As a holistic health practitioner certified in both complementary and integrative health and Clinical Herbalism, Rachelle Robinett knows how sleep can impact everything from productivity to neuroprotection. While she knows the plant for just about any ailment (she’s the founder of herbal cafe Supernatural, after all), she’s the first to confirm that how we sleep at night depends on how we spend our day. Syncing circadian rhythms won’t take long with the right routine—and she has a few notes to get us started.
Tune into nature.
If the goal is to feel tired when it’s time to fall asleep, we need to activate the parasympathetic nervous system—aka our “rest and digest” state—and minimize the “fight or flight” of the daily grind. The proof is in biology: we respond to daylight and nightlight at a cellular level.
Natural light (or absence of it) triggers the release of hormones that dictate how alert we are. The hormone cortisol is like our body’s morning cup of coffee, and a tuned-in body will release it in the morning to help wake us up. Melatonin is like our evening chill pill, which we get a shot of when our body senses that the sun is setting and the day is winding down. One study found that just a few more hours of light could shift a body clock by six hours in one week, making it essential to be sensitive to nature’s rhythms.