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What Is Circadian Rhythm?

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What Is Circadian Rhythm?

If you have not heard about Circadian Rhythm, now is the time you must understand it in depth. Our body is an intricate network of nerves and organs making up different systems that keep our bodily functions on the go, 24*7. Circadian rhythms put simply, are 24-hour cycles that are part of the body’s internal clock (internal mechanisms running in the background that schedule periodic bodily activities and functions), to perform essential processes and functions. In the form of mental, behavioral, and physical changes, these manifest themselves in the most basic forms, like the sleep-wake cycle of sleeping during the night and waking during the day. Derived from the phrase circa Diem meaning around a day, Circadian cycles follow the sun and adhere to a relatively consistent day-night pattern.

Why You Should Know About Circadian Rhythm

Here’s when the importance of Circadian Rhythm seeps in. The aforementioned is its function to promote restorative sleep. But when this circadian rhythm is thrown off, it can lead to significant disorders including insomnia. Knowing your rhythm better will help you understand diverse aspects of physical and mental health better.

What Is Circadian Rhythm?

How Does Circadian Rhythm Work

Circadian Rhythm works through a coordinated system of cells, hormones, and metabolism. The brain intercepts and activates signals based on your hormones and environment, alters the body temperature, and regulates metabolism to keep you alert during the day or draw you to sleep at night. All circadian rhythms in the body are connected to a master clock that is sometimes termed the circadian pacemaker. It is located in the brain, more specifically in the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) which is located in the hypothalamus. At different times of the day, SCN sends signals to regulate different activities throughout the body.

The SCN is highly light-sensitive that also acts as a critical external cue to influence the signals sent by the SCN to help internal clocks in the body coordinate with each other. While exercise, temperature or social activity can affect the master clock, light is the most contributing factor to circadian rhythms.

Does the body make its own circadian rhythms?

Yes, period and cryptochrome genes in the body code for proteins that build up in the cell’s nucleus at night and reduce during the day.

What do circadian rhythms affect?

Circadian rhythms are known to affect some significant functions in the body, such as:

  • Eating habits and digestion
  • Hormone release
  • Body temperature

Factors affecting circadian rhythms

As mentioned previously, certain external or internal stimuli can cause our circadian rhythms to be out of sync. This may include:

  • Jet lag or shift work causing changes in the light-dark cycle.
  • Mutations or changes in certain genes.
  • Light from electronic devices at night.
  • Poor sleep habits, including lacking a sleep schedule, drinking or eating late at night, not having a comfortable sleeping space and watching screens too close to bedtime.
  • Stress.
  • Medications that could disrupt lifestyle as a side effect.
  • Health conditions like brain damage, head injuries, dementia or blindness.
  • Travel that spans the course of one or more different time zones.

Besides this, studies indicate that factors causing sleep disorders that further lead to chronic health conditions, such as diabetes, obesity, depression, seasonal affective disorder, and bipolar disorder are also contributing factors to Circadian Rhythm.

Research is currently underway about circadian rhythms, but evidence has connected them majorly to weight and metabolism through the regulation of blood sugar and cholesterol.

Importance of keeping the Circadian Rhythm in check

Several studies have reflected that circadian rhythms significantly influence the immune system and processes of DNA repair that could prevent cancer. Early-stage research has found healthy functioning of circadian cycles to trigger the effectiveness of anti-cancer drugs.

How to reset your circadian rhythms to work properly

Despite disruptions to your circadian rhythm, you can easily get it back on track. Here are some tips for an efficient and healthy 24-hour schedule:

  • Spend time outdoors during the daytime to boost your wakefulness.
  • Sleep in an environment that promotes a comfortable temperature, rest with proper lighting and a supportive mattress.
  • Get enough daily exercise. Specifically, at least twenty or more minutes of aerobic exercise.
  • Power down your screens well before bedtime and try engaging in something physical like reading a book or meditating.
  • Try to adhere to a routine each day.
  • Do not nap late in the afternoon or evening.
  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol and nicotine in the evenings.

Conclusion

Circadian rhythm is the body’s natural way of abiding by its 24-hour body clock, henceforth initiating a healthy sleep-wake schedule. Now that you’re aware of the utility of circadian rhythm, choose an active lifestyle for yourself.

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