Why miss on a GOODNIGHT Sleep? Decoding circadian rhythm.
Incidentally, people’s sleep cycle is no more restricted to the circadian rhythm of the body, especially among millennials. SUBURB highlights the importance of circadian rhythms in our body.
Sleep experts believe that the distorted sleep cycle is key to many physical and psychological issues among the younger generation.
Circadian rhythms are 24-hour cycles that are part of the body’s internal clock, running in the background to carry out essential functions and processes. One of the most important and well-known circadian rhythms is the sleep-wake cycle.
Significance of circadian rhythm
Different systems of the body follow circadian rhythms that are synchronized with a master clock in the brain. This master clock is directly influenced by environmental cues, especially light, which is why circadian rhythms are tied to the cycle of day and night.
When properly aligned, a circadian rhythm can promote consistent and restorative sleep. But when this circadian rhythm is thrown off, it can create significant sleeping problems, including insomnia. Research is also revealing that circadian rhythms play an integral role in diverse aspects of physical and mental health.
The term circadian comes from the Latin phrase “circa Diem,” which means “around a day.” Circadian rhythms exist in all types of organisms, including plants, animals, nocturnal creatures and, of course, humans. In humans, circadian rhythms coordinate mental and physical functioning in the body. The digestive system produces proteins to match the typical meals, and the endocrine system regulate hormones to suit normal energy expenditure.
Research continues to uncover details about circadian rhythms, and has connected it to not just the sleep cycle but to metabolism and weight through the regulation of blood sugar and cholesterol.
Circadian rhythms influence mental health as well, including the risk of psychiatric illnesses like depression and bipolar disorder and the potential for neurodegenerative diseases, including dementia.
Reasons for disturbing circadian clock
When people talk about circadian rhythm, it’s most often in the context of sleep. The sleep-wake cycle is one of the clearest and critical examples of the importance of circadian rhythms.
During the day, light exposure causes the master clock to send signals that generate alertness and keep us awake and active. As night falls, the master clock initiates melatonin production, a hormone that promotes sleep and then keeps transmitting signals that help us stay asleep through the night. Circadian rhythms work by helping to make sure that the body’s processes are optimized at various points during a 24-hour period.
When the circadian rhythm is thrown off, it means that the body’s systems don’t function optimally. A disturbed sleep-wake circadian rhythm can give rise to serious sleeping problems. Without the proper signalling from the body’s internal clock, a person can struggle to fall asleep, wake up during the night, or be unable to sleep as long as they want into the morning. A disrupted circadian rhythm can also mean shallower, fragmented, and lower-quality sleep.
Apart from medical disorders related impacting disruption of the circadian clock, some lifestyle habits are becoming the serious conditions giving rising to sleep disorders.
Shift duties| Jet Lag| Irregular sleep habit |Consumption of excessive caffeine & screen time (light exposure) giving the mind no or little time to calm before the regular bedtime is one of the rampant causes of sleep disturbance.
Aids to get your sleep cycle back on track
- Seek out sun: Exposure to natural light, especially early in the day, helps reinforce the strongest circadian cue. It is time to get alert, rise & shine.
- Follow a consistent sleep schedule: A non-consistent bedtime or, in turn, morning wake-up time can hinder your body’s ability to adjust to a stable circadian rhythm. Make time to sleep a consistent ritual.
- Get daily exercise: Activity during the day can support your internal clock and help make it easier to fall asleep at night.
- Avoid caffeine: Stimulants like caffeine can keep you awake and throw off the natural balance between sleep and wakefulness. Everyone is different, but if you’re having trouble sleeping, you should avoid caffeine afternoon.
- Limit light before bed: Artificial light exposure at night can interfere with circadian rhythm. Experts advise dimming the lights and putting down electronic devices in the lead-up to bedtime and keep electronics out of the bedroom and away from your sleeping surface.
- Push afternoon naps out: Late and long naps can push back your bedtime and throw your sleep schedule off-kilter. Try not to sleep in the afternoon or take a short power nap.
Any change requires consistent effort and mental strength, but a healthy sleep cycle is the key to a healthy life in the long run. There is a natural cycle and breaking the rhythm goes against nature’s harmony- your body and mind.