Our bodies are biological clocks with the built-in pattern of a circadian rhythm. Circadian rhythms are the cycles in the body that fluctuate over a 24-hour period. In an acknowledgment of its importance, a Nobel Prize was granted in 2017 for research on circadian biology and its implications for our health and wellbeing. When there is prolonged misalignment between our lifestyle and our circadian rhythm it can increase the risk for various diseases.
The importance of this delicate balance has been central to Ayurveda for over 5,000 years. It is beautiful to see ancient wisdom and modern science align in the pursuit of optimum health. The Ayurvedic approach to health is rooted in establishing consistent daily practices that restore balance to our overall system – mind, body, and spirit. Consistency in our actions is integral in keeping our mental, emotional and biological health in check. And these restorative daily practices begin with our sleeping patterns.
If we wake up at the same time every day, we can reinforce the circadian rhythm and be prompted to go to sleep at the same time every night, ensuring we receive enough rest consistently. Through this consistent pattern of rest and wake, our body can function, cycle, and operate more efficiently, resulting in a number of impactful health benefits.
Our circadian rhythm keeps our digestive system and metabolism in balance. When our body is well-rested, our hormones and thyroid gland can function optimally, triggering hunger and the enzymatic juices that aid in digestion. When they aren’t functioning optimally, our digestive fire isn’t able to support us fully, leading to a build-up of toxins and poor nutrient absorption. For optimal digestive results, try eating meals at the same time every day. Studies show that a routine eating time supports our body's internal clock and maintains a resilient digestive system. Ayurveda teaches to train the body with 3 big meals a day, at the same time.
A healthy cycle of digestion promotes regular bowel movements, which directly impacts our mood and state of health. If we are not properly evacuating our bodies, we can experience headaches, halitosis, loss of appetite, slow metabolism, indigestion and loss of sleep. Regularity helps move toxins out of the body, maintains our health and keeps our biological rhythm in order.
Adequate sleep and routine waking and sleeping cycles directly correlate to our immunity. The Sleep Foundation states that, "Cytokines, the chemicals our immune systems use to help fight an infection, are powerful sleep-inducers. This suggests that sleep may help the body conserve energy and other resources it needs to mount an immune response and fight disease."
Fatigue can affect productivity, accuracy, motivation, and mental clarity. When we wake up and go to sleep at the same time each day, the quality of our sleep can improve. When we are well-rested and the body is functioning optimally, our learning, memory and concentration capabilities stabilize.
Scheduling our responsibilities and compartmentalizing tasks can help to keep us on time and mentally focused. Building our life according to a rhythm aligned with our circadian clock can completely alter how we experience our lives, helping us to feel more inspired, invigorated and alert throughout the day.
If you are feeling like your life is fragmented, your thoughts are out of order and your emotions are spilling over, living according to your circadian rhythm can cause a shift in your emotional resilience by helping to instill a sense of control over your daily outcomes. This can bring more clarity to the changes and challenges you face, impacting your mindset for a more motivated and positive outlook.
See for yourself! For the next 40 days, try going to sleep at the same time each night and waking up at the same time each morning. No snooze button!
Ideally, you should wake up, and be out of bed by 7:00 AM and asleep by 10:00 PM. If those times don't work for you, then follow the schedule that is best for you — consistency is the key. Different bodies require different amounts of sleep, so be aware of your own personal checkpoints; sleep can vary between 7-9 hours for each person per night.
If you are very ambitious, you may also choose to eat at the same times each day, as Ayurveda teaches.
It may sound so simple, but the key to optimal health and well-being lies in the simplicity of our natural, biological circadian rhythm- a truth that has been central to Ayurveda approach to health for over 5,000 years.
Ayurveda is a lifelong journey. I encourage you to learn more about this ancient approach to health. Take each layer of Ayurveda’s teachings and implement them into your daily life one by one. The compounding effect of this will be profound.