3 Ways to Address Burnout and Support Your Circadian Rhythm
BySarah Axtell, ND •December 23, 2022
Feelings of burnout are common this time of year- fewer daylight hours, holidays hustle and bustle, and work deadlines. Burnout can lead to a sense of exhaustion, stress, and brain fog.
One of the most effective ways to address burnout is to support a healthy circadian rhythm. Our adrenal glands (organs that modulate the stress response) thrive on routine. There is an intimate link between burnout and a disrupted circadian rhythm.
What is your circadian rhythm?
It is your 24-hour body clock. In addition to it regulating your sleep-wake cycle, it also involves hormones that control relaxation, mood, sleep, and even digestion. In addition to fiber and water, there are certain hormones that put the digestive process into motion, thus keeping you regular. These hormones run on a regular rhythm or bio-time. This is often referred to as the “gut clock.”
The circadian rhythm is regulated by light and food. It is controlled by the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) in the brain. Light during the day stimulates the SCN to then alert the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis to release morning cortisol from the adrenal glands. It also signals the pineal gland to release melatonin at night to promote restful sleep. Melatonin is a also key hormone in regulating your gut clock.
Both sleep hygiene and regular meals help to support a healthy circadian rhythm and thus a healthy stress response. Adaptogenic herbs and supplements can also be helpful.
Here are 3 ways to address burnout by supporting your circadian rhythm:
- Sleep Hygiene- Minimizing light exposure in the evening and seeking out bright light in the morning can have a profound impact on sleep quality. Research shows blue light may affect the circadian rhythm by delaying melatonin secretion. Also, keep the bedroom dark and cool. Go to bed and wake at the same time every night and morning, even weekends.
- Regular meals- According to this recent research, holiday circadian rhythm disruption may have just as much to do with WHEN we eat as WHAT we eat. Regular meals support a healthy circadian rhythm. Eating late at night not only disrupts sleep but can also lead to weight gain and poor digestion.
- Supplements– Adaptogenic herbs help the body adapt to physical and emotional stress. Here is a video on my 3 favorite adaptogenic herbs to help support the HPA Axis and thus the circadian rhythm. Melatonin is another supplement to consider as it is well known for its sleep-inducing effects and in particular its ability to regulate sleep cycles disrupted by shift work or jet lag. Magnesium can also be helpful. Magnesium is an N-methyl-D-aspartic acid (NMDA) antagonist and GABA agonist, both of which help regulate sleep. Lastly, research shows L-theanine results in significantly better scores for sleep onset, sleep disturbance, and need for sleep medication.
Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health practitioners with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.