How To Reset Circadian Rhythm Naturally

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Monday, March 29, 2021

Most of my life I have had sleep issues including insomnia, abnormal circadian rhythm and even sleep apnea. Nothing I did seemed to help, even having surgery. While I'm going to recommend some products that helped, the biggest change was to my diet. Relax, it's not some hipster superfood either, it's advice I got from scientific research and eating things you probably already have at home.

Two things I've been able to accomplish with my health and wellbeing is being able to lose weight and being able to reset my circadian rhythm. I've wound up talking to people about it a few times so I thought I'd share it online in case it helps anyone else. I'm not a medical professional, this is just what worked for me.

A couple of years ago I met an amazing woman who would wake up very early. I was never much of a morning person. Every morning I would get texts from her at 5am, 4am sometimes even as early 3am.  While things were early in the relationship I didn't want to blow it by waiting too long to respond so I tried to do research on sleep problems. This wasn't the first time but I stumbled upon a paper that must of had the right info. I'm still waking up early, we're still together nearly 2 years later.

History of my sleep problems

When I was a child, I shared a room with my brother. I had trouble falling asleep, and therefor trouble waking up and I usually felt tired the rest of the day. At night when we would go to bed he would fall asleep instantly and I would stare at the ceiling for hours. One night I asked him how he fell asleep. He just said he closes his eyes and it happened. That didn't work for me.

Ear infections would be a problem about once a year. A doctor diagnosed me with a deviated septum but my parents chose not to have it corrected. Same when it was recommended I have my tonsils removed.

My sleep problems negatively affected many parts of my life. Some of my sleep problems included:
  • Not being able to fall asleep when I needed to
  • Not being able to fall asleep consistently
  • Not being able to sleep even when I was exhausted (insomnia)
  • Not being able to wake up when I wanted to
  • Having to stay up all night if I needed to get up early for something important because I was afraid I'd miss it.
  • Having to wake up later and later every day.
  • Feeling tired most of the time.
  • At some points even not being able to control when I fell asleep (narcolepsy)
I'd be relatively fine for weeks or even months at a time but day by day it would be harder to get up when I needed to and eventually I'd just crash. Once, after college, at one of my first big jobs, I slept for over 12 hours, missing work, and then when I wake up, I ate and fell back asleep again. This was my first sit down all day, work 60+ ours a week at a computer job, in a city where I didn't know a lot of people so I gained some weight.

After seeing a doctor and getting tested at a sleep lab I was diagnosed with sleep apnea. My tonsils were so big, my doctor explained, they were closing my airway when I slept. Snoring was a big problem for me too. My girlfriend at the time told me when I went to sleep I would snore, sometimes I'd stop snoring, (probably because I stopped breathing) so she would poke me and I'd start snoring again.

I had a bunch of things cut out of me to correct it including having my deviated septum surgery. While it was recommended I go on a CPAP to help keep my airway open at night, I didn't use one. The surgeries helped a lot, and keeping in shape helped too.

The surgeries and weight loss didn't fix all my problems and fire over a decade I continued to have what I thought was noon 24 hour sleep/wake disorder. While the sleep I did get was much better, to the point where I was dreaming more frequently, I still had issues keeping a consistent sleep schedule. I mentioned it to my general doctor once, that I felt like I didn't have a 24 hour circadian rhythm, and that mine might be longer because my sleep/wake pattern seemed to be longer than 24 hours and every day I'd want to wake up later and later. Her response was simply "some people have that problem." I guess I was expecting her to help me with that or point me in the right direction but no. I didn't always know how to ask for what I needed.

I tried everything I read about and nothing worked. This included:

  • Exercising more
  • Exercising closer, but not too close to bed time so I was tired.
  • Writing down my to-do list or other concerns I had before bed.
  • Using different alarm clocks
  • Putting alarm clocks further away so I'd have to get out of bed to shut them off
  • Using wake up light alarm clocks
  • Jumping out of bed as soon as I got up
  • Drinking more coffee
  • Drinking less coffee
  • Having other people wake me up (this worked but was not always fun for them.)

Protein Was The Key To Resetting My Circadian Rhythm

There were three things that helped me reset my sleep cycle. The first 2 involve protein.

You waited long enough to find out so I put it in the heading for this section. I ran across a paper that explained the best way to reset your circadian rhythm is to make sure you eat a high protein breakfast as soon as you get up. If I can find that paper again there will be a link here but I forgot to bookmark it.

