditating. We sit down, seething, overwhelmed and full of pent-up emotions, and try to take some deep breaths or listen to a meditation to clear our minds. But it doesn’t work; it feels impossible, which only makes us more upset.

That’s because it’s like trying to go play a game of basketball without practicing beforehand. If you’ve never dribbled a ball before, how do you think you’re going to perform when it’s game time?

These practices need to be integrated into our daily routines like brushing your teeth. You do it automatically before leaving the house.  Doing it daily makes it so it’s not only a sharp tool in your toolbelt when the “oh-shit” moments arise but so it also acts as a daily pressure release valve so things don’t even get close to the boiling over point. 

These small habits can make a world of difference for your sleep. If you’re anxious and stressed at night, that will continue throughout the night, causing you to be restless and get lower-quality ZZZ’s. You’ll wake up with higher cortisol and feel more stressed and/or exhausted throughout the day and the vicious cycle loops and repeats.

I recommend choosing just one habit to start with and keeping it simple. Begin with 5 minutes of deep breathing or meditation and gradually increase the duration. Or start by journaling for one full page. Make it easy enough to follow through even on your worst days. Pick a specific time of day and commit to doing it every single day at that time so you don’t even have to think about it or give yourself the option of putting it off. I meditate immediately when I get up and journal after eating breakfast. Plugging it into your current routine keeps you consistent!

Learn more about how your nervous system is keeping you up at night.

NOT HAVING A DAILY STRESS MANAGEMENT PRACTICE IS KEEPING YOU UP AT NIGHT

4. LEAVING THE LIGHTS ON WHEN IT’S DARK IS KEEPING YOU UP AT NIGHT

I already explained why you should reduce screen time before bed… and the same thing applies to ALL the lights in your space. 

Since light exposure reduces melatonin, start being mindful of how many lights are on as the sun goes down. Dimming the lights or turning off the unnecessary ones can help you produce more melatonin. This is especially important in the bedroom as you are trying to sleep.

Get blackout curtains/shades and turn off or cover up any standby lights which can include:

  • Powerstrips
  • Wifi modems
  • Laptop screens
  • Lamps
  • Alarm clocks
  • Smoke detectors

Additionally, try to keep all electronics, such as the ones listed above, away from the bed and off the nightstand. Electrical products emit electromagnetic fields (EMFs) that can stimulate the nervous system. If you feel overstimulated or a buzzing sensation in your body when you’re trying to sleep, this could be one of the causes.

By moving a powerstrip and white noise machine away from the head of my bed I was able to fall asleep MUCH faster.

Here are some tips you can use in your own space:

  • For small lights (like a power button on a laptop), put a piece of tape or post-it over them
  • Opt for lights with a dimming function and reduce their brightness 2 hours before bed
  • Turn off all unnecessary lights
  • Charge your phone away from your bed
  • Put your phone on airplane mode at night to reduce EMFs (and the urge to scroll)

Change your phone to “red mode” at night. Here’s how.

LEAVING THE LIGHTS ON WHEN IT'S DARK IS KEEPING YOU UP AT NIGHT

5. PARTYING ALL WEEKEND IS KEEPING YOU UP AT NIGHT

If you aim for what I call the Grandma bedtime (early bedtimes and wakeups) Sunday – Thursday but switch into party mode as soon as Friday hits… that’s messing up your circadian rhythm too. 

Our bodies thrive on routine, so staying up past midnight every Saturday can have a rebound effect on your sleep during the week.

Ever heard of “Social Jetlag”? It refers to the misalignment between your biological clock (circadian rhythm) and social clock (daily schedule). 

Studies have found that people who stay up late and sleep in on weekends experience a form of “jetlag” similar to what you’d experience when travelling across time zones. This inconsistency in sleep patterns disrupts your body’s natural rhythm, leading to poorer sleep quality and increased fatigue during the week.

This kind of disruption can also lead to negative health outcomes, similar to those experienced by night-shift workers, including an increased risk of obesity, metabolic syndrome, and cardiovascular disease.

Drinking alcohol plays a role in this, too. It increases cortisol (the stress hormone) levels, making you feel stressed, anxious, and inflamed. It also keeps you up at night by reducing melatonin production. Ever wonder why you never have a good sleep after a night of drinking? This is why!

It might feel challenging to turn down those late-night invites, but once you get out of the party loop you start to love replacing them with equally enjoyable daytime plans. By coming home earlier or drinking less, you’ll see a big improvement in your sleep.

If you are serious about changing your health, stick to a regular sleep and wake time. It will help you feel more clear, energized, and motivated. This will also support a healthier digestive and immune system overall. I promise that once you commit to a consistent sleep and wake schedule, you’ll feel amazing and barely miss those half-price margaritas (and the hangovers).

PARTYING ALL WEEKEND IS KEEPING YOU UP AT NIGHT

SMALL CHANGES ADD UP

Remember – the small actions you do each day add up to big results. If you think you’re getting 8 hours every night but still feel like a zombie 24/7… wake up (literally!)

Implement these 5 changes into your routine:

  • Get sunlight within an hour of waking up.
  • Only wear blue blockers in the evening. 
  • Start a daily stress management practice.
  • Reduce lights in the evening.
  • Stop partying every weekend.

And if you’re looking for a little extra support for your sleep quality, anxiety, and overall health, consider booking a functional medicine consultation. We’ll do a deep dive into your personal health struggles and work together to create a personalized treatment plan just for you!