Fitfree40/ February 4, 2019/ Health, Lifestyle/ 0 comments

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I slept for 8 hours.  Why am I so tired?

This has something to do with your Circadian Rhythm.

The circadian rhythm is our natural “body clock” that tells us when we should be awake or sleeping based on how light and dark the environment around us is.

The Basics

When the sun starts to go down, melatonin production is increased, which sends a message to your body to start winding down and get ready for bed.  At the same time, cortisol (stress hormone) production is decreased.

When the sun comes up the next morning, the process is reversed.  Melatonin production decreases, and cortisol increases.

I do have to mention that cortisol is not bad.  It is know as the stress hormone because it controls our fight or flight mechanisms.  When a person is constantly under stress, excess cortisol is produced which makes it difficult to unwind and get needed sleep.

Here is another article that focuses on poor sleep and the effects it has on weight and hormonal imbalances.

In the case of the circadian rhythm, cortisol production is our internal alarm clock.

How do I fix my body clock?

While I say “body clock”, the best example of this would be plant life, like this morning glory

The morning glory senses the change of light and slowly wakes up and opens its petals to start the day, then sensing the darkness coming, closes its petals and puts itself to bed.  It has no alarm clock, no place to be.  It is simply following its natural rhythm.

Back to Reality

I know, great for the plant but what about real life.  I have been there.  Actually, I am still there.  Any type of shift work will screw with your internal clock, and with our 24/7 lifestyle, that is almost everyone.

My normal day

My day job starts at 5 a.m. so that means waking up at 3 a.m.  I have a quick protein shake right before I start work, lunch is usually around 9:30 a.m. then done for the day at 1:30 p.m.

Sounds great, doesn’t it?  I have the rest of the day to myself.  WRONG!

In order to get up at 3 a.m., I am in bed by 9 p.m. (some of my co-workers are in bed by 7:30) which only gives me 6 hours of sleep at most.  So, why not go to bed earlier?

If I didn’t have a family and life outside of my day job, I probably would.  In order to have dinner with my family, I wait until around 6 p.m. to eat.  That is 9 1/2 hours in between lunch and dinner.  So a snack is priority when I get home, then the inevitable nap hits if I sit down to read or write.

Since the natural rhythm is based on outside environment so we have to trick it if changing our routine is not an option.

Find an exercise that works for you

Regular exercise can be a huge help for a good sleep.  Exercise releases endorphins (feel good hormones) which help to release stress (the bad cortisol we talked about earlier).

When you do not have a 9-5 schedule, this will take some trial and error to find what time exercise works for you, as everyone is different.  Some will need more hours in between exercise and bed time for the natural cortisol to kick in.


While there are many people who can drink coffee and go right to bed (I used to be one of them), it is still a stimulant.

A moderate consumption of coffee is approximately 3 8oz servings.  It takes about 15 minutes to enter the bloodstream but around 6 HOURS for half the caffeine to be eliminated.  Keep that six hours in mind before bed and think really hard how badly do you need it.


Naps are not always a bad thing.  While napping doesn’t replace a good nights sleep, a short nap can be beneficial to focus and mood.

If you find this necessary, limit naps to 20-30 minutes and around the same time of day.


For some people a snack before bed helps them fall asleep faster.   This is not because they have a full belly.  It is the natural chemicals in the foods they are eating.

We have all heard about the “Turkey Chemical” that makes us tired after Thanksgiving Dinner.  The chemical is called tryptophan.

Proteins are the building blocks of tryptophan and carbohydrates make tryptophan more accessible to the brain.  The brain then converts the tryptophan first into serotonin which converts it into melatonin which is the hormone that induces sleep.

So, a bedtime snack of non-sugary cereal and milk, toast and peanut butter or cheese and crackers is a good balance of protein and carbs to unleash tryptophan.


Exposure to natural light is important for the sleep/wake cycle.  Mother Earth knows what she is doing.  Getting outside in the day and evening will naturally stimulate your circadian rhythm.

This is one reason why shift workers have a hard time adjusting.  You work when it is dark and sleep when it is light.  Even a few hours of daylight can help you find a routine that works for you.  Again, trial and error.


If you are already having trouble sleeping, watching TV or reading in bed is definitely not going to help.  Your bedroom needs to be quiet, cool, dark and comfortable.

Some investments that will pay off HUGE in the long run.

  1. A white noise machine to mask outside noise that could disturb your sleep.  I chose this one for portability and a USB charger.  No batteries to worry about.
  2. Black out curtains to keep your room dark while you sleep.  These curtains are Thermoback which not only blocks light, it also filters noise and heat from the sun to keep your room cool.  Even a sliver of light is enough to screw with your sleep.  ***Cheap tip – tape your windows with tinfoil (shiny side in!)  This will block all light but may heat up your room.  Depending on your air conditioning or the season this may be a good option.***
  3. A good mattress is key.  Be very scientific when mattress shopping as this is a big expense that should last you about 7 years.  Research here pays for itself.  Don’t always rely on the salesperson.  Their job is to sell mattresses, not make sure you have a good sleep.

A recent phrase I heard on mattresses was this:  “Do you want to sleep on the mattress or in it?”  Sounds weird at first, but it makes sense.

When you go to a hotel, you sleep on the mattress.  Have you ever seen an indent in the mattress from previous guests?

At home, you generally sleep in the mattress.  Most pillowtop mattresses will conform to your body after a while leaving an indent or impression.  (My 100lb mother has created an indent.  What would two 100 lb people do to it.)  Also to note, they are not flippable.  The pillowtop is only on one side and to turn it 180 degrees means that you will have your partners indent instead of your own.

There are many different types of mattresses so this is a good thing to figure out beforehand.  Ask the salesperson this question.  If you get a blank look, go somewhere else.  If they can actually answer the question, take whatever info they can give you and go home and research it again before you buy.

Most places will have a 30 – 90 day sleep guarantee.  Read the fine print before you get in the bed the first time so if it still not right you can return or exchange it.

Laying on the demo for five minutes tells you absolutely nothing.

Last but not Least


Not always easy for shift work but a few things that are not dependent on a set time frame:

  • Warm bath or shower.  Don’t make the water too hot as this will raise your body temperature and slow the release of melatonin.
  • Journaling/Brain Dump.  Getting all of the nonsense thoughts out of your head and onto paper will free your brain from the hamster that runs circles with nowhere to go.
  • Meditation.  Meditating for 15 minutes before you go to sleep is another great way to clear your head of anything that you have no control over or can’t deal with right now anyway.

Feel free to share your tips on a great sleep.

Until next time.




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