It may not always feel like it when you’re in denial of a beeping alarm clock, but your brain is actually very good at knowing when it’s time to sleep, wake, and even eat. Your circadian (which literally means “about a day”) rhythm responds to environmental cues—like sunlight—that tell your body to feel drowsy or alert, depending on the time of day.
Sounds easy, right? It can be. But shift work, travel, and even electronic devices can throw things out of whack. Check out some simple ways to tune up your inner clock for better sleep and more alert days.
1. Keep it Regular
The best way to keep your body clock on track is to follow a steady sleep schedule by going to bed—and waking up—at about the same time every day. Playing catch-up (either by sleeping in or taking long naps on the weekend) may feel luxurious, but it can make it harder to fall asleep on Sunday night, which will only set you back.
2. Rise and Shine
As soon as your alarm blares, turn on all the lights and open the blinds—stat. Exposing yourself to lightfirst thing in the morning since re-sets your body clock for the day by triggering you brain to slow the production of melatoninThe hormone secreted by the pineal gland thought to help adjust our internal and external clocks
Click to learn more, a hormone that makes you sleepy.
3. Get Outside During the Day
Eat lunch outside, walk to a nearby café for a late afternoon snack, or at least sit near a window at work if you can. Daylight is a powerful force in keeping your body clock on track, but it only works if you can see it.
4. Time Your Workout
If you’re trying to shift to an earlier wakeup time, either because you’re traveling east across time zones or just need to get an earlier start, try exercising in the morning, ideally outdoors in bright light. For westward travel, or to stay up later, opt for an afternoon session.
5. Give Yourself an Electronics Curfew
The lights of the many electronics you’re likely glued to can interrupt your circadian rhythm, so it’ll take you longer to fall asleep and you’ll snooze less deeply when you do. Try to hit the “off” button at least a hour before bed, and wind down with tech-free activities like reading, listening to music, or soaking in the tub.