Are you a habitual “snoozer,” always looking for that extra ten minutes of sleep each morning?
Or do you struggle with low energy during the day, feel sleepy after lunch, need caffeine at 4 p.m., or find yourself waking up at night hungry?
Think of the human body as a bank; but instead of money, the currency is energy. You spend energy on your daily tasks, stressful situations and other needs. You make deposits into this bank with the food you eat and the sleep you get. It’s that simple ... or is it?
Have you noticed you feel energized or tired around the same times every day? If you have, you are feeling your circadian rhythm. It’s your internal clock that runs several key processes and organs in your body. It’s impacted by your genes, eating habits, sleep habits, and even the bacteria in your gut.
For most adults, the biggest dips in energy occur between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. and during the day between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. These low energy periods can have you waking up searching the fridge for a snack or reaching for a caffeine- or sugar-loaded snack or drink. Many clients come to me feeling it’s their lack of willpower or discipline, but it’s their internal clock that needs support.
Here’s the kicker: Sleep deprivation can intensify the effects of your energy drops because it’s throwing off your circadian rhythm. Circadian rhythm disruption has been linked to many disease states, including metabolic syndrome, obesity, cardiovascular disease, intestinal dysbiosis, inflammatory bowel disease, neurodegenerative disease and cancer.
Rather than taking energy supplements and drinks (or living on caffeine and sweets), here are a few natural solutions to get through your daily energy drains that will help, rather than harm, your gut health and stress and sex hormone levels.
First: Stop skipping meals and eating late at night and start focusing to the meals you are eating during the day. Reduce your intake of refined sugar, refined flour, sugar alcohols, processed foods and snacks. These low-nutrient foods are not nourishing your body and they impact your circadian rhythm significantly.
Unless you are a competitive athlete with a training regimen, a meal timing between 3 and 4 hours is optimal. If you are getting hungry between meals, look at the meal balance of the previous meals and make sure you are getting all macronutrients with each meal in the form of plant-based carbohydrates, lean proteins, and healthy fats.
Second: Cultivate a healthy sleep hygiene by limiting blue light from your computer, cell phone and tablet a few hours before bed. Exposure to blue light stimulates your pineal gland, resulting in a disrupted release of melatonin – your sleep hormone. You should also keep a cool dark room to help get the recommended 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night.
Creating healthy meal-timing and optimal sleep patterns are the two most natural ways to impact your daily energy. You will notice an instant difference when you get these working for you (instead of against you).
Fran Sutherlin is a local registered dietitian, health coach, speaker and owner of Sustainable Nutrition, which has offices in Durango and Bayfield. She can be reached at 444-2122 or firstname.lastname@example.org.