Perhaps your circadian clock needs adjustment.
Each of us has an internal clock – a circadian clock -- inside our brain. It operates roughly on a 24-hour cycle, responding primarily to light and darkness, telling our bodies when to sleep.
Unlike a wristwatch or other clock, the circadian clock is flexible. It can slow down or speed up depending on how much light is around. That includes rays from computers and phones.
|In the first episode of Downton Abbey, the Countess of Grantham, played by Maggie Smith, complains about the newfangled electrical chandelier installed in her family's 1915 estate. "Oh, dear, such a glare," she says, shielding her eyes with a fan.|
Too much artificial light at the wrong time (at night) can change sleep patterns and make us groggy in the mornings.
In a recent test, subjects (night owls) spent just one week away from electrical lights and computers and in that amount of time, their internal clocks became synchronized to the sun.
They got the same amount of sleep as usual, but their internal clocks jumped ahead two hours, on average. Thus, they went to bed earlier and woke up after the chemicals in their brains told them it was time to rise and shine.
Two factors contributed to the change. Everyone got exposed to about four times as many photons while camping than they did in town (because sunshine is much brighter than indoor lighting). And the timing of the light was different. They were exposed to more light early in the day and less after sunset.
Makes perfect sense to me! We know that back in the days before electricity, activities were determined by available daylight. Up early with the sun to get the work done, wind down when it grew dark outside.
A tip to those who aren’t morning people but want to be: Reduce exposure to light at night by dimming the lights or turning off computers and phones, especially important within an hour before bedtime. Conversely, get as much natural light in the morning as possible: Raise the shades, take a walk.
Sleep doctor Katherine Sharkey at Brown University says that's exactly how she treats one type of sleep disorder. "We use bright light in morning to advance circadian rhythms."
Learn more about the research on this subject at Current Biology. Findings also reported in a story at National Public Radio.