Let me explain……
As humans we are the proud owners of absolutely amazing bodies that do all sorts of incredible things, without us even having to think about it. One of the most amazing features about the human body is that it runs on a regular ‘timetable’ or ‘ biological clock’. What that means is that it likes to do certain functions at certain times of day – for example your detoxification systems, and hormone systems.
And not only that, but by having this ‘inner timetable’ with specific times of day set aside for certain tasks, your body is more efficient and you feel brighter, more alert and have more energy.
So how does jet lag come into this?
Your 24-hour body clock is one of the most important and powerful systems in your body; it makes sure you are awake during the day and asleep during the night.
It does this through 2 key hormones: cortisol and melatonin.
The basic idea is that cortisol is your ‘wide awake, fresh and alert’ hormone, and ideally you want that nice and high in the morning and through the daytime.
Melatonin is your ‘sleep hormone’. You want melatonin to be low during the daytime and high overnight, to create deep, restful and restorative sleep.
The switch over between cortisol and melatonin throughout a 24-hour day, is a bit like a dance. It is a fluid smooth process that happens naturally, as long as the body is supported in the right way, and gets the right triggers at the right time.
What happens when the cortisol-melatonin balance is lost?
If you support the cortisol-melatonin dance, nurture it and work with it rather than against it, you can enjoy a beautiful night’s sleep and fantastic daytime energy.
But if you ignore it or disrupt it, then you’re left with lower quality sleep that doesn’t refresh and restore you. That’s what leaves you waking up tired, slow, and lethargic – in other words you get that ‘jet lag’ feeling.
One easy and clear example of this is going on a long haul flight and literally giving yourself jetlag.
When you travel to another time zone, they say that it takes about 1 day per hour of time difference for your body clock to ‘catch up’ and reset itself to the new time zone. So if you flew from London to Sydney, that’s an 11 hour time difference and it would take about 7-10 days for your body to properly catch up.
The secret to your 24 hour body clock.
The secret to supporting your body clock is that it works from a specific ‘start point’. This is in fact your waking up time.
So if you wake up at the same time every day, for example 6 am, your body clock, your cortisol melatonin dance, will align itself to that set point, and take that as the ‘start’. It then works out the rest of the 24-hour cortisol-melatonin dance from that point.
Where things can go wrong is if for example, you wake up at 6am Monday to Friday for work, but then you lie in on a weekend until 11am. From your body’s perspective it’s as if you have gone on a long haul flight to somewhere that is a 5 hour time difference.
What that means is that lying in on a weekend means you have effectively flown London to New York! And then we wonder why we feel so tired and groggy on a Monday morning! Because from your body clock’s perspective, you are in actual jetlag!
So how can I support my body clock?
Here are 3 practical steps you can take to make a huge difference to your 24-hour body clock, to support and strengthen it. These steps will help you to enjoy deeper sleep, stop waking up tired, and have more energy during the day. So what are you waiting for?
1) A powerful start point
The first and most important thing is to create an ultra-clear and consistent start point for your body clock. If you are reading this and you have been in fatigue for some time, chances are that your body clock is probably a little confused.
So by committing to a super regular wake up time for 21 days, you should start to notice a real difference in your morning energy levels.
Choose a time that you can consistently wake up at, and that fits in with your life and commitments. For some people this might be 6am, for others 4am or 7.30am. It all depends on how your life is set up and what is practical.
But choose a time and then stick to it for 21 days, even at weekends, even in the holidays and even if you have had a rubbish night’s sleep. This is all about taking charge of your 24 hour body clock!
And yes, there are many factors that can get in the way of a deep night’s sleep, but this is a great place to start.
2) Get daylight into your eyes first thing
The next step is to really give your cortisol system a clear ‘It’s morning!’ signal. A good dollop of daylight first thing in the morning will do the trick.
I often ask my clients to do this as a regular practice and it is amazing just how effective this is. Especially if you combine it with step 1.
3) Get moving
The last piece is to actually move your body first thing in the morning. This can be the hardest thing of all, especially if you are really caught in the jetlag trap. When you wake up and your head is heavy, you feel tired, ‘drugged’ and groggy and all you want is triple strength coffee, so going for a healthy walk is probably the last thing you feel like doing!
BUT getting your body moving is a very powerful signal to your bodyclock, telling it ‘night time is over, daytime has begun’.
So if you’re always waking up tired, and if you feel like you have a monday morning hangover even though you haven’t been indulging – then you could be stuck in jet lag!
If that’s you, then my challenge to you is to commit to those three steps for the next 7 days.
1) Get up at the same time every morning
2) Go outside and get daylight into your eyes
3) Go for a 10-20minte walk first thing.
Let me know how you get on!!
Health and light