Although you don’t hear it tick, your body has an internal clock. The word circadian breaks down into two words- circa and diem. Circa means around or approximately, and diem means’ day.’ So a circadian rhythm can be translated to ‘around once per day.’
Researchers are studying how your daily habits interact with your body’s natural rhythm, and they’ve discovered that the modern lifestyle profoundly disrupts it. Staying up late at night watching TV or doing work fools your body into thinking that night hasn’t started yet. Eating a big meal in the evening does the same thing. It delays the cycle and disrupts your sleep, only to have you jolt your body awake first thing in the morning when your alarm goes off! A lack of exercise and natural light causes further disruption to your digestion to your hormone secretion and nervous system.
Did You Know Your Brain Is Considered the Circadian Pacemaker?
Each day, your brain is triggered to start and stop essential functions, like digestion and energy for alertness. Your skin cells also repair and regenerate on a daily schedule. Certain strains of gut bacteria increase during the day, while others predominate at night. At every hour of the day, your body changes it’s function.
How Your Body Tells Time
Your body always knows what time it is, even if you don’t. Would you believe that your mental alertness peaks by ten in the morning, and your digestion operates more efficiently at noon? Your coordination, reaction time, and cardiovascular strength peak in the afternoon while your digestion begins to power down. After sunset, your blood pressure hits its highest daily level, along with your body’s temperature, and at around nine p.m., your brain begins releasing melatonin, and your digestion slows to half speed. Your bowel movements are suppressed by ten-thirty, and your digestion decreases.
The beauty of this is, this happens every single day! This is why your body gets confused when you cross time zones. The light changes and the body loses its compass for controlling all those bodily functions. Your cues for sleep are all managed by a running clock in the brain’s background, therefore this rhythm helps you generate, express, and replenish your energy. However, when it gets out of sync, it might also cause problems with your health. This disruption has even been linked to diabetes, obesity, and depression. So, getting good healthy sleep helps you keep your body’s clock on track.
The Truth About Your Body’s Natural Rhythm
When it comes to sleeping and waking, the circadian rhythm helps you wake up and stay energized all day and wind down and sleep all night. The critical triggers for waking and sleeping are light and dark and the hours between sunrise and sundown.
At dawn, your body is designed to energize and wake up. Throughout the day, you should be alert and awake. Then, as the sun goes down, your body produces melatonin, a hormone designed to shut your conscious brain down and get you sleepy and ready for bed.
Nighttime is the typical time to sleep and restore your mind and body for another day. Under ideal circumstances, your body develops a natural sleep-wake cycle, but that doesn’t mean the natural rhythm can’t be disrupted. Unfortunately, there are a lot of factors that prevent or interrupt a natural circadian rhythm, including but not limited to jet lag, shift work, blindness, or sleep disorders.
“Nothing cures insomnia like the realization that it’s time to get up.” ~ Anonymous
Powerful Reasons for Good Sleep
Sleep is an important time for your body to process your day and get ready for another. Many vital functions happen while you sleep.
- The brain stores the day’s information in our memory
- The brain detoxifies and removes waste
- The body repairs cells and removes waste
- The body produces hormones and proteins
How Your Body’s Natural Rhythm Gets Out of Sync
Sometimes it is impossible to follow your circadian rhythm, and your lifestyle creates an internal clock crash. This can occur because of:
- Overnight or off-hours work shifts against the day’s natural light and dark times
- Work shifts with irregular hours
- Travel that spans the course of one or more different time zones
- A lifestyle that encourages late-night hours or early wake times
- The medications you take
- Stress and anxiety
- Health conditions like brain damage, dementia, or head injuries
Failure to get enough or proper sleep can prevent your brain and body from doing their repair work. Not getting enough sleep can lead to fatigue, making you more susceptible to illness or injury. Unfortunately, disruption to your circadian rhythm can cause health conditions in several parts of your body. It can create brain fog or lethargy and over time can cause chronic problems, including:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Weakened Immune system
- Skin issues
The Bottom Line
Your circadian rhythm is your body’s natural rhythm of keeping to its 24-hour body clock and helps your body operate on a healthy sleep-wake cycle. Living a healthy, active lifestyle that promotes proper rest will help you maintain this vital component of a naturally working body.
I am Shirley Noah, an internationally known stress expert and entrepreneur. I would love to connect further with you to help you improve your health and well-being. If you are interested in learning more about Self Care, please take a look at my popular eCourse Self-Care the Art of A Happier More Peaceful Self.