The Energy Blueprint
Cutting‑Edge Science To Overcome Fatigue and Supercharge Your Body
Why Am I So Tired All the Time? It’s Your Circadian Rhythm!

Why Am I So Tired All The TIme - It Is Your Circadian Rhtyhm - Cover Image │ Why am I so tired, theenergyblueprint.comDo you find yourself constantly saying things like “I’m so tired,” “I’m so exhausted,” or “I hope for once I can get a good night’s sleep tonight”? If so, you are not alone. Fatigue and daytime sleepiness are quickly becoming a modern epidemic. Literally millions of people now ask themselves daily,  “why am I so tired all the time?”

So what’s behind this fatigue and daytime sleepiness epidemic?

Well, there are a number of potential medical conditions that can potentially be causing or contributing to your lack of energy, but there is one major cause of most people’s issues with daytime sleepiness and fatigue – disrupted circadian rhythm. And this article is going to show you exactly what it is and how to fix it.

Before we talk about that, you want to first rule out medical conditions like:

All of these conditions cause fatigue and if you have one of these conditions, this may be the primary reason for your fatigue.

But most people with fatigue and daytime sleepiness do not have these medical conditions, and their chronic fatigue is due to other causes. Things like poor nutrition habits, gut permeability (leaky gut), heavy metal toxicity, lack of sunlight can also be triggers for chronic fatigue.

But there is one trigger for fatigue that is far and away, the single most common factor for most people suffering from chronic low-level fatigue…

 

The Single Most Common Cause of Fatigue: Disrupted Circadian Rhythm and Sleep

The single most common cause of fatigue is circadian rhythm disruption and poor sleep.

What is the circadian rhythm—and what does it have to do with why I’m so tired?

 Internal Clock │ Why am I so tired, theenergyblueprint.com

 

How Our Circadian Rhythm Controls our Energy Levels, Bodyfat, Mood, Health, and Quality of Life

 “Humans evolved on a planet without electric light over thousands and thousands of generations. The body is designed to be alert and awake during daytime hours and to sleep at night. Now we have a 24-7 society that isn’t in harmony with our biological design.” Professor George Brainard │ Why am I so tired, theenergyblueprint.comThis world of ours is changing so fast that it’s hard to keep track. Yet, there is one thing that remains constant: Every 24 hours, the sun rises and the sun sets.

As it turns out, that simple fact is a massively important part of all our lives. Indeed, many of our most basic physiological functions (and those of virtually all of the millions of species of microorganisms, plants, and animals on the planet) are tied to this rise and fall of the sun.

The link between the outer world of light and darkness, and the inner world of hormones, enzymes, and neurotransmitters is the circadian clock or circadian rhythm.

You’ve probably heard of the “circadian rhythm” before, but you may not fully understand what it is. So let’s take a moment to clear that up…

Virtually all life on earth has evolved to be in tune with the daily rhythm of light and dark cycles. Most organisms, including humans, have their metabolic, physiological and behavioral processes synchronized to a 24-hour clock. And according to these external signals that tell us when it’s day and when it’s night, our biology orchestrates a symphony of hormonal, neurotransmitter, and behavioral responses.

If this sounds like a strange concept, just consider the fact that every night, your body gets tired and you fall asleep, right? And then in the morning, when it gets light out, your body wakes up on its own.

Why does that happen? Simple: It’s the 24-hour biological clock – your circadian rhythm – built into your brain! So as much as this talk of “circadian rhythm” may seem odd and not very relevant to everyday life, in fact, you experience the circadian rhythm in action every single day – whether you like it or not.

The circadian rhythm is what controls our waking and sleeping cycles. And, importantly, it regulates all sorts of hormones and neurotransmitters that affect our mood, motivation, body fat, metabolism, cell regeneration, and of course, our energy levels. 

Circadian Rhythm Clock │ Why am I so tired, theenergyblueprint.com

So why does this matter?

Simple: A large and rapidly growing body of new research has discovered that the circadian rhythm is a primary factor in not just when we’re asleep and awake, but also in our health, susceptibility to disease, how lean or overweight we are, and how fatigued or energetic we are.

A study titled Metabolism and the circadian clock converge notes

“Circadian rhythms occur in almost all species and control vital aspects of our physiology, from sleeping and waking to neurotransmitter secretion and cellular metabolism. … Becoming more apparent is that from metabolites to transcription factors, the circadian clock interfaces with metabolism in numerous ways that are essential for maintaining metabolic homeostasis.” [5]

Today, scientists are learning that disrupted circadian rhythms are a dire health hazard:

“A growing body of evidence suggests that a desynchronization of circadian rhythms may play a role in various tumoral diseases, diabetes, obesity, and depression.”[6]

And as you’ll see in this article, that’s just scratching the surface.

In Wiley and Formby’s book Lights Out: Sleep, Sugar, and Survival, they make the case that disrupted circadian rhythm is a major contributor to most modern day degenerative diseases like obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer—just as big of a contributor as our exercise and nutritional habits.

While everyone in the health sphere has implored us for the last several decades to work on “diet and exercise,” the research now indicates that most health experts have been leaving out a major aspect of optimizing energy levels, health, and body composition that is as important as both a good exercise program and a good nutrition program: A good circadian rhythm program.

Moreover, what this new research has discovered is that virtually all of us living in the modern world are unknowingly living with a chronically disrupted circadian rhythm. Or, as one circadian rhythm researcher puts it, we are all living in a sort of “circadian fog.”

When most people hear the words “circadian rhythm” they typically think of sleep. You know, like following the typical advice from most health authorities imploring us to get our 6-8 hours of sleep each night.

Yet, the circadian rhythm goes far beyond just how many hours you sleep each night! As you’re about to discover, our circadian rhythm is a major controller of everything from our energy level, wakefulness, vitality, mood, psychological health, sleep cycles, metabolic rate, body composition, appetite, mental and physical performance, and more!

As neurobiologist Joseph Takahashi says,

“Circadian rhythm is being tied to so many important functions. We’re just beginning to discover all the molecular pathways that this gene network regulates. It’s not just the sleep-wake cycle. There are system-wide, drastic changes.”[7]

As explained in this study titled “Life between Clocks: Daily Temporal Patterns of Human Chronotypes”:

“Our results predict that the timing of sleep has changed during industrialization and that a majority of humans are sleep deprived during the workweek. The implications are far-ranging concerning learning, memory, vigilance, performance, and quality of life.”[8]

This is not solely a matter of sleeping through the night, it’s a matter of things far more central to your daily life. Consider this:

The impact of the biological clock goes beyond compelling the body to fall asleep and to wake up again. The biological clock also modulates our hour-to-hour waking behavior, as reflected in fatigue, alertness, and performance, generating circadian rhythmicity in almost all neurobehavioral variables.”[9]

In short, having an optimized circadian rhythm or a disrupted circadian rhythm can be the difference between poor health, body composition, and quality of life versus excellent health, body composition, and quality of life. Consider the following table that shows the typical characteristics strongly affected by circadian rhythm:

typical characteristics strongly affected by the circadian rhythm │ why am I so tired, theenergyblueprint.com

 

How The Circadian Rhythm Works

Our circadian rhythms are designed to keep us awake when the sun is brightest when we can see best, so we can do what we need to survive (historically, hunting and gathering). And darkness is our cue to go into sleep mode, where our body undergoes all sorts of vital repair and regeneration processes.

