Understanding Your Circadian Rhythm

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Representative Image.

A circadian rhythm is a 24-hour cycle of all living beings, plants, animals of their internal physiological processes. It can roughly also be called the internal body clock. In our bodies, the sleep-wake cycle is an example of the circadian rhythm. Therefore, following the proper circadian rhythm can help you get consistent and deep rest at night.

How does Circadian Rhythm work?

The term is inspired by the Latin phrase ‘circa diem’, which means ‘around a day’. Imagine a clock that works according to environmental factors as well as night and day changes. For example, the circadian rhythm coordinates our digestive system to match our meal timings. It is controlled by the brain, which is also known as the master clock.

Daylight is one of the most important cues for our circadian rhythm. At night our body produces melatonin which is a hormone that promotes sleepiness. Our circadian rhythm regulates all these actions—our body’s internal clock associates daylight with alertness and being awake. During the day, it sends signals to make us feel active.

What happens if the circadian rhythm is disturbed?

When our body’s circadian rhythm is disturbed, it throws off all our body’s systems, and they lose proper functioning.

Disturbance in our sleep-wake cycles can cause sleeping disorders such as insomnia. It can reduce the deep sleep hours, wake you up faster in the morning or even decrease your sleep quality.

There is scientific evidence that connects our circadian rhythm with other physiological processes. For example, weight loss, metabolic activities and our mental health are bodily processes controlled by our inner clock. If our circadian rhythm is disturbed, it can cause serious health implications.

What can disturb your circadian rhythm?

Late-night cell phone usage: using your mobile phones or laptops in the dark can cause your circadian rhythm to be disturbed. Your body will take time in adjusting, which will ruin your sleep schedule.

Jet lag: Jet lag occurs when you move across different time zones in a short period. It usually happens after a long flight from one country to the other. Until your body can adjust According to your new surroundings, it can affect your sleep cycle.

How to know if you have a circadian rhythm disorder?

If you have been facing troubled sleep for over two weeks and feel sleepy during the day, it can be a sign of circadian rhythm disorder.

Having trouble falling asleep at night and feeling tired during the day are signs of circadian rhythm disorder.

How can you keep your circadian rhythm in check?

Early sunlight: the strongest cue for our circadian rhythm is out in the sunlight, especially early in the morning.

Consistent sleep cycle: going to sleep at different hours every day or waking up late can disturb your body’s adjustments.

Caffeine at night: avoid taking caffeinated beverages like tea or coffee at night before bed because they promote alertness and hinder your sleep.

No artificial light before bedtime: exposure to lights from our electronic devices can interfere with our circadian rhythm. Put away all your gadgets at least one hour before sleeping.

Practice good sleep and physical habits. Exercise consistently and create a schedule for yourself according to your needs.