On the subject of sleep, Twyman also stresses the importance of living in tune with your circadian rhythm. Your circadian biology is so significant for overall health, in fact, that he even considers it step No. 1 on the road to optimal well-being. “Your circadian biology dictates how your nutrients get processed in your system,” he explains. “So you have to get your circadian biology right first.”
That said, in addition to setting yourself up for a good night’s sleep, he also recommends getting natural, bright light first thing. “The morning sun hits the receptors in your eye called melanopsin. That blue light detector tells the suprachiasmatic nucleus1 in your brain that it’s daytime, and you start making different hormones and neurotransmitters to wake you up for the day. Then when the sun sets and that receptor doesn’t see blue light anymore, the body knows it’s nighttime. Cortisol will start dropping, melatonin will start to rise. That cascade has to happen to have optimal health,” he notes.
In terms of cardiovascular health, we know that cortisol has a significant effect on your thyroid hormones, which affect the metabolism of the food you eat. When cortisol drops in the evening, your metabolism simultaneously slows down, which makes it more likely that your body will store the food you eat as fat.
Perhaps that’s why night owls (or those who go to bed late) may have a reduced ability to use fat for energy, which can result in fat accumulation and subsequently, increased risk for disease. Early birds, on the other hand (or those who wake up with the morning sun), have been shown to use more fat for energy while exercising and at rest, compared to night owls. “We have to get that stuff right first before people can really dive into the nutrition question,” Twyman adds. Here are some tips to optimize your circadian rhythm, if you’re looking for a guide.