Both light and the absence of it are our chief regulators of our 24-hour biological clocks in our brain.

In fact, our body’s whole hormonal symphony is in tune with light and darkness, and light and darkness moderate our core body temperature, set off reparative hormones to heal wounds, and power down systems that need cellular repair at night.

Our bodies respond to visual cues in our environment, chiefly light and darkness, to release hormones and neurotransmitters that either power us up and awake for daytime or prepare us for sleep and repair.

How Light And Darkness Control Your Body - Why am I so tired, theenergyblueprint.com

To simplify:

The way this works is that light enters our eyeballs and specifically the blue light part of the spectrum (think the blue sky) triggers specific receptors in our eye called melanopsin receptors that are connected via nerves to the circadian clock area of the brain (called the suprachiasmatic nucleus).

Once the circadian clock area of the brain gets the blue light signal from the nerves, that is translated into “it’s daytime – the time to be awake, alert, active and energetic.” And the brain then initiates a whole cascade of different neurotransmitter and hormone changes that rewire your physiology into daytime/active/energy mode.

Once the sun goes down, the lack of light entering the eyes and triggering the nerves that feed into the circadian clock of the brain then trigger the brain to say “it’s nighttime – the time for tiredness, relaxation, rest, regeneration, and sleep.” And the brain then initiates a whole cascade of different neurotransmitter and hormone changes that rewire your physiology into nighttime/rest/sleep mode.

So if this is how we’re biologically wired, then why is the system malfunctioning and causing sleep issues and fatigue?

The answer: Because the modern world we live in is fundamentally mismatched to the signals our biology – and our circadian rhythm in particular – is designed for.

See, humans are designed for an outdoor existence in tune with the rise and fall of the sun.

We’re not designed to be indoors almost all day, and then to be staring at all sorts of artificial light sources after the sun sets.

Simply put: Virtually all of us in modern society are suffering from one degree or another of circadian rhythm disruption. 

The primary causes of circadian rhythm disruption - Why am I so tired, theenergyblueprint.com

In short…

This may seem to be a trivial difference to you. But what if I told you that it is the difference between normal vs. abnormal levels of dozens of hormones and neurotransmitters that affect everything from your mood, to your metabolism, to how fat or lean you are, to clearing toxins out of your brain and body, to ridding the body of DNA-damaged cells (critical for preventing cancer), to your sleep, to your energy levels?

Would you still think it was trivial?

In fact, that is precisely what our circadian rhythm does.

 

Disrupted Circadian Rhythm Makes Us Diseased and Fatigued

It is only in the last decade or so that the science on this subject has evolved to the point where we can really know exactly what sort of effect disrupted circadian rhythm is having, but the body of scientific literature is growing rapidly. And the results are not pretty.

How does a chronically disrupted circadian rhythm affect us?

Disrupted circadian rhythm has been shown to:

Disrupted Circadian Rhythm Has Been Shown To - Why am I so tired, theenergyblueprint.com

If it isn’t clear yet, let’s just state this very directly: Despite the fact that most of us in the modern world have no idea what the circadian rhythm is, let alone have any concept of what controls it or how it affects our physiology, circadian rhythm is a massive factor in our health. And our modern world—which is almost perfectly engineered to disrupt our circadian rhythm—is wrecking our health, vitality, body composition, energy levels, and quality of life.

 

Sleep Quality And Daytime Energy Are Two Sides of The Same Coin
(Linked By Circadian Rhythm)

The circadian rhythm is also the primary determinant of how well you sleep. And how well you sleep, in turn, has a massive impact on your energy levels.

Importantly, this is NOT just a simple matter of “getting your 7-8 hours of sleep” as most people think.

Both how long you sleep and just as importantly, your “sleep quality” – how deep and restorative your sleep is on a cellular level.

Circadian rhythms control our sleep—how much of it we get, the quality of sleep we get, and what kind of cellular regeneration processes either do/do not happen because of how deeply we do or don’t sleep.

Lack of sleep due to circadian rhythm disruption can make you very tired by itself, but on top of having a low quality sleep, an even bigger issue is that most of us aren’t getting nearly enough quality deep sleep.

If you routinely sleep 7 or 8 hours and still wake up groggy and tired, you know what I mean.

Let’s look at how bad the problem of sleep and circadian rhythm disruption is right now.

The Problem OF Sleep And Circadian Rhythm Disruption - Why Am I So Tired, theenergyblueprint.com

Here are some statistics:

When nearly 1 in 2 adults is dealing with poor sleep, there is a serious problem.

So why is this happening? Is it because we’re all just genetically designed to be terrible sleepers?

No. The real reason behind these distressing statistics—what is really sabotaging your sleep and robbing you of energy—is circadian rhythm disruption.

When the sun goes down in the evening, our body shifts in tune with the sun to match these diurnal patterns of light and darkness. Our body keeps a rhythmic cycle reflective of the earth’s rhythmic cycle. We quite literally have a 24-hour biological clock built into our brain that controls all sorts of things – like neurotransmitters and hormones – in response to 24-hour cycles of light and darkness.

But the big problem is that our modern world is fundamentally mismatched to our biological design. Remember:

The primary causes of circadian rhythm disruption - Why am I so tired, theenergyblueprint.com

So the mismatch being the modern world we now inhabit and the world our biology (and our circadian rhythm) is designed for is a very big deal. It has an impact on your happiness, your energy, and ultimately, your propensity for dozens of diseases and even how long you live.

Like I said, this is a very big deal.

Humans are designed to be exposed to lots of natural sunlight and the bright outdoor sky for hours each day, starting first thing in the morning after we wake up.

We’re also designed to have little to no light around after the sun goes down – except for moonlight and firelight, which don’t disturb circadian rhythm.

Artificial light from our electronic devices (phones, TVs, computers, indoor lighting, etc.) affects our body just like the blue/UV light we get from the sun.[32] So, if our bodies are being cued that its daytime, our circadian rhythms reset, constantly adjusting to this new “daytime.” This is how we adjust to earlier evening winters and later evening summers so quickly!

Blue light flips on our awake switch, in short, to power us awake.

Simply put, we’re being exposed to way too much blue light at night — just look at all the sources of blue light in your house like artificial lights, TVs, devices of all kinds, eReaders in bed, lamps on the nightstand, etc.

All forms of blue light prevent a good night’s sleep and keep our brains awake when they should be in sleep mode.

Today, there is small wonder we’re having trouble getting asleep or that our circadian rhythms are so disrupted. Our brains are being cued it’s daytime by artificial light constantly.

Again, we have too little of a Daytime/Energy Mode signal during the day, and too much of a Daytime/Energy Mode signal at night.

For some perspective on how much blue light our devices emit, know this:

However, as little as 8 lux has proven to disrupt sleep and negatively impact melatonin, as I’ll discuss momentarily.

