How To Practice Sleep Syncing for Better Sleep and Energy

Source: Pexels | Marcus Aurelius
Source: Pexels | Marcus Aurelius

If there’s one thing we can all agree on it’s that sleep is important—and that collectively, we’re not getting enough of it. I’ve been guilty of staying up too late to watch one more episode of the latest show, finish reading a chapter, or scroll through TikTok without thinking about the consequences (lack of quality sleep). While I love a little self-care time at the end of a long day, I don’t ever want it to translate into a groggy, grumpy kind of morning that leaves me needing coffee in an IV to make it through the day. 

According to the CDC, more than a third of Americans don’t get enough sleep (read: seven or more hours a day). Sleep is vital for our overall health, and sleeping less than seven hours a day can be associated with a risk of developing chronic conditions such as obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and frequent mental distress. Even with the introduction of sleep-tracking devices like the Oura Ring or Apple Watch, we still don’t seem to maintain good quality sleep. Whether you stay up too late, wake up in the middle of the night, or never wake up feeling energized, there’s a new wellness trend that might be the answer to all your sleep woes. You’ve probably heard of cycle syncing, which is syncing with your infradian rhythm; sleep syncing is syncing with your circadian rhythm, and it’s promising everything from the best sleep of your life to optimal energy during the day. Read on for what sleep syncing is and how to try it for yourself. 


What Is Sleep Syncing?

Sleep syncing is the process of aligning your sleep cycle with your circadian rhythm, or the internal clock your body follows. The circadian rhythm regulates your daily sleep, wakefulness, hunger, digestion, hormonal activity, and other bodily processes. It’s why natural light tells the body it’s time to wake up or having set meal times spark hunger. The circadian rhythm regulates the production of different hormones throughout the 24-hour cycle. In the morning when the sun rises, the body produces cortisol, which makes us feel alert and awake. In the evening, as the sun sets, the body releases melatonin, which makes us tired and ready for sleep. When the body is properly aligned with the circadian rhythm, it makes it easier to have a full and restful sleep, but when it is thrown off this schedule, problems arise. Enter sleep syncing. 

Unlike the many sleep hacks out there, sleep syncing may be the most effective because it follows your body’s natural biological clock, which regulates the cycle of circadian rhythms. By following the tips for sleep syncing below, you’ll likely feel more rested throughout the day, say goodbye to the midday slump, and no longer reach for a caffeine fix the moment you wake up.


How To Sync With Your Circadian Rhythm


1. Wake up and go to sleep at the same time every day

Many of us are pretty good at waking up and going to bed at the same time Monday through Friday, but the moment the weekend rolls around, anything goes. But bad news for your weekend sleep-ins or late nights out: if you’re varying bedtimes and wake-up times, the body can be unsure when you should be asleep and when you should be awake, so you may feel tired during the day and unable to sleep at night. By setting a sleep schedule such as 10:30 p.m. to 6:00 a.m., and sticking with it every day, you’re more likely to sync your sleep to your circadian rhythm, meaning having an easier time falling and staying asleep, and waking up feeling refreshed. Realistically, going to bed at 10:30 p.m. every single night probably won’t happen, but try to fall asleep and wake up within the same two-hour window as much as possible to sync with your circadian rhythm.


2. Be mindful of light exposure

For most people, sleep doesn’t happen as soon as your head hits the pillow. Setting your body up for a good night’s sleep plays a big role in sleep syncing. Start by ensuring all electronics are turned off and away from you at least 30 minutes before you go to sleep. Any light, including the light that comes from screens, can confuse your body’s circadian rhythm into believing it’s time to stay awake. Dimming all lights in the room can also help prepare the body for rest.

On the flip side, getting sunlight first thing in the morning is a great well to tell your body it’s time to wake up and halt melatonin. Not only will this give you more energy and wakefulness during the day, but when the circadian rhythm halts melatonin and increases cortisol, it knows that about 12 hours later, it’s time to increase melatonin and decrease cortisol, improving your sleep. Open blinds first thing upon waking up, and try to get outside in the morning.


3. Eat according to your circadian rhythm

The circadian diet, which involves consuming all meals during a 12-hour window and fasting during the next 12-hour window, is one most of us intuitively follow in that we eat during the day and stop at night (eating too close to bedtime can disrupt sleep). The circadian diet also says that breakfast should be the largest meal of the day and dinner is the smallest, according to how our metabolism, hormones, etc. change throughout the day, thanks to (you guessed it!) the circadian rhythm.

Whether or not you want to experiment with when or how much you eat to sync with your circadian rhythm, there are also foods that could be majorly affecting your circadian rhythm. Caffeine causes cortisol to spike, which is counterintuitive to our circadian rhythm if you drink it in the later afternoon (when cortisol levels naturally drop to prepare us to sleep at night). Everybody varies in their sensitivity to caffeine; some people swear they can have a shot of espresso right before bed and others get way better sleep when they avoid caffeine, even in the mornings. Experiment to identify when your cut-off should be to make sure that caffeine is not impacting your sleep.

Aside from caffeine, there are other foods and beverages that can affect your sleep. Alcohol or spicy foods have been shown to disrupt sleep. Avoiding these before bed and opting instead for complex carbohydrates or a glass of tart cherry juice may be helpful for sleep syncing and improving sleep quality. 


4. Exercise according to your circadian rhythm

Exercising according to your circadian rhythm can also positively impact your sleep (they have a symbiotic relationship, just like food and sleep). Engaging in routine exercise is healthy and can promote a positive sleep cycle, encouraging strength and mobility while you work out. However, exercising too close to your bedtime can have a negative effect. Exercise is stimulating and can keep the body awake, so avoid any excessive heart-pumping activities at least 1-2 hours before bedtime. Instead, use exercise as a tool throughout your day to reorient your circadian rhythm and prepare for rest at the end of the day.