We always wonder why our grandmothers advised us to go to bed early and wake up with the rising sun. In today’s time, everything starts later in the day. The day ends after midnight, because of which the waking up time is erratic. But, this is food for thought. Why did our grandparents insist on rising early and sleeping early? What Is Circadian Rhythm? Circadian Rhythm Meaning and how it is associated with our health? This and a lot more on circadian rhythm in this article.
Is it because, in the olden days, there was no electricity? Or any other modes of entertainment like television or the internet? Let us dig into why it is important to follow a certain routine concerning time.
Our body is a beautiful creation. The baby before birth already knows how to suck on breast milk. Our body performs hundreds of processes all at once and manages our health. The body has a superhuman mechanism of healing itself. The body has been already trained to perform certain functions at a certain time. Our body controls the time at which we sleep and wake up. This 24-hour cycle is known as the circadian rhythm.
What is Circadian Rhythm?
Circadian rhythm is influenced by light and dark. The brain and body activate certain hormones according to the environment. It also alters the body’s temperature and regulates sleep metabolism. There can be disruption in circadian rhythm due to certain environmental factors or sleep disorders.
How does Circadian Rhythm Work?
- As the sun rises, the sunlight sends a signal to the brain, which in turn sends signals to other parts of the body to wake up. Slowly and gradually your whole body processes are activated once you wake up. Similarly, the darkness signals the body cells to put all the body processes in sleep mode. The body produces melatonin during the night in the dark.
- The hormones like melatonin and cortisol rise or dip according to the circadian rhythm. As the darkness increases, the body releases melatonin which is responsible for sleep. The melatonin effect is maximum during the night and is suppressed during the day. Cortisol is responsible for your alertness and activity. It is maximum during the day time and suppresses during the night time. Disruption in melatonin or cortisol can lead to changes in circadian rhythm.
- Our body performs various functions at different times. The metabolic rate of the body is different while sleeping the body temperature drops and rises during the day according to the activity performed. If while sleeping the body temperature is high, it affects the sleeping pattern. It is always better to lower the room temperature before sleeping, which will ensure a sound sleep.
- Each age group has a different circadian rhythm.
- Newborns take a few months to develop a fixed circadian rhythm.
- Babies initiate the release of melatonin at around 3 months of age and cortisol between 2 – 9 months of age.
- Teenagers have a little shift in their circadian rhythm. The sleeping time is shifted from late evening to midnight. This makes them sleep till late in the morning.
- When you reach adulthood, you have a consistent circadian rhythm.
- In oldage, the circadian rhythm prepones and the elderly might sleep early. This also makes them wake up early in the morning.
Factors Affecting Circadian Rhythm Negatively
- Screen time late at night
- Eating late at night
- Drinking alcohol at night
- Working night shifts
- Traveling to different time zone
- Stress and anxiety
- Consumption of high doses of caffeine later in the day
- Head injury, dementia, or brain damage
Effects of Disrupted Circadian Rhythm
We take our sleep schedule very lightly. A chronic sleep schedule disruption leads to health implications that can be life-threatening if not looked upon on time.
Short Term side effects of disrupted circadian rhythm
- Drained energy
- Slow wound healing
- Hormonal imbalance
- Irritable bowel Syndrome
- Hypothermia or hyperthermia
- Loss of brain cells
The long-term Side effects of a disrupted circadian rhythm
- Organ dysfunction
- Cardiac issues
- Gastrointestinal dysfunction
- Skin issues
- Metabolic syndrome and diabetes mellitus
- Mental disorders
Tips to Improve your Circadian Rhythm
We usually get bored with our daily routine and would love to just be lazy during the weekends. The parties that we attend during our free days, sleeping late, and consuming alcohol will disrupt our circadian rhythm. But, to correct your circadian rhythm is in your own hands. Follow these few tips and get back to your regular circadian rhythm.
- Follow a fixed routineon maximum days of the week
- Spend more time outdoors during the daytime to boost the cell functioning
- Regular exercise of a minimum half hour daily
- Avoid heavy workouts during late evenings and at night as it may make the mind more alert and fresh
- Do meditation just before your bedtime for better sleep quality
- A room that is suitable for sleeping – low temperature, dim lights, and no sound
- Avoid TV, mobile and computer screens 2 hours before sleep
- Avoid long naps during the day
- Engage in some hobbies to de-stress yourself
Diet and Food Tips that help to Improve Circadian Rhythm
- Warm milk just before sleep helps to sleep better
- A pinch of nutmeg in milk helps to calm the mind and relieve stress
- Avoid high carbohydrate or refined carbohydrate meals a few hours before sleeping, as it might lead to a sugar rush
- Avoid alcohol and caffeine at the night time
- Do not skip your dinner
- Avoid heavy meals for dinner
- Hydrate yourself during the day
- Eat a minimum of 3 – 5 servings of fresh fruits and vegetables daily
- Keep a check on body vitamin D levels that helps in the sleep cycle
- Eat foods rich in antioxidants that detoxify the body
- Consume omega-3-rich foods like olive oil, walnuts, flaxseeds , or chai seeds to improve brain cell function
Your body can temporarily have a disruption in circadian rhythm. But, chronic insomnia, lethargy, problem falling asleep, waking up every few hours or poor quality sleep needs immediate attention. Following a healthy routine will help to get back your circadian rhythm back on track.