It doesn’t take much light to cause a lot of circadian rhythm disruption—and we have constant circadian rhythm disruption

In fact, mice exhibit symptoms of depression, lethargy, and lack of interest in food when subjected to light all night (much like patients in a hospital) but exhibit the same symptoms when subjected to only 5 lux light, approximately 1/10th of the light generated by a cell phone.

And even one quick pulse of light – such as flipping on the lights when you wake up during the night – is enough to suppress melatonin and disrupt circadian rhythm, which can lead to subtle degrees (that you’re not even conscious about) of sleep loss and daytime sleepiness/fatigue the following day.

As another example, in a recent study on 12 adults, 6 of whom read iPads and 6 who read paper books before bed, the

“iPad readers took longer to fall asleep, felt less sleepy at night and had shorter REM sleep compared to the book readers, researchers found. The iPad readers also secreted less melatonin, which helps regulate your sleep. They were also more tired than book readers the following day, even if both got a full eight hours of sleep.”[33]

Today, under this constant flood of artificial light, our brains do not know if we are coming or going, preparing for bed or preparing for the break of day.

This affects our sleep duration, sleep quality, and profoundly disrupts our circadian rhythms, delaying sleep by whole hours at our usual bedtime. This is why we lie there till 4 a.m., exhausted but awake.

The modern world blunts our circadian rhythm. What that means is that the 24-hour circadian clock in our brain is chronically in a mild state of jet lag.

Think of it like this: The circadian rhythm is like a wave – it has a peak and a valley. The peak is Energy Mode/Daytime and the valley is Sleep Mode/Rest/Regeneration.

To have a strong circadian rhythm means that you have a HIGH peak (i.e. lots of energy) and that you have a very low valley (i.e. your body goes deep into sleep/regeneration mode).

When you blunt the circadian rhythm, you blunt both the peak and the valley. That means that you don’t sleep/regenerate nearly as well as you should be, and you are not nearly as energetic as you should be.

Sleep And Energy Are Connected Via The Circadian Rhythm - Why am I so tired, theenergyblueprint.com

Sleep and energy are two sides of the same coin – and they are connected via the circadian rhythm.

 

Why Disrupted Circadian Rhythm Makes You Tired All The Time: The Circadian Rhythm-Fatigue Link

On the subject of energy levels/fatigue specifically, disrupted circadian rhythm is now linked with numerous conditions related to poor mood and energy levels:

Disrupted Circadian Rhythm Is Linked With - Why am I so tired

One study that sought to determine the level of sleepiness in the American population found that almost 1 in 3 people in America suffers from issues with chronic daytime sleepiness:

Excessive sleepiness is highly prevalent in the American population. It was strongly associated with insufficient sleep and various sleep disorders as well as mental and organic diseases.”[44]

One critically important study titled Life between Clocks: Daily Temporal Patterns of Human Chronotypes concluded that due to changing sleep habits as a result of modern industrialization, “a majority of humans are sleep deprived during the workweek.”

As far as the major cause of our energy problems and chronic daytime sleepiness, well one important study published in the journal Brain gives us insight into that. The researchers concluded:

“The most common cause of daytime sleepiness is insufficient sleep, which may reflect poor sleep hygiene (behaviors impacting sleep) or self-imposed or socially dictated sleep deprivation.” [45]

Another study concluded that it’s often the most driven and hard-working people that suffer from this the most,

“Busy people tend to regard sleep as a bank from which time can be borrowed as necessary to allow them to accomplish more by prolonging wakefulness. Thus, a sleep-debt is accumulated over time. If the sleep-debt is not repaid in sleep, per se, some other currency must be used—this usually takes the form of daytime dysfunction and may include cognitive impairment, disordered mood, suboptimal performance, physical fatigue or mental drowsiness.”[46]

To put this simply, mood, alertness, mental and physical performance, and energy levels are all very much intertwined and dependent upon circadian rhythm.[47]

Most of us have become aware in recent years of how our progressive dissociation from the nutrition and movement/exercise habits of our ancestors (i.e. eating more junk and becoming more sedentary) is creating massive disease epidemics and health problems. We now know that circadian rhythm habits are just as important as those factors, and that disrupted circadian rhythm is damaging our health in much the same way that junk food and being sedentary are.

In particular, the impact of disrupted circadian rhythm on mood, alertness, and overall energy level is profoundly (and rather insidiously) wrecking our quality of life.

If you’re still wondering “but exactly why I am so tired all the time?”, let’s now talk about the actual mechanisms behind why disrupted circadian rhythm and sleep actually cause chronic fatigue.

 

Why Disrupted Circadian Rhythm Makes You Tired All The Time: The 7 Ways That Poor Circadian Rhythm Habits Cause Fatigue

So let’s talk about the specific ways that disrupted circadian rhythm ends up wrecking our energy levels and causing us to be tired all the time.

 

1. Weakening Mitochondria (the energy generators in your cells) and Making Them Susceptible to Damage

Most people know melatonin as a sleep-inducing hormone. And it is certainly that.

But most people have absolutely no idea that melatonin is absolutely vital for mitochondrial function, protects mitochondria from damage, and is vital for mitochondrial regeneration while we sleep.

It turns out that the most powerful antioxidant in existence is not vitamin C or vitamin E or acai or goji berries, but SLEEP and a strong circadian rhythm!

Of course, sleep is not an “antioxidant” in the sense that you consume it in a pill and it gets absorbed into your body and acts as an antioxidant. It’s actually something hundreds of times more powerful than that.

There’s actually two things going on that make sleep such a potent antioxidant:

  1. Melatonin – the hormone our brain secretes to trigger sleep when it gets dark – is an incredibly potent and very unique kind of antioxidant. Importantly, unlike vitamin A, C, E and virtually all other antioxidants, melatonin is able to get into the mitochondria, where protecting cells from oxidative damage (free radicals) actually matters. (Note: Virtually all studies on vitamin A, C, and E supplements have failed to show benefits on aging and disease prevention,[48] and researchers now suspect this is why – because these antioxidants can’t get to the part of the cell where it really matters, the mitochondria.) Evolutionarily speaking, humans had plenty of melatonin secreted every night. When the sun went down, their brains pumped out plenty of melatonin. But guess what? In the modern world, we have all kinds of artificial light blaring into our eyes each night after the sun goes down. What does that do? It suppresses melatonin! As long as you have blue light entering your eyes, it’s sending a “daytime signal” to your brain and that will suppress melatonin. So each night you do this, you have less melatonin getting into your mitochondria than you should have – so you are indirectly accelerating aging, predisposing to disease, and causing your mitochondria to accumulate damage because they don’t have the antioxidant melatonin to combat oxidative damage.
  2. Even more important than any antioxidant we might consume in food or in a supplement (and even the direct antioxidant effects of melatonin) is our cells’ own internal antioxidant defense system. And it turns out that every night while you sleep, this cellular antioxidant defense system regenerates and replenishes its supply of antioxidants for the coming day.[49] [50] [51] So guess what happens when you don’t sleep enough, or you sleep poorly? Of course, your mitochondria are chronically operating with low supplies of internal antioxidants, so they are chronically getting damaged. And when they’re chronically being damaged, they’re going to shut down energy production and focus all their energy into Defense Mode to protect themselves against threats.

