Sleep and Circadian Rhythms: How Your Body Resets Itself at Night

Maximize your sleep time by learning about your natural circadian rhythms - and the supplements that can help you get your best sleep.*

While we don’t fully understand the biological purpose of sleep, it still plays a critical role in survival. Sleep has an impact on almost every body system, from immune function to metabolism to the brain, heart, and lungs. Research suggests that poor sleep or a lack of sleep entirely can increase the risk of health challenges such as depression, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure.2

One thing people often talk about regarding sleep is circadian rhythms. But what are they, and what do they actually do?

Circadian rhythms are natural processes and physical, mental, and behavioral changes that typically flow through a 24-hour cycle. Not only do circadian rhythms affect sleep, they also influence hormone release, eating habits and digestion, and body temperature. These rhythms are naturally maintained by responding to light and dark but can be thrown out of sync by physical or environmental factors like gene mutations, jet lag, and light from electronic devices.1

Once the body is asleep, it cycles through a variety of sleep stages over the course of an average night.

Stage 1: This is a relatively short period of time as the body makes the change from wakefulness to sleep. Heartbeat, breathing, and eye movement begin to slow, and muscles start relaxing.2

Stage 2: What follows is a second stage of light sleep. The body’s heartbeat and breathing continue to slow, and muscles relax even more. Eye movements come to a stop, and body temperature drops.2

Stage 3: This is the deep layer of sleep that lets you wake up in the morning feeling well-rested. The body is in its most relaxed state, with its slowest breathing and heartbeat. If you’ve ever struggled to wake someone, they were likely in this deep stage of sleep.2

REM sleep: Around 90 minutes into sleep, Rapid Eye Movement sleep occurs. Breathing becomes faster, and brain wave activity, heart rate, and blood pressure all increase. During this time, the eyes stay closed but move rapidly back and forth. Although dreams can occur in any sleep stage, they’re often experienced most vividly during REM sleep.2

Unfortunately, it’s not always as easy as letting your head hit the pillow and waking up feeling rested and refreshed. If you occasionally need help getting the quality sleep your body and mind require to perform at their best, you might want to seek some help. One place you could start is with supplements. There are a variety of herbal sleep aid options, it’s just a matter of finding the right one for you.

A bottle of Nature's Way Melissa Lemon Balm Leaf and a bottle of Nature's Way Valerian Nighttime laying next to each other on a marble tray.

Valerian: With uses dating back to the 11th century, valerian has traditionally been used to support restful sleep.* It's been used as a beneficial herb since at least the time of ancient Greece and Rome.

Melatonin: Naturally produced by the brain, melatonin is a hormone that can help with the timing of circadian rhythms. When taken as a dietary supplement, melatonin can support your sleep.*3 Depending on the type of supplement you like, you can find melatonin in a variety of forms, including in Sambucus Sleep + Immune Gummies.*

Skullcap: Skullcap is a flowering perennial plant found in North America. By bringing together the stem, leaf, and flower as a dietary supplement, it’s used as a traditional sleep aid.*4

Herbal Blends: Herbal blends combine a variety of ingredients to support sleep. Melissa-Lemon Balm is one of our favorites; it's a traditional sleep aid inspired by centuries of use.* Lemon balm is a lemon-scented herb that is part of the mint family, and has been used in teas and in aromatherapy. 

The power of a good night’s sleep is not to be taken for granted, but sometimes getting a good night’s sleep isn’t easy (not surprising considering there are 4 stages of sleep!) Seeking occasional support with these long-used ingredients can help, but as with any supplement routine, consult your health care practitioner before starting one.