Researchers are discovering your circadian rhythms are much more important than we once thought. These rhythms influence your metabolism, behavior, hormones, sleep, body temperature, recovery processes, neurotransmitters, and even when you feel hungry.
This is more than your sleep cycle, everything in your body runs on these clocks – and you have the power to improve them for a better, healthier life.
They are so important, the 2017 Nobel Prize in Medicine was awarded to three scientists for their work on the biological rhythms that run our lives.
“With exquisite precision, our inner clock adapts our physiology to the dramatically different phases of the day. The clock regulates critical functions such as behavior, hormone levels, sleep, body temperature and metabolism. Our wellbeing is affected when there is a temporary mismatch between our external environment and this internal biological clock…”
All of these rhythms impact your overall health. And when your rhythms are off balance it can make you sick and cause disease.
Interestingly, increasing evidence is showing your circadian rhythms are influenced by your metabolism and vice versa. Your metabolism is made up of billions of chemical processes. These processes are occurring every second of every day to keep you alive.
And these metabolic processes are impacted by everything you do – diet, exercise, and lifestyle choices.
Imagine your metabolism is an orchestra and your circadian rhythm is the conductor. Your circadian rhythm brings different instruments together to conduct the wonderful symphony that is your health. When everything is in tune and playing on time, you are healthy.
Beyond your sleep cycle
You probably know your circadian rhythm regulates your wakefulness and sleepiness, but it’s much more than that.
Your circadian rhythm is made up of over 20,0000 neurons in the hypothalamus of your brain called the suprachiasmatic nucleas (SCN).
These bad boys control all of your biological cycles, your hormones, enzymes, and interactions not yet realized.
This very important group of neurons – the SCN – is located just above the optic nerves of the eyes. So it’s no surprise that light heavily influences these processes. It’s the reason doctors are begging you to stay away from screens before bed. But it’s also much more than light and the SCN that impacts your circadian rhythm.
You have many internal clocks
For many years, the SCN was thought to be the source of your circadian rhythm – but there’s more.
You have what’s called peripheral clocks operating throughout your body in tissues and cells. These peripheral clocks impact your central clock (the SCN) on a cellular level through billions of chemical reactions.
Most of these interactions are primarily impacted by what you eat or your metabolic state.
Together your central clock and peripheral clocks prioritize major bodily functions.
This includes if and when to repair tissues, when to make you hungry, when to sleep, when to wake up, and more.
When these cycles are thrown off balance by poor quality sleep, unhealthy eating, lack of exercise, exposure to bad light (especially late at night), and other seemingly inconsequential activities – your body can become sick.
Abnormal circadian rhythms can cause disease
It makes sense that sleep disorders would be significantly impacted by circadian rhythms but it’s more than that. A number of chronic diseases have been directly linked to abnormal circadian rhythms, including:
- Bipolar disorder
- Memory difficulties
- Seasonal affective disorder
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Metabolic disorders
- Cardiovascular disease
It’s important to understand that circadian rhythms are usually disrupted by lifestyle choices, which can be improved by behavior modification.
You have serious power when it comes to your circadian rhythm!
Your metabolism & your circadian rhythm
Your brain is only about 2% of your body weight but it consumes 20% of your energy!
There are sensors called, “food-entrainable oscillators” in both your central and peripheral clocks that measure the energy you’re consuming. These sensors send signals to your entire body and help you know when you’re hungry and what you’re eating.
Just like your sleep cycles, your energy cycles run on a similar schedule. As you eat and drink throughout the day you are sending signals to your food-entrainable oscillators, which impact your circadian rhythm – including your hormones and thousands of other body functions.
You might notice you get hungry at the same time every day – that’s this process in action.
When you wake up in the morning, your body releases insulin to get ready for the breakfast it thinks you’re going to eat. This insulin is on standby, waiting to turn breakfast into energy for the day.
Interactions like this happen all day long. And because of the sensitivity of your circadian rhythm, you can influence it relatively easily.
Let’s reset your body’s clock
By simply understanding how your habits can impact your circadian rhythm, you can improve your bodily functions in a tremendous way through incorporating these seven principles into your life.
- Wake-up at the same time every day – This allows your body to regulate your hormone cycles better.
- In the morning, make sure you wake up to light – Turn on the lights to start your day and activate your wakefulness hormones. I actually have a light alarm clock that turns on 20 minutes before it’s time to wake up – I wake up more naturally now.
- Socialize during the day – Socializing during the day has been shown to help regulate your circadian rhythm better.
- Reduce sugar intake or pair with healthy fat – Sugar causes insulin spikes, which impacts your circadian rhythm. When you pair sugar with healthy fats, it reduces the severity of these insulin spikes.
- Don’t drink caffeine late in the day – You’ve probably heard this advice before but it’s more important that you probably realize. Caffeine inhibits natural melatonin levels.
- Avoid bright light and screens before bed – Doctor’s are practically begging you to do this. It may seem inconsequential but it can wreck your circadian rhythm. Your body doesn’t understand the difference between daylight and screen light. You can also help your body by installing F.lux to filter out the blue light.
- Workout during the day – Working out at night directly conflicts with your evening hormones and cycles. Your body is trying to wind down for the day and when you exercise at night, you’re confusing it.
These seven habits can help you reset your internal clock and are guaranteed to make you feel better – you might be surprised by just how much!
The body is truly amazing and we have so much control over how we feel each day!