Why Circadian Rhythm is Important
Around the spring equinox and “springing forward” with daylight savings time, we here at Cambiati Wellness start to think more about the body’s natural changes to the circadian rhythm. This one-hour change can have a significant impact on these internal clocks, which correlates with the 24-hour sleep-wake cycle. Our circadian rhythm is what makes us open our eyes around the same time every morning and feel before bed–with a lot of life lived in between. It’s a natural cycle of physical, mental, and emotional changes that affect the body over a 24-hour period–and it greatly affects our health.
Our circadian rhythm is our body’s natural internal clock, which helps to regulate many of our daily activities such as sleeping, eating, and alertness. A balanced circadian rhythm is essential for leading a healthy life; our bodies thrive on regularity and routine. Just think how out of whack you feel when you’re traveling, and jet lagged. In this article we will discuss why circadian rhythm is important, how things like Daylight Saving Time and travel can impact that rhythm, and provide ideas on how to regain balance to feel your best. Here are some of the benefits that come with tuning your internal clock:
1. Hormone and Immune Function
Your circadian rhythms regulate hormone levels, which have impacts on many body functions related to chronic diseases, such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease and depression. Studies have linked disruption of sleep and hormones to a heightened risk for these serious conditions, which are all rooted in inflammation – a key factor of immunity and longevity. For this reason, it is important that you prioritize regular wake and bedtimes.
2. Cognitive Health
In addition to preventing disease, a regular sleep schedule improves cognitive health. Our brains require regular restorative cycles to function properly, which means if your biological clock isn’t operating correctly, you could experience brain fog throughout the day. Sticking with a set sleeping schedule ensures you will be able to access greater alertness when required, like during exams or other cognitive tasks that require intense concentration or problem-solving skills.
Sleep scientists have shown that sleep helps consolidate memories, clear toxins from the brain, and replenish important neurotransmitters. This indicates that you get both short-term and long-term cognitive benefits by prioritizing your sleep and circadian rhythm.
3. Energy and Capacity
Keeping your circadian rhythm regulated ensures all other parts of your body are in tune with one another, promoting greater general wellness over time as well as improved physical performance during physical activities like exercising or sports competitions. The same goes for mental energy. Restorative sleep gives you greater access to alertness when needed, like during challenging mental tasks such as completing exams or writing reports at work. This contributes to a sense of pride when functioning well, and can do the opposite if we are unable to put our best foot forward.
Common Causes of Imbalance and How to Improve Circadian Rhythm Health
With all of this upside benefit, one wonders why we ever let anything impact our circadian rhythms. But then life happens. We stay up late, have to get up early to attend to kids or a work trip, one night we just can’t fall asleep. Things like Daylight Savings Time and travel can also really impact our circadian rhythms and therefore energy levels, alertness, and health. What are some things we can do to lessen their impact and move quickly back into balance?
These disruptions of sleep patterns can impact some drastically and be akin to a bump in the road for others. Studies have shown that people who adhere to regular sleeping habits are better able to adjust to time changes than those who have inconsistent patterns, so if you’re prone to getting up and going to bed at random times,, then expect more problems with these disruptions than those who keep regular hours. Maintaining good habits before bedtime such as avoiding caffeine and alcohol, limiting television screens, and reading a book can all help promote better sleep quality. Keeping to a routine will help your body adjust to a consistent wake and sleep cycle. This is important for your body to get true rest and be able to do the repair work necessary to keep you healthy.
Exercising regularly also helps keep our circadian rhythm in check. Getting out in natural light, like during a walk (especially first thing in the morning and around sunset), will help our bodies stay alert during the day and help promote sleepiness in the evening when it is time for bed. It boosts a natural dose of cortisol and helps clear our melatonin from overnight. Additionally, physical activity releases endorphins, which not only gives you energy but also helps reduce stress levels–key for healthy sleeping patterns.
Getting adequate amounts of sunlight exposure daily helps regulate your body’s internal clock as well as improve your mood throughout the day. Sunlight helps us stay more alert during times when we would normally feel lethargic in the late afternoon or early evening hours due to lower light levels associated with sunsetting. Moreover, getting enough vitamin D from sunlight exposure not only boosts immunity but also contributes further to healthier sleep patterns.
Finally, one of the most effective ways to balance out our circadian rhythm is through relaxation techniques like meditation or deep breathing, yoga or tai chi. These gentle practices can help clear your mind before going to bed and promote peaceful slumber. These methods are helpful for both reducing stress levels associated with poor sleeping routines, as well as helping us unwind after long days of work or school without disrupting our internal clocks too much.
Balancing our circadian rhythms should be taken seriously if we want to lead healthy lifestyles full of energy and alertness throughout the day and restful nights of peaceful slumber. Following regular sleep schedules with no late-night activities, exercising regularly, getting daily sunlight exposure, and practicing relaxation techniques are all great ways that we can ensure that our bodies’ natural clocks are working properly so we can rest and rejuvenate when necessarily, and be alert and energized the rest of the time.