What does your daily routine look like? Do you go to bed at a similar time and eat regularly, or do you love late dinners at restaurants and movie marathons before bed? What choices you make affect your circadian rhythm. And consequently, the quality of your sleep, your mood and your level of tiredness. Read the article below to learn how to support your body and have more energy for life.
What is the circadian rhythm?
Your body has dozens of 24-hour rhythms designed to support processes throughout the body. It is these rhythms that signal the body when to go to sleep, wake up or eat a meal. They are controlled by the body’s main biological clock, which is located in the hypothalamus.
Hypothalamus – the control center
This is a structure that occupies 1% of the brain, and generates hormonal impulses that reach the entire body, while cooperating with the pituitary gland. It is also in the hypothalamus that the hunger and satiety center is located, which is responsible for your appetite. Next to it are the centers for temperature, thirst (fluids), sexual behavior, reactions to stress and aggression, spatial and episodic memory.
Circadian rhythm vs. biological clock
Your body thrives on a set of biological processes that enable timing and synchronize life processes such as respiration, movement, growth, nutrition, excretion and reproduction with conditions in the external environment.
The theory may sound complicated, but the practice is…. well – natural. When you wake up in the morning, the sun’s rays reach your retina. Along with them, your body gets the information: “Hey, it’s already daytime!” and passes it on through the optic nerve to the hypothalamus to start a new circadian rhythm.
Biological clock vs. social clock – jet lag without travel
Living according to the biological clock means living in harmony with the body – following its instructions. Unfortunately, most of us ignore the body’s signals and act in accordance with social expectations, which are conditioned by culture, friends, and the work environment. This is what we call the social clock.
If your social clock is not aligned with your biological one, social jet lag occurs. We usually use this term to describe symptoms of a rapid time zone change, which are sleep disturbance, headaches, confusion, fatigue and gastrointestinal problems. You will notice the same symptoms in yourself when you disrupt your biological clock.
Why is a proper circadian rhythm important?
Your body is rhythmic and symmetrical, so it needs a supportive routine. Unbalancing the body by disrupting the biological clock leads to poorer well-being and health.
Let’s go back to childhood.
Children love routine! Recall (or observe the children in your environment) how much satisfaction it gave you to wake up at the same time, play or eat regularly. Yes, novelties are also enjoyable, but at the end of the day it’s the favorite book read for the thousandth time that wins out.
As the years go by, life becomes richer – both in experiences and responsibilities. The increasing number of tasks makes it difficult to maintain a routine. Time is constantly in short supply! For this reason, many of us start eating, drinking, and sleeping when we want to (or when we can). This throwing off the natural balance adversely affects the body.
What are the effects of an abnormal circadian rhythm?
- lowering of mood,
- problems with concentration,
- problems with sleep.
Importantly,disruption of the circadian cycle also has implications for mental and metabolic diseases.
The catch is that the symptoms of a disregulated biological clock take a while to appear. For example, when you breathe irregularly or your heart beats irregularly, you notice it immediately and want to get back into balance as soon as possible. The process of noticing the effects of an unfavorable diurnal rhythm is slower, so it is important to be aware of your choices and their impact on your well-being.
How can you reset your circadian rhythm?
According to scientists, getting to know one’s diurnal rhythm can benefit one’s daily functioning, as well as when we are sick. We recommend you read the following recommendations and implement them as much as possible. Everyone’s lifestyle is different, so healthy habits are worth adapting to your work or other commitments. So let them serve as guidelines for you.
- Provide yourself with favorable lighting. Expose yourself to daylight when you wake up and stay in rooms with access to natural lighting. For this reason, it’s so important that offices have plenty of windows! For that, about an hour before you go to bed, start dimming the lights and put your phone away – this will put your body into nighttime mode. To support your diurnal rhythm, sleep in total darkness.
- Wake up at the same time. Going to bed and getting up at the same time stabilizes the secretion of sleep hormones, supporting your circadian cycle. We recommend starting your day at the same time in the morning – turning on the light or opening the curtains as soon as you wake up will help. These are very simple ways to stimulate melatonin production.
- Eat at regular times, so your body will get used to a certain meal time and you won’t feel unexpected hunger while you’re working. You can also try fasting, which will help you control your meal times. Digestion and metabolism are also strongly linked to the sleep cycle, so don’t overeat at the end of the day! A stressed digestive system contributes to disturbed sleep.
- Do sports regularly! Workouts and various physical activities will help you regulate your diurnal rhythm, strengthen your immunity and allow you to rest.
What disturbs your circadian rhythm?
The rhythms occurring in your body are rigidly fixed, and there is no way to skip certain phases or extend them – everything happens based on a 24-hour cycle. So there are certain factors that disrupt it. This is when you may feel tired or suffer from sleep problems. This is because your diurnal rhythm is out of sync with your biological clock.
Factors that negatively affect your diurnal cycle:
- Exposure to light during evening and night times.
- Shift work and irregular hours.
- Traveling across multiple time zones in a short period of time.
- Irregular sleeping times, frequent naps during the day.
Check out what you can do to keep your healthy circadian rhythm!
You already know what to do to reset your rhythm. Now we’ll tell you how to maintain it.
- Go out for a short walk in the morning (to combine daylight exposure and movement!).
- Move regularly, taking breaks from work.
- Stay in a well-lit (natural light) room during the day – there’s a reason we have so many windows at Brain Embassy!
- Avoid caffeine and heavy meals in the afternoon.
- Eat breakfasts rich in protein.
We wish you good luck in making positive changes!