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4 Hacks To Balance Circadian Rhythm, From An OB/GYN Who Works Nights

Jamie Schneider
March 15, 2023
Jamie Schneider
Beauty & Health Editor
By Jamie Schneider
Beauty & Health Editor
Jamie Schneider is the Beauty Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a B.A. in Organizational Studies and English from the University of Michigan, and her work has appeared in Coveteur, The Chill Times, and Wyld Skincare.
Image by Leah Flores / Stocksy
March 15, 2023
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As much as we preach the importance of a healthy, balanced sleep schedule, we also totally understand that sometimes life just happens. And in the case of board-certified OB/GYN Jaime Seeman, M.D., author of Hard To Kill, well, life really does happen: "Last week I had a really bad [sleep] week," she shares on the mindbodygreen podcast. "I had [to deliver] four babies four nights in a row that were all born between 11 p.m., 1 a.m., and 3 a.m." It's not like Seeman can put it off until the morning—duty calls. 

Given the unpredictable nature of her career, Seeman has learned more than a few tricks to keep her energy levels (and sleep schedule) up to snuff. "When I don't get good sleep, I try to make up for that," she adds. Here's how she gets through the next day:



"I'll do some extra deep breathing exercises," Seeman says. "I'm such a huge fan of it, and I teach patients this in my own clinic all the time," she adds. "You can do it absolutely anywhere. You can do it in your car, you can go in a bathroom stall… incorporating that into your daily rituals can make you just more resilient." 

Deep breathing exercises are A+ for promoting sleep and a sense of calm, but other practices can actually supercharge your energy levels: Take box breathing, for example, which heightens efficiency and performance and provides stress relief.

"It's best to use in the morning to wake up, in the middle of the day if sleepy, or before a big project or meeting that requires your focus," breathwork teacher Gwen Dittmar previously shared with mbg, so it's great if you need a midday pick-me-up, sans caffeine. You can find her easy tutorial (plus other beginner-friendly exercises) here.


Blue blockers. 

"Your most important sleep is from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m.," says Seeman. "So when I get woken up for a 1 a.m. delivery, I know it's going to be like an uphill battle. So I'll try to wear blue blockers if I can." 

We know that blue light can affect your circadian rhythm and negatively impact your sleep patterns, but the harsh light is simply unavoidable for Seeman in a hospital setting. 

To mitigate those effects, blue-light-blocking glasses can certainly help. If you do have to wake up in the middle of the night for whatever reason, you might want to grab a pair of those specs—experts also recommend wearing them in the hours just before1 your head hits the pillow. 



With interrupted sleep patterns, "your cortisol's going crazy," says Seeman, and high levels of cortisol can further mess with your sleep. It can become a vicious cycle, which is why Seeman searches for healthy, effective ways to support focus and maintain all-day energy. 

"I'll use things like nootropics or exogenous ketones, things to help me muddle through the day to give me some brain energy," she notes. Now, "nootropic" is a category used to describe compounds that support a variety of brain functions, like mental clarity, memory recall, and cognitive task performance. 

It casts a rather wide net, but you can find our favorite nootropics here for whatever brain benefit you're looking for—from focus and memory to mood support and stress resilience. 


An earlier bedtime. 

Look, sometimes (oftentimes, for Seeman) poor sleep just happens. Try not to stress about it too much—just try to hit the hay a bit earlier the next night. "That night, I try to go to bed an hour or two earlier to try to make up for that sleep," she notes. 

An hour or two is really all you need to repay that sleep debt, as you don't want to mess with your sleep schedule too much (a consistent sleep routine is key). To wind down, make sure to avoid alcohol and caffeine before bed, limit your screen time, and perhaps opt for a natural sleep aid to make your eyes grow heavy. 

The takeaway. 

If there's anyone who knows how to hack their circadian rhythms, it's those who work night shifts. Seeman's schedule can be pretty unpredictable, and she's often woken up in the middle of the night for deliveries—but thanks to these tricks in her back pocket, she can maintain her energy until it's time to snooze.

Jamie Schneider author page.
Jamie Schneider
Beauty & Health Editor

Jamie Schneider is the Beauty Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a B.A. in Organizational Studies and English from the University of Michigan, and her work has appeared in Coveteur, The Chill Times, and more. In her role at mbg, she reports on everything from the top beauty industry trends, to the gut-skin connection and the microbiome, to the latest expert makeup hacks. She currently lives in Brooklyn, New York.