5 Facts to Know about Circadian Rhythm

Human beings cannot survive without sleep. It seems like an obvious truth, but still many of us undervalue sleep. Our internal clock or circadian rhythm dictates our natural sleep schedule and affects us down to our every cell  – literally! A circadian scientist from Northwestern University explains that there is indeed an internal clock in our bodies’ cells. This natural clock varies from person to person, and even changes as we age. Teenagers’ circadian rhythm tends to be longer, meaning they stay up later. As we get older, generally our circadian rhythm shortens. This is why it’s commonly known that elderly people go to bed early. We all experience these truths, but how much do we really know about this unseen clock? Here are five facts that let us in on what our natural clocks are up to.

1. Influenced by Light 

In fact, light is the external factor that affects our circadian rhythm the most. Light hits the eyes, triggering the brain to produce chemicals that signal the body clock. Scientists have found that birds living in cities were active earlier and went to sleep later than birds in the wilderness. This is thought to be an effect largely caused by light pollution. It works similarly for humans. It’s important to avoid light from screens at night and get healthy sunlight in the morning and afternoon. 

2. Regulates Our Skin Cells 

The outer layer of our skin is healed and maintained by stem cells. Recently, researchers have found that the circadian rhythm is a key factor in the chemical processes that allow these cells to thrive. A prominent theory of why aging happens has to do with the generation of oxygen radicals within stem cells that accumulate and do damage over time. Our bodies’ natural clock regulates these types of tiny, metabolic processes. We can see the effects of this in our skin. 

3. Affects our Metabolism 

There is strong evidence to suggest that when you eat (not just how much) affects weight management. The calories that your body uses to consume, digest, and store your dinner increase after you eat it. This is called “the thermic effect of food.” Studies show that food’s thermic effect decreases later at night. This means that the same snack burns fewer calories when consumed at midnight. This surprising conclusion is due to our natural body clock at work.  

4. Explains the 3pm Slump  

If you’ve been using different remedies in an attempt to eliminate the onset of that 3pm slump entirely, you might be out of luck! It turns out, all humans are designed this way. Our natural rhythm tells us to sleep twice; once at midday and once at night. This is why so many European and Asian cultures observe an afternoon nap. If your afternoon slump is particularly difficult, a sleep doctor can probably help.

5. Doesn’t Take Weekends Off

Jet lag is technically a temporary sleep disorder. It’s caused by traveling across time zones quickly. Most people are familiar with this occurrence. However the consistent pattern of staying up (or out) late on weekends and waking early on weekdays has the same effect. This routine actually gives people an on-going sleep disorder that sleep doctors have named social jet lag. The body’s internal clock often doesn’t understand our social engagements. 

Contact Whitney Sleep Center 

As we see here, sleep cycles powerfully influence our overall health. Though we can’t completely control our body’s circadian rhythm, we can make choices regarding our sleep that make us healthier and happier. At Whitney Sleep Center, we have board certified specialists and sleep doctors to discuss your current sleep patterns and any difficulty you may be having in attaining or maintaining sleep. We at Whitney Sleep Center understand the unique needs of our patients with sleep disorders. Our family-run business is dedicated to prioritizing your concerns, answering your questions, and assisting you in improving your sleep, and overall health, through our treatments. Reach out to us now to schedule a sleep study or ask questions about our treatments and services: contact masonw@whitneysleepcenter.com or visit our website at https://whitneysleepcenter.com/center/.