Understanding the Circadian Rhythm: Your Body's Internal Clock

Understanding the Circadian Rhythm: Your Body's Internal Clock

The circadian rhythm is your body’s internal clock which helps regulate functions like sleep, hormone production, body temperature, and metabolism. It’s a 24 hour cycle that is also influenced by external factors, like light and darkness, and internal factors, like genetics and age.

The primary external factor that influences the circadian rhythm is light. Exposure to light, particularly natural sunlight, helps reset the internal clock and signal to the body that it's time to be awake and alert. Conversely, exposure to darkness signals the body to release melatonin, a hormone that promotes sleep. 

Disruptions to the circadian rhythm can occur when there is a mismatch between the body's internal clock and external cues, such as jet lag, shift work, or exposure to artificial light at night. This can lead to a variety of health problems, including sleep disorders, depression, and even an increased risk of chronic diseases like obesity and diabetes.

So what can we do to maintain a healthy circadian rhythm? Lots!

  • Establish a consistent sleep-wake schedule (aka go to bed and wake up around the same time every night)
  • Get natural sunlight exposure throughout the day (especially when you first wake up!) 
  • Minimize exposure to artificial light at night (aka get off your phone/laptop)
  • Limit caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine close to bedtime (and if we’re being real, at all times) 
  • Try to establish an eating schedule that gives you a good amount of time to digest before you sleep 
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