Circadian Rhythm – Your Biological Clock

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Life is a series of cycles, all living things from bacteria, plants, animals to humans have their own biological cycle that functions around a 24 hour long period. All of nature follows a 24-hour cycle of the day which includes a daily pattern of work, rest, sleep and activity. Our biological rhythms (body cycles) determine periods of tissue repair, tissue growth, waste elimination, blood pressure, body temperature brain activity, hormone production, cell regeneration and a host of other biological processes, but most importantly regulate light during the day and dark at night (also called the light-dark cycle). Scientists call this rhythm the circadian and the study of it is called chronobiology.

Our brain has a master clock, called the circadian clock, which is controlled by specialized cells found in a region called the suprachiasmatic (SCN) nuclei in the hypothalamus of the brain.  The SCN consists of about 20,000 nerve cells that act as conductors and “tell time” based on external cues, such as light and darkness.  The circadian clock drives the circadian rhythms which are responsible for our physical, mental and behavioral changes, they also  regulate sleep, metabolism, and the up and down flow of hormone production (specifically cortisol and melatonin), and coordinate all the body clocks that sit in organs and tissues so that they are in sync.

Below is a picture that shows how the body ticks or should tick throughout the day.

 

circadian rhythm diagram

Effects of unregulated circadian rhythms include:

Insomnia

Obesity

Diabetes

Depression

Bipolar Disorder

Seasonal affective disorder

Impaired overall well-being

Decreased motor & cognitive performance

 

Circadian rhythms respond rhythmically to the regular cycles of the sun, moon, and seasons but can be affected by external cues of the earth’s magnetic electrical fields, gravitational fields, cosmic radiation and even the movement of other planets.

The body has four primary bio-rhythms based on the idea that certain aspects of your life move in cycles, these are natural monthly fluctuations that govern:

  • The physical aspect of the body (23 days) – your energy levels, your resistance, and your overall physical strength and endurance. This cycle influences physical factors such as eye-hand coordination, strength, endurance, and resistance to disease.

(Peak) You will feel physically fit to work on projects requiring physical strength and endurance.

(Low) During the down half of cycle you are likely to have less energy and less vitality

 

  • Emotional (28 days) – governs the nervous system and is also referred to as the sensitivity rhythm. This cycle influences our emotional states, affecting love/hate, optimism/pessimism, passion/coldness, and depression/elation.

(Peak) When you are feeling most creative, most loving and warm, and you are probably more open in your relationships.

(Low) More inclined to be withdrawn and less cooperative. You may also be very irritated and negative about those things that occur in your everyday life.

 

  • Intellectual (33 days) – according to studies this cycle originates in the brain. It influences our memory, alertness, speed of learning, reasoning ability, accuracy of computation.

(Peak) Considered to be at your most intellectually responsive; you’re open to accepting and understanding new ideas, theories and approaches.

(Low) Much more likely to have difficulty in grasping new ideas and concepts.

 

  • Intuition (38 days) – controls subconscious perception, hunches, instinct and your sixth sense. Influences telepathy, healing at a distance, radionics, dowsing, strengthening psychic ability, healing yourself or simply ’mind control’

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In order to have healthy circadian rhythms, your circadian clock needs to be set to the right time. Maintaining proper regulation of your circadian rhythm is critical for your health and reduces your risk of chronic diseases, studies suggest that diet is also vital in preventing imbalances to this rhythm and have found that insulin plays a role in resetting the clock, those who are insulin resistant are at risk of overall good health and general well being.

We should aim to obey this rhythm by paying attention to what our body feels like, some days the body experiences high energy levels and removes & rebuilds damaged cells, on these days we may feel great.  On other days we may feel like utter crap as the body rids itself of substances that have been making it toxic often resulting in low energy or even depression. But once a certain level of health has been reached, we don’t notice the cycles as much and they cause little to no discomfort. The cool thing is that every body’s clock can be adjusted to work efficiently & effectively for them, so long as you’re not constantly throwing it out of balance, which can be detrimental to your health.

Since circadian rhythm differs for each person e.g. someone maybe a morning type (lark) while another person is a night owl. I recommend you track your activities for a month to become aware of your own unique internal clock and be able to accurately identify what your daily activities are and which times are best for each of them also track your moods as this will give an indication of how hormones are being released and distributed throughout your body.

 

 

5 Tips for Resetting Your Internal Clock

 

  1. Adjust your bedtime (go to bed on time!)

 

  1. Get bright light exposure during the day (light/dark cycle sets circadian clock)

 

 

  1. Avoid bright light in the evening (signals circadian clock its night time)

 

  1. Reduce and mange stress (cortisol is also a master stress hormone, elevated levels disrupt bio-rhythms)

 

 

  1. Avoid eating or exercising too close to bed time (caffeine & nicotine are stimulants)  

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Related links:

http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn26886-sync-your-sport-to-your-body-clock-for-a-personal-best.

http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg22530023.900-vitamin-ds-benefit-may-lie-in-syncing-our-body-clocks.

http://learn.genetics.utah.edu/content/inheritance/clockgenes/

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