There are a number of impressive – and little known – studies showing how vital it is for mitochondrial health that you produce LOTS of melatonin each night while you sleep. The melatonin we release that prepares us for sleep nourishes the mitochondria in numerous ways including:

And here’s the big problem: When you have poor circadian rhythm habits, you have less melatonin in your body that can get to the mitochondria.

Too much blue light at night (and blunted circadian rhythm in general, from poor circadian rhythm habits) greatly inhibits melatonin release, which directly leads to grossly negative impacts upon mitochondrial dysfunction, causing mitochondrial fragility and die-off.[62][63][64]

Over time, what that means is that mitochondria will accumulate more damage, will not function as well, and you will not rebuild new healthy mitochondria nearly as well. You’ll be slowly accumulating more and more damaged and defective mitochondria, and inevitably, you will end up fatigued.

If we lose our mitochondria – or accumulate lots of weak and damaged mitochondria — we lose our health, energy, immunity, strength, and vitality as well. We age faster, we are far more susceptible to disease, and we end up chronically fatigued.

Is it starting to make sense why you’re feeling so tired?

If the mitochondria need to regenerate each night in order to manufacture the ATP that gives you energy, then without sleep, you’ll slowly be sapping away your body’s ability to produce energy at the cellular level day after day.

This is a critical point to emphasize: Most people think that after a bad night of sleep, you just feel tired (perhaps due to some neurotransmitter or hormone being lower). But it’s much more than that! It’s more than just feeling tired. Your mitochondria – cellular energy generators – are actually depleted, fragilized, and damaged by poor sleep and circadian rhythm disruption, so over time, they literally cannot produce as much energy.

Producing ample amounts of melatonin each night for an ample amount of time (i.e. not having artificial light exposure cut short the amount of hours you have lots of melatonin in your bloodstream) is vital for mitochondrial health.

 

2. Gene expression changes that control mitochondrial function

Another key aspect of how disrupted circadian rhythm causes fatigue is by influencing the expression of genes that control the biochemical signals for our mitochondria to produce energy.

When your circadian rhythm is blunted, it disrupts the expression of “clock genes” (genes that are intertwined with our circadian rhythm). These clock genes like “BMAL1” and “CLOCK” (yup, they named one of the genes “CLOCK”) impact the expression of key signaling proteins NAD+ and SIRT1, which regulate mitochondrial energy production.

If that’s too much science jargon for you, basically what that means is that blunted circadian rhythm literally causes genes to be expressed which give the signal to your mitochondria to decrease energy production.

And as your mitochondria produce less energy, you feel more tired/fatigued.

If you want to understand the mechanism here, basically the way this works is that the clock genes control the enzyme (NAMPT) that makes NAD+. These clock genes get downregulated with disrupted circadian rhythm and poor sleep, which then decreases NAD+ levels.

In short, disrupted circadian rhythm à decreased NAD+

Why does NAD+ matter so much?

Simple: NAD+ levels are a critical regulator of how much energy your mitochondria produce.

Low NAD+ levels create something called “pseudohypoxia” where your cells start acting like they’re deprived of oxygen even though they have plenty of oxygen available to them.[65] It’s basically like your cells are behaving as though they’re at 20,000 feet of altitude just while you’re at rest. So naturally, they produce less energy and you feel tired.

Low NAD+ levels also cause a number of other problems:

Low NAD+ Levels Cause A Number of Problems - Why Am I So Tired, theenergyblueprint.com

In short, low NAD+ levels from disrupted circadian rhythm lead to a whole bunch of really nasty effects on genes that affect health, longevity and energy levels.

Just considering these effects on gene expression alone, the answer to the question “why am I so tired?” should now be pretty obvious.

Disrupted circadian rhythm ► Decreased NAD+ ► Mitochondrial damage, lowered energy production, increased susceptibility to damage, chronic inflammation, disrupted gene expression, and decreased DNA repair

 

3. Deficient Autophagy (Cell Cleanup and Regeneration)

Yet another problem created by disrupted circadian rhythm is impaired autophagy.

Autophagy icon │ why am I so tired, theenergyblueprint.com“Auto” means “self” and “phagy” means “consume.” So autophagy literally means “to consume one’s self.”

Who would’ve thought that we would ever have a problem with eating ourselves, right? Kind of a bizarre idea.

Autophagy is basically the process where your body “eats” and “digests” all the broken down and damaged parts of the cell and rebuilds new healthy cell parts.

Think of it like recycling on the cellular level.

Maintaining clean cells – avoiding the accumulation of cellular junk – is vital to slowing aging and maintain healthy mitochondria (i.e. high energy levels) as we get older. (Note: The 2016 Nobel Prize in Medicine was awarded to a scientist for discovering key mechanisms of autophagy).

But this junk accumulates precisely because we are NOT able to maintain autophagy!

When autophagy is not working well, that means you are functioning today on yesterday’s cell parts.

And that means lots of damaged cell parts are not being recycled and rebuilt into new healthy cell parts.

We also know that disrupted circadian rhythm and sleep impairs autophagy and leads to the accumulation of cell damage and mitochondrial damage.[79] [80]

The reason why is that autophagy happens primarily at night, while we sleep and while we are in a fasted state. And it depends on the quality of the circadian rhythm (and all the hormones it regulates) as well as the depth/quality of sleep.

So when circadian rhythm and sleep are off, autophagy will be impaired.

Ultimately, that translates into increased propensity for disease (e.g. cancer) and fatigue.

Part of autophagy is something called mitophagy, which is basically the same process of autophagy, but happening specifically within the mitochondria.

Autophagy and mitophagy are like the end of the day clean up in your kitchen. What happens if you don’t clean up all the dirty dishes each night after making food all day? The dirty dishes in the sink start to pile up, and they start stinking up your kitchen. Food particles start to accumulate, mold and bacteria start to grow, and everything just starts to get gross.

See, our mitochondria are being damaged all the time, and each night while we sleep, our bodies are supposed to go in and repair all the damaged mitochondria.

But if your body is not able to go in and get rid of all the damage (i.e. to clean the dirty dishes), the dysfunctional and damaged mitochondria accumulate. It’s sort of like waking up to a kitchen full of dirty and disgusting stinky dishes, instead of waking up to a spotless and impeccable kitchen.

A big reason why disrupted circadian rhythm is linked to so many diseases from cancer, to Alzheimer’s, to obesity, to fatigue is that it suppresses autophagy.

In other words, it prevents your body from cleaning up the junk in the cells and mitochondria, and it prevents the body from rebuilding new healthy cell parts.

When you don’t have a strong circadian rhythm, it inhibits autophagy and mitophagy, which ultimately results in your body slowly being filled with more and more damaged cells with faulty mitochondria.

As it happens, of course, you will notice that you’re getting progressively more fatigued.

Authophagy and Circadian Rhythm - Why am I so tired, theenergyblueprint.com

Disrupted circadian rhythm and poor sleep ► Decreased autophagy and mitophagy ► Accumulation and cell and mitochondrial damage ► Fatigue

 

4. Hormonal Dysregulation and Fat Gain

Yet another way that disrupted circadian rhythm and sleep cause fatigue is through their effect on hormones.

