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The importance of circadian rhythms explained

Circadian rhythms are physical, mental, and behavioral changes that follow a 24-hour cycle. Learn how to synchronize your work, leisure and sleep with them — for the comfort of better living.

Circadian rhythms are physical, mental, and behavioral changes that follow a 24-hour cycle. Learn how to synchronize your work, leisure and sleep with them — for the comfort of better living.

We have all heard the term “circadian rhythms,” but what are they and what role do they play in our day-to-day lives? Circadian rhythms are linked to your body’s internal clock and your sleep/wake cycle. Circadian rhythms are important in determining your natural sleeping and feeding patterns. Brain wave activity, hormone production, cell regeneration, and other important biological processes are determined by this cycle. Disruptions impacting our internal clocks have been shown to give rise to a multitude of issues, not limited to sleep disorders, cardiovascular disease, certain types of cancer, and affective disorders.

“Epidemiological studies are consistently revealing more and more connection between modern lifestyles and our internal biological clock, and when those two clash, it can lead to development of diseases such as obesity and breast cancer,”

explains Steve Kay, director of convergent biosciences and Provost Professor of Neurology, Biomedical Engineering and Biological Sciences at the University of Southern California Michelson Center for Convergent Biosciences.

To better understand circadian rhythms and our sleep cycle, check out the informative video below!

“We’ve inhabited this planet for thousands of years, and while many things have changed, there has always been one constant: Every single day the sun rises and at night it falls,” observes Dr. Satchin Panda, a professor at the Salk Institute and an expert on circadian rhythms research. “We’re designed to have 24-hour rhythms in our physiology and metabolism. These rhythms exist because, just like our brains need to go to sleep each night to repair, reset and rejuvenate, every organ needs to have down time to repair and reset as well.”
Circadian rhythms help set our sleep patterns as the body’s master clock (the suprachiasmatic nucleus or SCN), in the brain controls the production of melatonin, a hormone that promotes sleep. This nucleus contains thousands of cells that receive information about light exposure directly from the eyes and control your behavioral rhythm. When light is scarce, the SCN sends signals to produce more melatonin. Shift work and blue light from electronic devices have been found to have an impact on your circadian rhythms.
How can you help keep your personal circadian rhythms running smoothly? Keep your sleep schedule consistent throughout the week. Your circadian rhythms works best when you have regular sleep habits, like going to bed at night and waking up in the morning around the same time each day. Also skip using blue light-emitting devices at least one hour before going to bed. This type of light has been shown to impact the levels of melatonin your body produces more than any other wavelength.

“Humans are not evolved for night shifts, nighttime lights, and intercontinental travel. Modern-life challenges to our circadian system present a long-term threat to our health,” Kay adds.

While modern life has certainly impacted the way we view and approach sleep, we can flip the script by utilizing technology to help guide us back into our natural cycles.

Image credits: Jason Blackeye, Unsplash

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