More than 11 million Aussies are sitting down to dinner between 7 and 10 pm each day - up to four hours later than recommended, new research shows.
The best time for dinner, dietician Dr Gina Cleo says, is actually 6pm or earlier,
This is due to our circadian rhythms (natural internal body clock) having a big impact on the day to day functioning and internal processes that keep us healthy.
The research, by popular meal delivery service YouFoodz, also found 71% of Aussies rarely eat at the same time each day and working late is the main culprit for people facing late dinner times.
Here, Dr Cleo shares her top four tips on how to reset your circadian rhythm, through small changes to keep your internal body clock on track.
1. EMBRACE THE POWER OF NATURAL LIGHT: Ever wondered why bed feels so much comfier in the winter on those dark mornings?
Well, natural light is a primary regulator of our circadian rhythm, this is why it’s so important we make sure we are embracing natural light as much as possible.
Natural light reduces melatonin (a sleep hormone) during the day, making us alert. When it's dark, melatonin increases, telling our body it's time to sleep. I recommend getting outside for at least 30 minutes to an hour a day to flood your system with light, and the earlier you do this, the better.
This natural light helps coordinate other body processes, like when to digest food or release hormones, ensuring everything works smoothly.
2. TIMELY DINING: Life can sometimes just get in the way, and we all find the excuse to push out the tasks that feel menial.
However, it's really is so important to set those earlier dinner times and maintain consistency, as it can significantly aid in syncing your internal clock.
I recommend finishing your meal at least three hours before you plan to sleep, around 6pm. Eating earlier helps the body fully process and digest food without it interfering with the restorative functions of sleep. To make adjusting meal times more achievable, consider using ready meal delivery services like Youfoodz.
They offer flexibility in meal scheduling with the ability to skip a week or cancel at any time, and can provide a balanced meal in only three minutes. 3. CURB THE CAFFEINE: To ensure a good night's sleep, aim to have your last caffeinated drink at least six hours before bed.
This will give your body enough time to metabolise the caffeine and reduce its stimulating effects. For those afternoon cravings, ditch the caffeine for a natural pick-me-up.
Select a drink which has natural ‘feel good’ properties. Ingredients like bananas contain nutrients including tryptophan, an amino acid which can help the body convert to the feel-good brain chemical serotonin.
Blueberries are also bursting with antioxidants and vitamin C that may provide anxiety relief, allowing you to unwind towards the end of the working day.
4. CLEAN UP YOUR NIGHT WITH GOOD SLEEP HYGIENE: Proper sleep hygiene practices, such as maintaining a consistent sleep schedule, will help stabilise and reinforce the natural function of your circadian rhythm.
Good sleep hygiene is a great practice to develop habits that are necessary to have good nighttime sleep quality and full daytime alertness. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends. This helps regulate your body's internal clock. It also allows you to plot regular meal times.