Poor circadian rhythm and sleep habits directly impact several important hormones, neuropeptides and even the expression of genes that regulate energy levels, body composition, and health…

Poor Circadian Rhythm and Sleep Habits Directly Impact Importnat Hormones - Why am I so tired, theenergyblueprint.com

In particular, disrupted sleep and circadian rhythm create a constellation of hormonal changes that drive fat gain. And the accumulation of excess body fat is itself harmful to energy levels, by promoting poorer blood sugar regulation and chronic inflammation.

Let’s take a look at some of the key mechanisms of how disrupted sleep and circadian rhythm drive fat gain:

 

Decreased Leptin

Impaired sleep lowers leptin levels, which impacts a number of other hormones and neurotransmitters that affect alertness, motivation, fat burning/metabolism, and energy levels.[81] [82]

When our circadian rhythm is strong, we’re supposed to see a strong surge in leptin during the day. But poor circadian rhythm and poor sleep blunt this increase in leptin. And lowered leptin levels mean a slower metabolism, more hunger, lower energy, decreased fat burning, and ultimately, fat gain.

 

Dysregulated Hunger Hormones and Neurotransmitters (Like Ghrelin and Endocannabinoids):

Not sleeping greatly affects two hormones which contribute to the weight gain that commonly is associated with circadian rhythm disruption and sleep loss: ghrelin and leptin.

Leptin is released in our fat cells and works in our system to signal satiety and reign in the appetite while ghrelin stimulates appetite.

If you’re wondering why you have an urge to snack at night, researchers have found that after just 2 days of sleep restriction, levels of ghrelin spike while levels of satiety fall. Researchers found that just 2 days of 4 hours of sleep loss produced “reductions in leptin (the appetite suppressant) and elevations in ghrelin (the appetite stimulant) and increased hunger and appetite, especially an appetite for foods with high-carbohydrate contents.”[83]

In a recent study on sleep deprivation, researchers found lost sleep over just two nights impact blood serum endocannabionid (cannabis-like compounds in the body) levels, which make more “hedonistic” eating and snacks more appealing. The result is that people tend to be unconsciously driven to consume more highly processed high-fat and high-sugar foods. [84][85][86]

In fact, circadian rhythm and sleep disruption activate many of the same pathways as cannabis which notoriously gives pot smokers “the munchies” – those ravenous cravings for all things fatty, fried, salty, and sweet.

Insufficient sleep dramatically increases caloric intake. One study found that just a few nights of modestly shortened sleep duration increased subjects caloric intake by a whopping 500 calories per day! Also, note that variability in sleep-wake cycles (i.e. frequent subtle shifts in the circadian rhythm)—rather than habitual sleep duration—is likely the key factor here.[87]

Another study titled Sleep and circadian rhythms: Key components in the regulation of energy metabolism states

Over the same time period that obesity has reached epidemic levels, the amount of daily sleep time achieved by American adults has decreased by 1–2 h… As of 2006, there were at least 35 epidemiological studies linking alterations in sleep time with adverse health outcomes, including obesity, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and cardiovascular disease.”[88]

But is this link just correlative, or causal? The researchers then go on to make the case that there is substantial scientific evidence showing a causal (not just correlative) link with mechanisms that include increased ghrelin and decreased leptin levels—important hormones in the regulation of hunger and metabolic rate which profoundly influence body composition. They noted “it was estimated that if the self-reported appetite ratings in sleep restricted subjects were translated into actual caloric intake, it would represent an extra 350–500 k/cal per day…”,[89] which, if you do the math, you’ll realize that this factor alone could be responsible for over 3 pounds of fat gain per month, or upwards of 30 pounds of fat gain per year.

So at the same time that disrupted sleep and circadian rhythm are slowing your metabolism, they are also increasing your appetite.

 

Increased Cortisol at Night:

Circadian rhythm disruption and sleep loss take a toll on cortisol as well.

Normally, cortisol decreases dramatically over the course of the day, to its lowest levels in the evening and night. One study showed that the rate of decrease of cortisol levels in the early evening was “approximately 6-fold slower in subjects who had undergone 6 days of sleep restriction than in subjects who were fully rested.”[90] According to the researchers, this is a big problem because

“Elevations of evening cortisol levels in chronic sleep loss are likely to promote the development of insulin resistance, a risk factor for obesity and diabetes.”[91]

Poor sleep and circadian rhythm disruption directly impacts our circulating levels of cortisol, increasing cortisol levels at nighttime when cortisol should be falling and melatonin rising. This switch of cortisol and melatonin impairs actually further impairs the ability to sleep, and thus creates a vicious cycle – disrupted circadian rhythm and sleep can then be self-perpetuating. So, sleep loss not only depletes us of energy and cause us to feel fatigued, it also hurts the body because it prevents all kinds of healing and rejuvenation we need to take place for health.

As you can see, sleep deprivation can make us fat on several fronts. Indeed, there’s lots of evidence that getting too little sleep is associated with overeating and weight gain/obesity. And in mice, there is even evidence that disrupting their light exposure rhythms (circadian rhythm cues) causes mice to get fatter even when consuming the exact same amount of calories as other mice put in an environment with proper light/dark cycles.

Many people are going through life with chronically lowered leptin levels, chronically elevated evening cortisol levels, higher hunger hormones (ghrelin) and neurotransmitters (endocannabinoids) and are basically chronically wired into a chronic hormonal state that drives overeating, a slow metabolism and fat gain.

In short, the same basic physiological effects that we see in experiments in animals are also seen in humans. Circadian rhythm disruption results in:

Circadian Rhythm Disruption Results in - Why am I so tired, theenergyblueprint.com

  1. Increased food intake and appetite, specifically seeking out processed food rich in sugar and fat
  2. Decreased leptin and increased ghrelin levels, (the hormonal mechanism that drives up food intake and likely drives up the bodyfat setpoint)
  3. Activation of the sympathetic nervous system (increasing overall stress physiology in the body)
  4. Elevation of cortisol levels at night (promoting insulin resistance, poor sleep, and fat gain)
  5. Alterations in fat cell formation (promoting fat storage)
  6. Lethargy (thus lowering caloric expenditure)
  7. Alterations in glucose and fat metabolism and oxidation (promoting fat storage)

Together, all of these factors create a state of physiology that promotes fat gain. In turn, that drives chronic inflammation and decreased energy levels.

Poor circadian rhythm and sleep ► Fat gain ► Inflammation and blood sugar dysregulation ► Fatigue

 

5. Not Replenishing Energy Stores in the Brain

Circadian rhythm disruption and sleep deprivation also directly impacts energy levels by not allowing for efficient replenishing of ATP (energy) stores while we sleep.

You are not recharging your energy fully │ Why Am I so Tired, theenergyblueprint.comDuring sleep, our body undergoes a great process of reparation wherein DNA is mended, muscles relax and undergo repair, and metabolic processes are stabilized. But one of the most critical processes for our energy levels is that our cells literally re-charge their battery each night while we sleep.

This revolves around a compound called adenosine.