The paper suggested that when we wake up, if we consume food, especially protein rich food, it lets our body know that this is a good time to wake up. It trains our brain to wake up at this point again. If we wake up and there's no food, then I guess the brain thinks it's better to sleep until a better time. 

How much protein is enough to reset your circadian rhythm?

I don't know exactly and it's going to be different for everyone but I am for about 23 grams of protein and having protein be at least 15% of my breakfast calories. I'm a male that weighs about 190lbs.

What I Eat To Reset My Circadian Rhythm

My meals became a lot more consistent when I started losing weight again. At the time I lost about 40lbs and was averaging about 1.5lbs a week. It helped me count my calories if I minimized the variety on what I ate. More than 50% of time time I eat the same, or very same breakfast with a few variations. Two or three mornings a week I throw in some variety of meals I have already planned.

Oatmeal, Peanut Butter, and Boiled Eggs

In less than 15 minutes I can make, and eat this breakfast which makes it easy for me not to miss if I'm in a rush. It also fits into diet plan

Circadian Reset Breakfast Recipe


  • 1/2 cup old-fashioned oats (not the sugary instant packets)
  • 3/4 cups milk (or water if I'm trying to lose weight) I need to drink lactose free milk
  • 1 tablespoons peanut butter
  • 1 teaspoon honey (sometimes I skip this)
  • 2 boiled eggs


  • Add oats, and water or milk, to a bowl. Microwave for 2 minutes.
  • After the oatmeal is done, scoop up a tablespoon of peanut butter in the spoon you plan to eat with and place it in the bowl so it starts to soften.
  • Drizzle with a teaspoon of honey.
  • Start cooking the eggs. I actually steam them. In a small sauce pan I'll add enough cold water so it covers about 1/4 of the eggs. Place the eggs and put it on the burner. Once it starts boiling I cover the pot so the eggs can steam and set a timer for 8-1/2 minutes.
  • Get a bowl of ice water ready to cool off the eggs slightly after they're done so they peel easier.
After I put the eggs on the burner I start eating the oatmeal and I'm done before the eggs are. I'll wash out the bowl and fill it with ice water for the eggs to minimize dishes and give me something to do.


If I am low on eggs or feel I have been eating too many eggs I might substitute a tablespoon of chia seeds for one of the eggs. This will get microwaved together with the oats. One tablespoon of chia seeds has 4 grams of protein, while an egg has 6 so it's pretty close.

If I ran out of eggs completely, or if I don't have enough time to cook the eggs, I'll substitute chia seeds for both eggs. Depending on what I think my protein needs are I might have more or less chia seeds. I used to add some flax seed too but I'm concerned they don't keep as long as chia seeds seem to.

This is not the only thing I eat but it's my go to breakfast I have most of the time. 

I've had a few instances where my sleep cycle was slipping. I put a protein bar next to my bed at night and ate it as soon as my alarm clock woke me up and that reset my sleep again.

High Protein Nightly Snack

I started doing this before I knew it was helping. Before bed I frequently have 1 slice of whole wheat toast with peanut butter and jelly or jam, along with an apple or pear. Not just protein, but specifically peanut butter helps you sleep.

Wake Up Lights

I had purchased an older Philips Wake-Up Light. It helped a little. Part of it was setting the alarm to a more gentle bird chirping noise instead of a buzzing alarm that I just wanted to stop. The other was having the wake up light.

The wake up light in the model I had wasn't that bright. The new ones might be better but I use something else now.

Use Sunlight

I rearranged my bed so that sunlight will hit my pillow in the morning and keep my blinds and curtains open on that window. This isn't going to be possible for everyone.

Philips Hue and Philips Wiz Smart Bulbs

In addition to my ceiling light fixture, I have 3 table lamps in my bedroom, including 2 nightstand lamps. I use Philips Wiz Bulbs in them and set them to gently turn on at my wake up time. The three different bulbs are much brighter than the one wake up alarm clock and it doesn't matter which side I sleep on. I always use voice control on my phone to turn these on and I have them set to turn off automatically too so I don't accidentally turn them off manually. If you only have ceiling lights you can put the bulbs in there but I find that it's hard not to control them manually when they're the main switched light.

I'm not convinced the wake up lights are all that important since many nights I sleep in a room with no smart lights and a black out shade but I still wake up fine.

Let me know if you try this and it works for you too.


Another thing that helps me is camping in a tent. When I'm out in the woods I always wake up at sunrise. The sun streaming through the rent (don't get a black-out tent) and the sound of the birds chirping always wake me up feeling refreshed. If I feel my circadian rhythm slipping I'll try to hit a state park. 

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