While humans have evolved to defy their connections with the earth in many ways, one way that still remains ingrained in our DNA is our tie to the earth’s natural rhythms. This connection is extremely important for us, as it dictates not only when we wake up and when we get tired, but it also influences our blood pressure and body temperature. So let’s learn how circadian rhythm affects health. The following is a graph that clearly depicts that circadian rhythm of human beings.
What is a Circadian Rhythm and Why is it Important?
The Circadian Rhythm is an internally driven 24-hour cycle of biochemical, physiological and behavioral processes often influenced by our environment. It has been built into our DNA because it helps us to prepare for environmental changes as well as regulate core body temperature, brain wave activity, hormone production, cell regeneration and other biological activities. You can see for example, melatonin secretion starts around 9pm and ceases around 7:30am, with our period of deepest sleep at 2am. This sets in place a natural sleep cycle for us as humans.
So How Does the Body Connect to the Rhythm?
Our body has a biological clock that connects us to the environment, and it is located in the SCN in the hypothalamus (of the brain). The SCN receives its information from our eyes and takes that information and translates the lengths of day and night into a message. That message is then transmitted to the pineal gland where the gland can then secrete adequate amounts of melatonin. Melatonin controls the circadian rhythms in our body.
How do we Get Out of Sync with the Rhythm?
Unfortunately in today’s world we have created an artificial environment that causes our bodies to become out of sync with our natural rhythms. In addition, we have forced ourselves to ignore our natural lifestyle habits in order to achieve more or do more, resulting in a disruption of our patterns.
The Following are a Few of the Main Culprits:
- Frequent Airplane Travel
- Irregular sleeping hours
- Electronics in the bedroom- including a TV, alarm clock
- Inadequate exposure to sunlight
- Going to sleep past 11:00 pm
- Waking up past 7:30 am
- Eating late at night
- Irregular eating patterns
- Inadequate physical activity
While we can adjust to certain changes in our patterns, such as a time zone change, we cannot adjust to constant variations, artificial light and electronic exposure. For instance, if everyday you wake up, go to bed and eat at all different times, your body will not be able to establish a normal pattern. Even if only two days a week you sleep only 4 hours and eat only 2 meals a day, you still are going to disrupt your system. Finally, a extremely common example would be getting up, going straight to work, working under artificial light and in front of a computer, eating lunch inside, then heading straight home to sit in front of a TV, and ultimately falling asleep with your TV and computer, never seeing the light of day. These types of disruptions, if consistent, can lead to illness.
How Circadian Rhythm affects Health?
Studies have shown that disruptions in your circadian rhythm can cause fatigue, depression, insomnia, seasonal affective disorder (SAD), weight gain, alcohol abuse and bipolar disorder. These conditions might seem extreme for not maintaining a consistent lifestyle pattern or freeing yourself of an artificial environment, but they are becoming highly prevalent.
How Can I get back into Sync?
To get yourself back into sync you will first have to commit yourself to a lifestyle change. Consistency is the key, eating, sleeping, and working out within one hour of the same time of day. Second, I would suggest that you get rid of any major electronics in the bedroom or make sure to turn them all off within a few hours of going to bed. Never sleep with the TV on.
Third, make an effort to be outside for at least one hour every day. It is extremely important for you to be connected to the natural light of the day.
Finally, my favorite way to jump start your Circadian Rhythm is to supplement with natural source Melatonin.
Using Melatonin to Help Get you Back on Track
Melatonin has become quite popular in the health industry and therefore the prevalence of supplements has grown. Most all of the melatonin on the market are made with synthetic ingredients, fillers and preservatives and are compressed into a tablet. Do not take this type of melatonin. They not only are ineffective, they can even cause your sleep patterns to become more disrupted. Furthermore, they are not derived from plants. The only melatonin on the market I trust is Melatonin from Premier Research Labs. This is the only melatonin on the market that I have found to be made from a plant source and it contains no fillers, synthetics or preservatives. It is also in a liquid form so I just take a couple drops under the tongue before bedtime. Super easy and extremely potent.
One more thing, melatonin is an excellent way to not only prevent jet lag, but it is an awesome antioxidant. Melatonin is unique because it works in fat and water parts of the cell, quenching free radicals and aiding in the prevention of chronic disease, cancer and aging.
Getting ourselves back in line with nature is one of the first steps back to health. It might seem obvious or insignificant, but until we listen to our body’s natural biological clock, we will be living sub-optimally and in disharmony.