In fact, as Joel Benington and Craig Heller demonstrated in 1995, part of our desire to sleep and replenish arises from this process of adenosine building up as glycogen (stored carbohydrates in your cells) are burned off. As they observed, as the brain’s glycogen energy stores are used up over the course of a day, adenosine builds up—then, we sleep, remove that adenosine, and have a whole new store of glycogen to run on the next day. We literally refuel our energy stores.[92][93]

In fact, some researchers believe this may be the primary purpose of sleep:

“Why do we sleep? The answer seems obvious – to restore ourselves at the end of a long day. However, scientists have surprisingly little information about exactly what is restored during sleep. According to Stanford biologist Craig Heller, ‘the function of sleep is one of the major unanswered questions in biology.’ Heller and a former graduate student may have found the answer to that question, at the level of individual brain cells. They suggest that only during deep, restful sleep can human brain cells replenish the energy stores they deplete during a full day of thinking, sensing and reacting.[94]

Over the course of the day, as energy stores are used up, we accumulate progressively more of a compound called adenosine in our brain. Adenosine is a byproduct of our using up ATP for energy throughout the day – it’s released by brain cells as energy demands outpace energy supplies. So the more ATP we use, the more adenosine byproduct. In fact, adenosine is actually a major trigger for the body to enter sleep.

Think about that: Our body is using a signal that says “all the energy supplies in the brain are almost used up” to trigger sleep onset.

Why?

Simple: Because energy stores in the brain are replenished while we sleep.

It’s actually quite simple. During the day, as we’re awake, thinking, and moving around, we use up lots of energy. Then when we’ve burned off lots of energy, it creates progressively more of a chemical that signals to the brain that it’s time to stop burning off energy and go into rest/sleep mode. Then of course, during sleep, as we’re doing much less thinking and moving, our bodies have time to re-charge the battery. And that’s exactly what our body does during sleep – it literally replenishes energy stores at the cellular level in preparation for the upcoming day. According to Stanford News,

“The need for sleep is so intense, it is virtually impossible to keep a sleep-deprived animal or person awake for very long periods.”…The intensity of sleep need led Heller and Benington to the hypothesis that whatever is restored during sleep must be important to the brain’s normal functioning.

Glycogen fills the bill. Although glycogen supplies less than 6 percent of all the fuel needs of brain cells (the rest comes from glucose delivered via the bloodstream), it is necessary because it can be called into use very quickly to meet the needs of highly active cells in localized regions of the brain. Glycogen acts like a spare battery that keeps an electrical appliance running during a temporary power outage. Because the brain does not burn fat, glycogen is the only source of spare energy for neurons.” [95]

And so it goes – we are always oscillating between burning off lots of energy during the day, and then re-charging the battery (in our brain) at night.

There is also research showing that the brain doesn’t just rebuild glycogen stores while we sleep, but actually re-charges its ATP (cellular energy) stores as well. Interestingly, the research specifically shows that “ATP levels increase during the initial hours of natural slow-wave sleep, a time with prominent electroencephalogram (EEG) delta oscillations.”[96]

In other words, they’re saying that the re-charging of ATP (cellular energy) in the brain is dependent on getting enough delta wave sleep (the deepest phase of sleep).

Specifically, the more deep delta sleep you get, the more it re-charges energy stores in the frontal cortex, cingular cortex, basal forebrain, and hippocampus – critical areas of the brain for cognitive performance and feeling energetic.

Here’s the key part: Getting lots of delta sleep is dependent on the quality of your circadian rhythm and sleep habits.

But what happens when you disrupt the nightly re-charging process every night by chronically blunting your circadian rhythm? You don’t get the deep, regenerative sleep that actually allows you to efficiently re-charge the battery in your brain!

So you’re constantly trying to run on a half-drained battery.

What does that lead to?

Think brain fog, feeling overwhelmed by stress, feeling like every little task takes way more effort than it should, lacking motivation and drive, mood problems, and feeling drained of energy.

Disrupted circadian rhythm and sleep ► Incomplete re-charging of energy stores in the brain ► Brain fog, apathy, mood problems, poor cognitive performance (and feeling like everything is difficult), and fatigue

 

6. Damaging Blood Sugar Regulation

Blood Sugar Dysregulation - Why am I so tired, theenergyblueprint.comSeveral studies have now shown that both disruption of sleep and the circadian rhythm adversely impact affect glucose tolerance and increase risk of type 2 diabetes.

In a recent study on humans, young healthy men who were restricted to four hours of sleep for six consecutive night experienced higher levels of blood glucose despite normal insulin responses. The difference in glucose levels was ±15 mg/dL, a difference large enough to suggest a clinically significant impairment of glucose tolerance. In fact, glucose impairment was nearly identical to that of older adults with prediabetes.[97] Researchers concluded that “thus, less than 1 week of sleep restriction can result in a pre-diabetic state in young, healthy subjects.”

Other research has shown that disruption of the circadian rhythm from poor circadian rhythm habits will also lead to blood sugar regulation problems, even if you are sleeping enough hours.[98] [99] [100] According to The Scientist, “The results suggest that, rather than behavioral cycles, the body clock largely dictates the body’s daily glucose tolerance.” [101]

Blood sugar level regulation is directly tied to your energy levels – and dysregulated blood sugar levels leads to feeling sluggish and lethargic as blood sugar rises, falls, and energy is locked outside of your cells with insulin resistance.

Disrupted circadian rhythm and sleep ► Insulin resistance and blood sugar dysregulation ► Poor energy levels

 

7. Hindering Toxin Clearance From the Brain

Perhaps one of the biggest ways that disrupted circadian rhythm and poor sleep cause fatigue is actually based on a new scientific discovery.

It turns out that one of the primary functions of sleep is actually to clear toxins out of the brain. See, our brain produces large amounts of toxic waste products each day just by going about the processes of thinking and coordinating body processes.

Think of it like a city, where each person’s home is the equivalent of an individual cell in your brain. As each person goes about their day and drives to work and makes food or goes to the bathroom, waste products are created. That’s why every city has sanitation services – the garbage trucks come by and pick up all the garbage each person creates each and every week.

The same is true in your brain. Every day, our brain cells produce large amounts of toxic waste products. And as this new discovery has shown, each night while we sleep, the brain cleanses itself of these waste products.

For over a century, scientists have known about the lymphatic system of the body, with vessels (sort of like blood vessels) that permeate every nook and cranny of your body to deliver lymph fluid and immune cells, as well as carry away waste products.

But there was always something quite peculiar going on, which was that scientists never found any of these lymph vessels in the brain. How could it be that one of our most vital organs didn’t have this critical lymphatic system?

It was always thought that the brain had no lymphatic system, and thus it was theorized – since the brain is bathed in a fluid called cerebrospinal fluid — that the only way for waste products to get out of the brain was to sort of slowly diffuse through this fluid and make its way out of the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord) and back into the bloodstream.

Well it turns out that the thinking was wrong. A breakthrough new discovery in 2015 has shown that the brain does in fact have its own specialized and quite remarkable lymphatic system!

In this study, researchers led by University of Rochester neuroscientist Maiken Nedergaard have drilled holes in the skulls of live mice to gain an unobstructed view and then injected them with a radioactive compound to see if they could see what happens to the compound in the brain.

