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How To Master Your Sleep & Be More Alert When Awake Graphic © healthpowerboost.com. Background photo: Pixabay (PD)
Sleep is a basic human need. Sleep and its counterpart – wakefulness – affect everything about our physical and mental health. Considering how important sleep is to our bodies, it’s essential to learn new ways to improve it: Around 35% of United States adults still don’t get enough sleep. 
It’s important to note that the activities we get into during the awake state tremendously impact our sleep.
How To Master Your Sleep And Be More Alert When Awake
The circadian rhythm—internal clock— helps balance the sleep-wake cycle, i.e., your body “boots up” at sunrise, maintains activity levels while awake, and then prepares you for sleep at sundown. If this cycle is disrupted, the body can experience sleep deprivation, which can risk your safety and health.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, chronic sleep problems have affected about 70 million Americans.  It is also seen that sleep deprivation is a significant contributor to some chronic conditions, i.e., depression and obesity.
Let’s learn more about the circadian rhythm:
Hormones Involved In The Sleep-Wake Cycle:
Cortisol and Adenosine are the primary hormones involved in the sleep-wake cycle. And in order to keep them balanced, they should be released at the right time.
Adenosine is a neurotransmitter responsible for promoting sleep. This molecule, found in our nervous system, builds up the longer you’re awake—”sleep hunger”. However, this hormone is suppressed by caffeine. This is why avoiding caffeine within the last 6 hours of the end of the day may help you sleep.
Cortisol, on the other hand, is a stress hormone that is produced and released by adrenal glands, found on top of the kidneys.  This hormone, along with epinephrine and adrenaline, is released in the morning to help you jump-start your system.
To master your sleep and be more alert when awake, it’s essential to ensure the cycle between the two is balanced. It’s also crucial that the cortisol pulse (which could be triggered by an alarm clock or by your natural body clock) comes early in the day.
Melatonin is another way that can help adjust and regulate your internal clock. It is a hormone naturally found in the body, and its responsibility is to help you know when it’s time to sleep.
Taking melatonin right before bed helps decrease the time it takes to fall asleep and increase total sleep time. Occasional melatonin use is considered acceptable, however it should not be added to your nightly sleep routine without a medical professional’s go-ahead.
Sunlight And The Sleep Cycle
Sunlight, interestingly, is the most influential factor for mastering your sleep as well as adjusting your clock. 
The neurons in the eye, responsible for setting the circadian clock, which, in return, sets other clocks in the tissue and organs in our body, respond to particular amounts and quality of light. These neurons are responsive to low solar sunlight, which is only found in the evening, just before sunset, and in the morning, just before sunrise.
Here’s the important simple tip: To help the body set the clock, you must experience the low solar light in the morning.
Andrew Huberman states, “… it’s critically important that you get this light.” He continues to say, “…its 50 times less effective to view this sunlight through a window, through a car windshield, or through the side window of a car than it is to just get outside with no sunglasses and view light early in the day.”
Additionally, it would be best if you timed the sun. For instance, once overhead, the quality of light shifts, making it impossible to time the cortisol pulse. This is one of the causes of a lot of disorders.
Note: Even a slight amount of light during the night or evening can throw off the circadian rhythm.
Taking care of your sleep / wake routine is as important as your nutrition and exercise routines—they are the pillars of your health.
So, to ensure you boost your health, it’s recommended to dedicate between 7 and 9 hours of sleep and view sunlight within 30-60 minutes of waking.
 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/data-and-statistics/adults.html
 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/about_us.html
 Mohd Azmi, N. A. S., Juliana, N., Azmani, S., Mohd Effendy, N., Abu, I. F., Mohd Fahmi Teng, N. I., & Das, S. (2021). Cortisol on circadian rhythm and its effect on cardiovascular system. International journal of environmental research and public health, 18(2), 676: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7830980/
 Blume, C., Garbazza, C., & Spitschan, M. (2019). Effects of light on human circadian rhythms, sleep and mood. Somnologie, 23(3), 147-156: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6751071/
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