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What is a Circadian Rhythm?

Posted by Daniella Cippitelli on
What is a Circadian Rhythm?

It’s time to ‘fall back’ from Daylight Savings Time into Standard Time, meaning the clocks will go back an hour. Some people like getting that extra hour of sleep that one day each fall. Some people don’t seem to be affected by it, and to some, it’s just a nuisance. Does it cause a physical disturbance in the body? To examine that, we’d have to look at circadian rhythms. 

A circadian rhythm, A.K.A. circadian cycle is the body’s internal process for regulating sleep-awake cycles. The cycle repeats approximately every 24 hours. The diurnal rhythm processes day and day. These biological rhythms are most affected by light. The cycle controls sleep, hormone secretion, body temperature and more. Sunlight tells the internal clock in your brain when it’s time to perform certain functions, like sleep.

Disruption to the biological clocks can include 

  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Lack of focus
  • Fatigue

Deviations in these patterns are controlled by a person’s chronotype. This can range from 23.5-24.6 hours.

 

Do we really acclimate to the change?

Some studies suggest that the human body never completely acclimates to the changes in Daylight Savings Time and Standard Time and that circadian misalignment may become a chronic issue. For most, the effects of the transition subside over a couple of weeks. Some people feel more refreshed when going back to standard time and gaining that extra hour of sleep. Though some studies suggest that not everyone actually gets an extra hour of sleep since most people tend to wake up earlier than usual.

  

Time Change Sleep Tips

• Help your body adjust gradually. In the 2 or 3 days leading up to time changes, try to adjust your sleeping time 15 minutes or so on each end of the day. This can help your body transition to the adjustment.

• Spend time outdoors during the daylight hours. Melatonin is produced by the body in the evening hours, so getting some natural sunlight can help suppress its production in the earlier evening hours. Many people do not like having the darker hours set in earlier at the end of the day, getting that natural sunlight can help from feeling tired too early. 

• Don’t consume caffeine too close to bedtime. Studies have shown that caffeine consumed within six hours of bedtime can disrupt sleep cycles.

 

The body is in amazing machine that knows how to regulate itself, when we throw those natural cycles off, we see how it can affect us in other ways. Practice good sleep habits and you can help ease yourself into the adjustment periods.

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