Your body contains an internal clock that helps to carry out critical processes. An important part of your body’s internal clock is its circadian rhythm. Your body’s systems follow your circadian rhythms, which are controlled by the master clock in your brain. These rhythms are influenced by light and other environmental factors. Properly functioning circadian rhythms promote healthy sleep. When they are disrupted, sleep problems can occur as well as other physical and mental health issues.
How Circadian Rhythm Work
Circadian rhythms work throughout the day and night to optimize the processes of your body. All plants and animals have circadian rhythms that cue them to perform different tasks at different times.
In humans, circadian rhythms help to synchronize the body’s processes and systems to do different things at different times of the sleep-wake cycle. These processes are coordinated in the hypothalamus by the body’s master clock.
Light plays a critical role in influencing the signals sent from the master clock to the body, so circadian rhythms follow the pattern of light changes from day to night.
Circadian Rhythm and Impact on Sleep
During daylight hours, light causes the body’s master clock to signal other areas of the body to be alert, awake, and active. When night arrives, the darkness causes the master clock to begin producing melatonin, which is a hormone that facilitates sleep. The signals continue throughout the night so that people can stay asleep.
Circadian Rhythm and Their Effect on Other Processes and Systems
Circadian rhythms also affect other systems and processes and have been shown to affect the body’s metabolism, weight, and mental health. They have also been shown to influence immune system health. They might also affect the ability of cancer drugs to fight cancer.
The Effect of Disruptions to Circadian Rhythm
Disruptions to the body’s circadian rhythms can cause multiple issues with the body’s functioning. Some of the effects of disrupted circadian rhythms include the following:
- Problems falling asleep at night
- Problems remaining asleep during the night
- Awakening too early
- Low-quality sleep
- Obstructive sleep apnea
- Daytime fatigue
- Reduced productivity
Causes of Disrupted Circadian Rhythms
The following things are common causes of disruptions to the body’s circadian rhythms:
- Jet lag
- Working night shifts
- Advanced sleep phase disorder, which causes people to get tired early or wake too early in the morning
- Delayed sleep phase disorder, which causes people to stay up too late at night and wake up too late in the morning
- Non-24 hour sleep disorder, which typically occurs in blind people
- Irregular sleep-wake rhythms which cause people to have no pattern to sleep and wake cycles
Ways to Promote Healthy Circadian Rhytms
The following activities can help to promote a healthy circadian rhythm:
- Get exposure to natural light early each day
- Follow a regular sleep schedule
- Exercise daily
- Avoid caffeine in the evening
- Avoid blue light exposure two hours before bedtime
- Only nap during the early afternoon, and keep naps short
Talk to Accent Sleep Solutions
If you are struggling to get healthful sleep and believe your circadian rhythms are off-kilter, you should speak to the professionals at Accent Sleep Solutions. Call us today to schedule an appointment at (352) 271-5375.