The Science of Circadian Rhythm

Before the invention of the lightbulb by Thomas Alva Edison, not to mention 24-hour online shopping and 2 a.m. texts from friends, people got up with the sun, went to work until it got dark, and then went to bed. Nature created our bodies to work optimally in this manner: The 24-hour cycle of light and dark governs the body’s master clock, a group of brain cells that controls almost all internal functions.

This system, called the circadian rhythm, functions as follows: According to Melissa A. St. Hilaire, Ph.D., an associate biostatistician in the division of sleep and circadian disorders at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, as the sun rises, “the master clock receives light input directly from the eye and uses that information to synchronize the 24-hour day.” This aids in the control of various hormonal activities. Cortisol levels rise as melatonin levels, which help us fall asleep, fall. Melatonin levels start to climb again many hours later as night falls and the sun sets, winding us down.

However, as a result of the invention of lightbulbs, televisions, and now smart technologies, people are staying up far later than sunset, which has a negative impact on our biological clocks. Gena Glickman, Ph.D., director of the Chronobiology, Light and Sleep Lab at Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Maryland, claims that light is entering our eyes when it shouldn’t. We work all day in fluorescent-lit, windowless offices, then come home to spend the nights staring at screens emitting short-wavelength light, sometimes known as blue light.

How your circadian rhythm influences your health?

It may affect your gut:Nearly 40% of IBS patients usually have trouble sleeping, which includes constipation, diarrhea, and other GI issues. If circadian disruption has an effect on the microbiome, which is made up of billions of bacteria in the gut, researchers are investigating if oral probiotic supplements could mitigate some of the effects. If this is the case, probiotics may one day be given to prevent GI distress in shift workers, military personnel (who routinely work under sleep-deprived situations), and even the common night owl.

It influences your heart rate:Adults are two to three times more likely to experience a heart attack in the morning than at night, with the peak hours falling between 6 a.m. and noon. This has an impact on your heart rate. According to Martha Gulati, M.D., editor in chief of the American College of Cardiology’s, “When you’re sleeping, everything slows down a bit, including your heart rate because you don’t need as much blood flow. But as it becomes lighter outside, your body starts to wake up, and your heart rate and blood pressure begin to rise—almost like warming up your engine.” This process is safe for healthy people, but it can cause heart attacks in people who have underlying cardiovascular disease due to the increase in blood pressure and heart rate. A 2018 study showed a 67% reduction in heart attacks and other major cardiovascular events when patients took their medications at bedtime instead of in the morning. If you are taking medication for heart disease, ask your doctor if taking it at night might benefit you.

It helps your skin heal:Your skin has circadian clocks, which are more active during the day than at night, and this can affect how quickly wounds heal. Because prehistoric cavemen were more likely to sustain injuries while out hunting during the day, wound-healing skin cells called fibroblasts needed to be prepared for action. According to animal studies, cuts heal more quickly when they happen during the day, and data suggests that burns sustained during the daytime may even recover up to 60% more quickly than burns sustained at night.

It influences your metabolismLike bright light stimulates the brain, it may also help wake up your metabolism. It affects your metabolism. In a 2014 study, Phyllis Zee, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Center for Circadian Rhythm and Sleep Medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, discovered that people exposed to morning sunlight had lower BMIs and were more physically active throughout the day than those exposed to afternoon sun. The clocks in the brain and body that control appetite and metabolism can be brought into harmony by light, according to Dr. Zee.

How to sync your clocks?

Harmonizing your internal clocks is essential for good health: St. Hilaire advises imagining those clocks as musical instruments in an orchestra. “The conductor who keeps everyone at the same point in the song is the master clock in the brain.Chronic circadian disruption, the cacophony it causes, may contribute to heart disease, cancer, obesity, and depression. It can make you feel tired, cranky, hungry, distracted, and depressed. The simplest rule to re-establish your circadian rhythm is to expose yourself to bright days and dark nights, advises Glickman.

Just remember that everyone has a slightly different clock. According to Daniel Pink, author of When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing, there are three main chronotypes based on genetics and age: early-rising Larks, late-night Night Owls, and Third Birds. While Night Owls may shine later in the afternoon, Larks and Third Birds typically reach their peak earlier in the day. No matter what kind of bird you are, you can profit from the following tactics:

Bathe in the early morning light by opening your curtains as soon as you awaken. This will prevent the production of melatonin. It’s still dark outside. Try this Dr. Zee’s trick: Purchase a blue light box that you can program to begin brightening 15 minutes before your alarm goes off. Look for a box with a rating of 3,000 to 10,000 lux, which will feel about as bright as what you’d experience outside on a cloudy day, she advises (check out the Aura Daylight and Verilux models).

Follow a schedule:

Even though staying up late on Saturday and sleeping in on Sunday may seem like a wonderful idea at the time, it actually causes social jet lag. We dread Mondays because of this, claims Glickman. Our bodies essentially believe that we have crossed time zones to the west.It also increases the risk of heart disease by 11% for every hour that it lasts. It’s best to: Every day of the week, according to coauthor and naturopathic doctor Brooke Kalanick, N.D., go to bed and wake up at the same time, give or take 15 minutes. Take a 20-minute nap at around 2 p.m. on the weekends as a weekend indulgence. 5 Easy Steps to Balance Your Hormones and Restore Your Joy.

If you can land an office with windows, it might help you sleep better: In one of Dr. Zee’s studies, it was discovered that office workers with windows slept roughly 46 minutes longer each night than those who weren’t around windows.

Avoid bright light before going to bed because when you scroll Instagram at 10 p.m., your brain interprets it as “Time to start the day!” Phones, laptops, and iPads emit blue light, a significant component of sunlight. Try to do your shopping earlier in the day because convenience stores’ fluorescent lights and supermarkets’ fluorescent lights both emit blue light.

Banish all light at night: Even a tiny amount of light, such as the moonlight that filters through your blinds or the aura that your phone emits as it charges next to your bed, can throw your body’s internal clock off enough to prevent you from falling asleep. Consider making an investment in high-quality blackout curtains, charging your phone in a different location, and purchasing an alarm clock with red or amber light instead of blue light, which will be less disruptive to the circadian rhythm.

Also Read ABout Fall Asleep Faster With This Breathing Technique