What they then witnessed was remarkable. During sleep, the spaces between brain cells open up by 60% and they saw basically jet streams of fluid being pumped through these spaces out of the brain! (Note: The spaces between neurons are held together by “glial cells,” so this brain lymphatic system has been dubbed the “glymphatic system”).

Basically, this is like a washing machine for your brain. The brain is an extremely active organ, and because of that, it produces a lot of cellular junk that needs to be washed out. That’s what the glymphatic system is all about.

As a further test to assess the importance of what they witnessed, the researchers wanted to look at amyloid beta proteins. Amyloid beta proteins accumulate and form “plaques” in Alzheimer’s disease and some other neurological conditions. So the researchers injected amyloid beta into mice’s brains. The researchers did this in two groups of mice – one group with a well-functioning glymphatic system and another group that were genetically altered in a way that limits the flow of their glymphatic system.

What happened? The normal mice rapidly cleared away the amyloid beta through the glymphatic system, while the mice with a poor glymphatic system began to progressively accumulate more amyloid beta in their brains.

This research suggests that poor glymphatic system function (i.e. accumulation of toxins in the brain) is likely a major cause of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, ALS, and other neurological diseases.

So what does all of this have to do with disrupted circadian rhythm and sleep?

Simple: Most of this glymphatic drainage happens at night while we sleep. And the depth and quality of your sleep is vital to allowing the glymphatic system to work efficiently.

This is likely why so many neurodegenerative diseases (like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s) are preceded by sleep disorders.[102]

According to Scientific American,

“Sleep disturbances often occur early, sometimes decades before the symptoms that characterize various neurodegenerative diseases. In fact, several studies have found that the extent of sleep disruption predicts subsequent cognitive decline or disease.”[103]

It is also now known that there is a direct link between disruption of the circadian rhythm and neurodegeneration. First, it was shown that amyloid (remember, that’s the stuff associated with Alzheimer’s and many other neurodegenerative conditions) levels are higher during the waking hours than at night during sleep. It’s also been shown that sleep deprivation in mice will lead to the buildup of amyloid in the brain.[104] This suggests that sleep is critical for allowing the brain to clears away amyloid.

Then there was a key study by Kristine Yaffe and colleagues in 2011:

They “collected circadian data from 1,282 healthy elderly women using actigraphy, which involves wearing a watchlike sensor that records physical activity. They assessed participants’ cognitive functions five years later, and found that various measures of impaired circadian rhythms conferred significantly higher risks for mild cognitive impairment (which often presages Alzheimer’s) or actual dementia.”[105]

Here’s the really interesting part. It’s likely that not just sleep deprivation but also the disruption of the circadian rhythm both amplify the buildup of toxins in the brain. Researchers have also done an experiment on mice where they’ve directly altered circadian clock genes, such that mice still were awake and asleep for the same amount of hours, but the rise and fall of activity of circadian clock genes was disrupted. (This would be the equivalent of a person laying in bed each night for 8 or more hours, but having really poor circadian rhythm habits).

What happened?

The mice gradually developed inflammation in the brain, loss of synapses (brain neuron connections) and cell damage. And they also saw reduced activity of genes involved in the cellular antioxidant defense system, so the cells were made more susceptible to further damage.[106] That’s a recipe for progressive neurodegeneration.

According to the researchers: “The mouse gets a kind of neuroinflammatory syndrome that’s pretty striking. Circadian clock genes clearly play some important role in maintaining the brain.” [107]

Now, there is one more interesting layer to this story that I’ll add. One chronic fatigue syndrome researcher named Raymond Perrin, PhD actually believes that buildup of toxins in the brain due to poor lymph drainage at night is the primary cause of chronic fatigue syndrome.

So if you were wondering about the connection with energy levels, there you go. Various brain areas are critical regulators of alertness and energy levels. When they get inflamed and damaged, those are signals to decrease energy levels. (In fact, the neuropeptide orexin which is produced in the hypothalamus is a major regulator of energy levels, and is directly decreased by inflammation in the brain.)

Basically, here’s the way this all ties together:

Poor circadian rhythm and sleep ► poor drainage of toxins from the brain during sleep ► chronic brain inflammation and cell damage ► chronic fatigue (and potentially brain diseases)

 

The Energy Blueprint Keys to Fixing Circadian Rhythms and Sleep

A lot of people who are trying to improve their sleep want some sleep “tricks” or sleep “hacks” to fix their issues.

I am here to tell you that is not the way it works. You cannot achieve a strong, rejuvenating, and restorative sleep by popping a pill or doing a sleep “hack.” It may work short-term, but in the long run, the effects will wear off.

When it comes to not being so tired all the time, it’s all about optimizing your circadian rhythm habits. Simple as that. If you want to sleep deeply and wake up filled with all-day energy, then you need to optimize your circadian rhythm.

Here are three key tips from The Energy Blueprint on how to reset your circadian rhythms and get good sleep again.

1. Get The Devices Off And Out

Get your devices out of your bedroom - why am I so tired, theenergyblueprintIt turns out that it’s not just the blue light is to blame for our lack of sleep. EMFs (electromagnetic fields) – the electricity itself irradiated by electronic devices from the TV to our printers, routers, laptops, video games, but especially phone, Kindles, and iPads (since we’re often in bed with these) —these EMFs themselves cause sleep disruption as well.

So there are two major ways these devices interfere with our energy levels:

  1. by emitting blue light that disrupts circadian rhythm.
  2. by emitting low-level radiation/electromagnetic fields (EMFs).

One 2008 study showed that people exposed to radiation from their mobile phones before bedtime had more trouble falling asleep and reaching deep sleep. One study found that “The pineal gland is likely to sense EMFs as light but, as a consequence may decrease the melatonin production.”[108]

In this review of the scientific literature, more than one hundred experimental data of human and animal studies of changes in melatonin levels due to power-frequency electric and magnetic fields exposure were analyzed.  The researchers concluded that “the results show the significance of disruption of melatonin due to exposure to weak EMFs, which may possibly lead to long-term health effects in humans.” [109]

They found that exposure to an electronic device – not just the light, but the electromagnetic field around the device – has the ability to disrupt circadian rhythm.

Sometimes when I tell people about how electronic devices disrupt sleep and circadian rhythm (from the blue light and the EMFs), they reply “but I fall asleep just fine after reading my iPad or being on my phone or watching TV.”

And here’s a key point to grasp: Yes, you will still fall asleep. Of course, the body still needs sleep and you will fall asleep. BUT, these things are:

  1. Delaying sleep onset
  2. Disrupting the hormonal cascade that needs to happen before and during sleep
  3. Decreasing sleep efficiency (this is a key point, because this is the depth and quality of your sleep – i.e. how regenerative your sleep is per hour of time you spend in bed).

So yes, you can still fall asleep just fine. But even though you fall asleep, you are still suffering consequences of these habits that you’re not even aware of. Like, for example, being more fatigued.

So the key is to get the electronic devices out of the room and off.

