Most people thrive on daily routines–and for good reason.
Not only do routines help us establish healthy habits, but they are also an important part of regulating your circadian rhythm–a 24-hour cycle that aids in the physiological processes of living beings.
One of the biggest factors that affects your circadian rhythm is your sleeping patterns, which is why establishing a routine sleeping pattern (and getting enough sleep) is key for keeping yourself healthy.
What exactly does a circadian rhythm influence in your body, and what do you need to do to keep it in check?
Keep reading to find out…
Circadian Rhythms Defined
Circadian rhythms are physical, mental, and behavioral changes that occur on a daily cycle.
They are found in humans, plants, and even microbes.
Essentially, your circadian rhythm is a 24-hour internal clock that works in the background of your brain and helps the body cycle between feeling tired and feeling alert at regular intervals.
It’s a key component of establishing our sleeping and feeding patterns.
Primarily our circadian rhythm is responsive to light and darkness. This is why most people sleep at night when it’s dark and are awake during the day when it’s light.
How Circadian Rhythms Work
Circadian rhythms work as part of the body’s master clock and are controlled by the hypothalamus. In a nutshell, the master clock controls the production of melatonin (and other naturally occurring hormones).
Often, the rhythm is triggered via info it receives from light that passes through the optic nerves.
When less light passes through the optic nerve, the body signals a release of melatonin, which makes you tired.
How Circadian Rhythms Impact Health
Anytime your body is off rhythm and is overproducing or underproducing hormones, your body is at risk.
For starters, if you don’t follow a normal sleeping routine, your circadian rhythm can impact…
- How your body releases hormones.
- Your eating habits.
- Body temperature.
Due to the issues listed above, prolonged abnormal circadian rhythms have been linked to…
- Sleep disorders.
- Hormonal imbalances.
How to Maintain a Healthy Circadian Rhythm
Don’t worry if you feel your circadian rhythm is off. There are a few easy, practical things you can do to get your body on track.
Here’s what I recommend…
Establish a Solid Daily Routine
Routine is key in maintaining your circadian rhythm, so make sure your day is scheduled.
It helps to get up every morning at the same time as well as go to bed at the same time each night. Eating meals on a schedule also helps keep your system on track.
If you’re not used to sleep schedules, this might be difficult at first, but eventually you will get accustomed to your new routine.
Make Sure You’re Getting Enough Sleep
4 hours of sleep at night is just simply not enough time for your body to process through its natural 24-hour rhythm cycle.
While everyone is different, I recommend at least 7 hours per night (preferably 7-9 hours) to help get your body back on schedule.
Limit Caffeine Intake/Screen Time
Consuming caffeine and watching TV or playing on a computer/phone/tablet all throw off the body’s natural sleeping pattern.
Caffeine binds to the adenosine receptors in the brain, which unnaturally energizes your body.
As for the technology, the light from screens tricks the brain into thinking it’s still daytime and, therefore, does not allow your body to naturally release melatonin to help put you to sleep.
Not getting enough sleep can turn into a real serious problem for some people. If you’re struggling with sleeping at night, I encourage you to check out one of my recent posts, 5 Common Causes of Insomnia, to see if there’s anything obvious that’s impacting your sleep cycle.