Humans, along with most organisms follow circadian rhythms during a 24 hour day.
Circadian rhythms can be defined as an organism’s internal biological clock. Most living organisms have this biological clock. It penetrates and influences every aspect of life. Many vital functions including blood pressure and heart rate, body temperature, urine production and hormone levels are affected.
For the most part, given a similar schedule to follow, we feel energized the same times a day and sleepy the same times of day. This is your circadian rhythm at its best – a 24 hour internal clock that runs in the background and cycles between alertness and sleepiness at regular intervals. It is your sleep/wake cycle.
The body’s circadian rhythm is controlled by the hypothalamus, a section of your brain. It is a rhythm that causes your level of wakefulness to rise and fall throughout the day. Hormone production, cell regeneration, and brain wave activity are all linked to this daily cycle. Outside factors such as how light or dark it is impact it as well. That’s why many night workers have a hard time sleeping during the day and staying awake at night. They are fighting against their natural circadian rhythm.
Once darkness sets in, the eyes send a signal to the hypothalamus to feel tired. The brain then signals the body to release melatonin to make the body tired. so, regular sleep habits like going to bed the same time each night and waking up at the same time each morning (including off days and week-ends) contribute to a healthy circadian rhythm.
On the other hand, if you push your self to stay up and visit with friends past your normal sleep time into the wee hours of the morning, you can disrupt your circadian rhythm. This disruption makes you feel physically tired and out of sorts mentally, making it hard to focus and pay attention.
Circadian rhythms are subject to change as we age. The sleep cycle we experience as a child will not be the same as the one we experience as a teenager nor as an adult and this cycle continues to adjust into our senior years. For example: as a teenager your internal clock was programmed to allow for more sleep. Going to bed late and rising late came natural to you, whereas an adult, your rhythm has likely adjusted the opposite way. You go to bed earlier and rise earlier all because your circadian rhythm has adjusted.
Getting a good night’s sleep is mandatory to functioning at peak level physically, mentally and emotionally during the day and the key to a great night’s sleep is your circadian rhythm. The important thing is to be aware of this cycle and take note of the bodies signals. Notice when you feel tired and drowsy and honor the bodies signals.
Keep your circadian rhythm in tip-top shape with these tips:
Honor a nightly sleep schedule and stick to it. Even off days and week-ends must be included. Taking just one day to sleep in past your normal schedule can throw your whole internal body clock off.
Welcome the sunlight. Early exposure to the sun signals your brain that it is time to start the day. Rise a bit earlier and give yourself time to take a quick stroll out in the sunlight. You’re circadian rhythm resets and you get a boost of energy as well. If there is no time for a walk, raise the blinds to allow the light in.
Limit your bright-screen exposure. Once evening rolls around, bright lights can throw your body clock into whack and confuse the brain into thinking its still daylight. The worst type of light is artificial blue light that is emitted by all our tech devices. To avoid disruption in your sleep pattern from these type of lights, power down all tech devices well before bedtime – at least 2-3 hours prior.
Learn to follow your body’s natural cues such as when to wake and when to sleep and your circadian rhythm should stay balanced and healthy.
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