Your Body's Circadian Rhythm and How it Can Affect Your Health

Have you found yourself craving a siesta in the middle of a workday? It’s not you, it is just your body’s circadian rhythm at work. A well-oiled circadian cycle is essential for the body to function properly and small disruptions can impact overall health.

What Is the Circadian Rhythm?

The circadian rhythm is the body’s internal 24-hour clock that keeps ticking constantly as one goes through the cycle of day and night. It is also called the sleep/wake cycle because it aligns with our sleep patterns during the day and night. Found in animals, plants, and even microbes, this rhythm is controlled by a part of the hypothalamus.

Studies show that for most adults, energy levels dip twice during the 24-hour period; once in the wee hours of the morning between 2:00 AM and 4:00 AM and again in the afternoon between 1:00 PM and 3:00 PM. Small variations occur based on individual sleeping habits though; for instance, you may not feel the afternoon slump if you are a morning person who slept well through the night.

The circadian cycle is typically influenced by the natural day/night cycle. As it gets dark, the eyes signal to the brain that it is time to sleep and the brain, in turn, signals the body to release melatonin, the hormone that induces sleep. When it gets bright outside, the brain signals the body to wake up and get started for the day.

Factors like daylight savings time, jet lag, and watching television into early hours of the morning can also impact the circadian cycle. Age also impacts the clock, so it is important to maintain a regular circadian cycle for overall wellbeing.

How Does the Circadian Rhythm Affect Health?

The circadian rhythm is an important aspect of our wellbeing and can influence our sleep cycle, bodily functions like releasing hormones, digestion, and even body temperature. A regular circadian cycle can positively impact the functioning of the kidneys and the heart too. Any small disruption in this can upset our entire system, and we wouldn’t want that now!

Various studies have linked irregular circadian rhythms to many serious conditions like obesity, depression, diabetes, bipolar disorder, poor memory, and even slower mental and physical reaction times.

Life can be stressful and stress is known to impact sleep in a bad way. Research shows that lack of sleep and high-stress levels together can increase the level of cortisol in the blood. Higher levels of cortisol could reduce the functioning of the immune system, leading to numerous other health issues.

Tips for Maintaining a Regular Circadian Rhythm

  • Try to keep a regular sleep schedule
  • Take a walk in the morning. The sunlight provides an energy boost and resets your circadian cycle
  • Limit the usage of bright lights and gadgets in the night because they can confuse the brain and upset the cycle

Many of us tend to take our bodies for granted and pay no attention to important functions like sleep. A good night’s sleep is essential for overall wellbeing and that’s why we should understand and respect the intricate working of the Circadian Rhythm.


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