Tuesday, August 1, 2023

What Circadian Rhythms Are and How They Work


How often have you heard from someone: "I physically cannot fall asleep before three o'clock in the morning, I'm just an owl"? If you thought that all this is fiction, you can rest assured: scientists know for sure that "larks" and "owls" exist. 


What kind of bird a person will be is determined by circadian rhythms - they are determined by genes. But a person can go against genetics and break his rhythms. 


Let's find out about the mechanism of circadian rhythms and how to manage them. 

How It Works 

Circadian rhythms are complex biological processes. They run cyclically, with one cycle lasting approximately 24 hours. They are the body's true internal clock: they help physiological functions to work in concert. 


Circadian rhythms are responsible for waking us up and going to sleep on time. They tell the digestive system that it is time to produce proteins for digestion. Under their influence, our body temperature, heart rate and blood pressure are higher during the day and slightly lower at night. The endocrine system also obeys the internal clock: it regulates the fluctuations of hormones. 


When light hits the retina, information about it is transmitted through the optic nerve to the brain like electricity through a wire. In response, the neurons of the nucleus stop the production of the hormone melatonin. As a result, the person becomes awake and wakes up. 


There are other factors that affect how circadian rhythms work: 

  • Physical activity. 
  • Hormone levels. 
  • The medications a person is taking. 


Circadian rhythms will work without external signals. Of course, the cycle will be a bit off, but the body will still follow a 24-hour rhythm: it's genetically determined. 


Thus, in 1938, sleep researchers from the University of Chicago conducted an experiment on themselves - spent 32 days in a cave, in complete darkness. There were no external cues, such as sunlight or temperature. However, the scientists' daily activities did not turn into chaos: their sleep and wakefulness regimes were not disrupted, and the feeling of hunger came as usual. 


If you feel like your daily routine is different than usual, it doesn't mean your circadian rhythms are off. You should be concerned when you lose the ability to: 

  • Fall asleep on time and wake up with a good night's sleep. 
  • Fall asleep and wake up at the same time every day. 
  • Adjust to a new time of falling asleep and waking up in a few days if necessary. 

Is It True That the Circadian Rhythm Cannot Be Changed? 

Every person has a genetic predisposition to a particular circadian rhythm. Larks have a biological clock ahead of the cycles of day and night, and owls, on the contrary, don't keep up with them. At the same time, due to various factors - illness, shift work - internal rhythms can be disturbed. 


And a person can also arbitrarily violate their biological mode: constantly late to bed, play at the Melbet casino India, work, or watch TV series at midnight. If this happens regularly, it becomes a habit. Now a person cannot get up before one o'clock in the afternoon, and falls asleep only deep into the night, but genes don't cause this rhythm. 


Here are a few factors that can be associated with the disruption of a person's circadian rhythms. 


The circadian clock is sensitive to light intensity: this is especially noticeable two hours before your estimated bedtime and at night. Thus, if bright light is used at this time, it may be more difficult to fall asleep. If a person sleeps in a room that is too bright, they wake up earlier than necessary, which shifts the sleep-wake cycle. 

Color of Light 

Blue and white light has the strongest effect on circadian rhythms, making it difficult to fall asleep and causing sleep disturbances. That said, white light makes you feel more alert and focused during the day. Red light has no effect on circadian rhythms - so it can be used at night or before bedtime. 

Disturbed Sleep Hygiene 

Various habits and behaviors before bedtime can disrupt circadian rhythms: 

  • Late bedtime and early rising. 
  • Erratic sleep schedules - when a person goes to bed at different times. 
  • Eating and drinking heavily before bedtime. 
  • Consuming caffeine eight hours before bedtime. 
  • Using gadgets less than two hours before bedtime. 


The timing and type of eating can also affect the sleep-wake cycle. For example, overeating at night can shift digestive and metabolic rhythms and thus prevent a person from falling asleep. 

Physical Activity 

While moderate physical activity can help improve sleep quality and regulate circadian rhythms, over-exercising late at night can disrupt them. 

Shift Work 

People who work late into the night or all night can have their natural circadian rhythms disrupted. 

What to Do if You Need to Live a Nocturnal Lifestyle 

Sometimes there are instances when a person has to live with disrupted circadian rhythms: for example, if they work in shifts or at night. In such cases, shift work syndrome can develop. 


It's dangerous because a person may feel drowsy and less focused during the day, whether they are at work or driving. This puts their life and health at risk. Without treatment, shift work disorder can lead to serious complications: aggravating already existing gastrointestinal diseases, metabolic problems, heart and vascular disease, and reproductive problems. 


Here's what you can do to improve your condition if you can't change your lifestyle: 

  • Try to stick to a consistent sleep schedule. A stable schedule will help your body adapt, and you'll feel better even if your resting time differs from the typical "11:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m." time. 
  • Use light to help your body adapt. If you work at night, try to avoid bright light on your way home in the morning - you can use sunglasses for this. Before going to bed, try to make your bedroom as dark as possible: for example, use blackout curtains. If you need to wake up and be active in the dark, try using bright light - white or blue is best. 
  • Avoid caffeine eight hours before bedtime. While caffeine helps you stay awake during your shift, it can interfere with your ability to fall asleep after work. It's better to have your last cup of coffee early. Also consider that caffeine isn't only in coffee but also in cola, chocolate, and tea, for example. 
  • Allow yourself to rest. Sometimes there is no time to rest after a hard shift: you have to do household chores, finish what you didn't have time to do during working hours, or run to a meeting. But to avoid feeling frazzled the next day, it's important to make time for effective rest to help you sleep better and healthier. Try dimming the lights, putting on some quiet music, doing some light stretching, and taking a warm shower. 
  • Seek help from your doctor. A specialist will give you advice on how to adjust your lifestyle and prescribe treatment, including medication if necessary. 


After all, Circadian rhythms are determined by genes, and they are individualized in each person. Despite this, internal rhythms can be disturbed or even broken - but if you do the right thing, you can restore them. However, it will be impossible to do it quickly and easily: it's a long process, in which the mode will have to be restored gradually. Understanding our body's circadian rhythms is crucial for maintaining healthy sleep-wake cycles. Alternaleaf offers plant-based medicine alternatives to reset natural processes, aligning with the growing appreciation for nature's solutions.


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