In fact, according to the 2014 Sleep in America Poll, 53 percent of respondents who turn electronics off while sleeping tend to rate their sleep as excellent compared to just 27 percent of those who leave their devices on.[110]

Here’s what to do:

  1. You should also avoid watching TV or using a computer or tablet at least an hour or two before sleep.
  2. If you do keep your devices in your room, make sure they are physically turned off along with your Wi-Fi router.
  3. Make sure your phone nowhere near your head/brain for at least an hour before sleep. And also make sure you leave it on airplane mode and out of your room (or at least 6 feet away) during sleep.
  4. In fact, the all-around smartest approach is to unplug all electronics within 6 feet of your bed at night and not have anything on near you while you sleep. Routers emit a powerful EMF cloud—so I suggest installing a simple outlet plug timer that automatically turns it off while you sleep and turns it back on in the morning around your wake-up time. It requires no effort whatsoever, and is an easy way to improve sleep.

2. Sleep In COMPLETE Darkness

Sleep in complete darkness - why am I so tired, theenergyblueprint.comLight is a powerful signal to your brain to be awake. Even a very small amount of light in the room can be enough to disrupt circadian rhythm. The light from outside street lights, night lights, or electronics can easily be enough to impair sleep depth.

You may still sleep a certain number of hours, but your sleep efficiency is lowered when light is entering your room while sleeping. That means that you and someone else can both sleep for 8 hours, but the person with higher sleep efficiency is getting much more powerful and regenerative sleep per hour of sleep. That’s a key point to grasp – it’s not just about hours in bed, it’s about sleep efficiency!

Having a completely dark room is critical for optimizing sleep efficiency.

The best way to ensure complete blackout is to get rid of all sources of even minor amounts of light in the room and install blackout shades to eliminate light entering from the street.

There should be complete darkness in your bedroom while you sleep at night. This is extremely important.

Even if you think you sleep just fine even though there is some light in your room, I promise you that it is affecting your sleep efficiency and subtly degrading your energy blackout curtains to light-blocking sleep masks to get complete darkness while you sleep.

3. Get Sunlight During The First 30 Minutes After You Wake Up

Bright light (ideally sunlight) is critical to set the circadian rhythm as morning light is the main signal telling your brain when it is day, and when it is not.

Ger Sunlight in the first 30 min of the day - why am I so tired, theenergyblueprint.comFor a proper circadian rhythm activation, bright light exposure needs to happen within the first 30 minutes of the day. In my experience, 99% of people do not do this, and they’re walking around with a chronically blunted circadian rhythm because of it (and the 7 consequences of that which we’ve covered in this article).

What you can do to get this exposure within 30 minutes:

If you follow these strategies, you will notice more energy literally within 3 days. And as you continue to be consistent with them, your circadian rhythm will strengthen and within a few weeks, you’ll notice that all of the sudden, you’re sleeping deeper and waking up with more energy than you’ve had in years.

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Some people try to boost their energy by drinking energy drinks. But despite the consumption, you still wonder, why am I so tired. Listen in and learn more about why energy drinks are causing fatigue.
Sometimes your chronotype influences your sleep. Listen in as I am talking to Dr. Michael Breus anout sleep and circadian rhythm. This will answer the question, why am I so tired.

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Comments

3 thoughts on “Why Am I So Tired All the Time? It’s Your Circadian Rhythm!

  1. Thanks for the great article! Would you say measuring body temperature is a good tool? My body temperature is pretty low (36,1 C) in the mornings. And it doesn’t seem to be rising with eating like you outlined in Forever fat loss. One thing I’m wondering about is protein. Matt stone sayed something about protein slowing down metabolism. This would supposedly be caused by certain amino acids that are found especially in animal protein for example methionine, cysteine and tryptophan.

    This is what Matt Stone said in one of his emails:

    ”But protein in excess has a tendency to put a lot of strain on the metabolism. Protein requires more energy to digest and also suppresses appetite, two things that result in fewer net calories being consumed the higher the diet’s protein content becomes.
    Many amino acids (protein is made up of amino acids) like tryptophan are anti-metabolic. Eating big slabs of meat with every meal certainly has the potential to lower metabolic rate.

    Broda Barnes spelled it out even more plainly:

    “It has been clearly established that a high-protein diet lowers the metabolic rate, [therefore] symptoms of hypothyroidism will be aggravated.””

    I would love to hear your thoughts on this since this goes against what you said in Forever fat loss (to aim for 1g of protein per pound of bodyweight). Also I listened to your podcast with Valter Longo and there he recommends rather low protein diet so I’m curious if your opinion on this has changed or do you still recommed the same thing.

    Also what are your thoughts on salt? Salt seems to increase the food reward/palatability of food. On the other hand Matt Stone recommends rather high salt intake in his book Eat for heat to keep the fluids of the body concentrated. I noticed that when it’s a really hot day I get thirsty like crazy especially when doing sports and then when I drink a lot of water I get very anxious, stressed and hungry afterwards and have hard time concentrating. And I do notice that after eating salty foods I feel really relaxed.

    I got my TSH measured recently and it was 1.4. Would you say it would be good to do something differently regards nutrition or should I focus more on stuff like circadian rhythms. I wake up every night and feel like my sleep is not very restorative and often have cold hands and feet at some points of the day along with fatigue. I feel this fatigue was originally caused by restrictive eating and very long fasting windows. Now I’m eating to appetite and even a bit over some times. I eat healthy foods but I still haven’t seen very much improvements (it’s been around one month now).

    Also how does meal timing affect circadian rhytms? I used to eat breakfast but now I’m skipping it to get a 14 hour fasting window. I eat my last meal at 8-9pm and then take a small snack at around 10 pm and then go to sleep because I feel I sleep better with a snack before bed. I wake up at around 6.

    Thanks!

    1. Hi Lauri,

      Unfortunately we cannot offer detailed responses to a long list of questions for non paying members. It would be a full-time job for 5-10 people to answer questions for all people who follow our blog and podcast. We do however, try to give replies to even non-paying members when they ask one or two succinct questions.

      To give brief answers to your questions:

      1. Body temperature is a potential indicator that can give some useful data when considered with many other tests. By itself, it is mostly meaningless. And I routinely encounter overweight and very unhealthy people who meet Matt Stone’s criteria for optimal body temperature (e.g. have chronic fatigue and many other symptoms/diseases), and I see lots of people with non-optimal body temperature who are perfectly healthy and energetic. In short, body temperature is not nearly as meaningful and Peat and Stone claim. It’s a nice sounding idea, but not accurate in the way they claim.

      2. The claims about protein are simply wrong. Higher protein consumption is routinely linked with higher resting metabolic rate.
      Is it possible to overconsume protein? Of course. Just as it is possible to overconsume anything.

      3. Salt can certainly be a reward factor. I do not recommend Matt’s thinking around salt and water consumption. I think it’s just flat-out wrong. Is it possible to underconsume salt? Yes. Is it possible to overconsume water? Yes. But most people don’t have those issues at all.

      In short, I don’t recommend following Matt Stone’s or Ray Peat’s dietary advice. I generally see it cause more harm than benefit. But if you are underweight/anorexic or orthorexic, Matt Stone’s ideas can be useful and helpful.

      4. Meal timing interfaces with circadian rhythm in many ways. I discuss optimizing this in detail in The Energy Blueprint program.

      If you want more detailed support and coaching, please consider joining our program. 🙂

      Kind regards,

      Ari

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