Circadian Rhythm: Explained

Whenever we talk about sleep, we usually end up talking about circadian rhythms. But what is a circadian rhythm exactly? How does it affect our ability to get a good night’s rest? And if sleep is so important, what other positive effects can regulating circadian rhythms have on our health?

Well, technically speaking, circadian rhythms are biological processes that occur in a daily cycle. Those rhythms include anything from photosynthesis in plants to mating behaviors in moths. No matter which organism they’re found in, however, they’re all driven by a circadian clock. In humans, our master clock is called the “suprachiasmatic nucleus.” And yes, it’s located at the base of the hypothalamus in the brain. This clock heavily influences practically all of our circadian rhythms and helps keep them all in sync.

If we didn’t have circadian rhythms, our daily life would be very unpredictable! If you have ever taken care of a new born baby, you'd know how is life without a circadian clock. Newborn babies are still developing a fully functional circadian clock, so they don’t have a strong rhythm to the sleep/wake cycle. As a result, they feel hungry every 2 - 4 hours and cry in hunger. After feeding, they go back to sleep until they feel hungry again in a few hours. Imagine if we all were like babies. It would be hard to get together with friends or work in an office, as at any given time about half would be sleepy - and the other half would be awake or hungry.

As adults, our sleep is heavily defined by the release of melatonin (also known as sleep hormone.) This hormone is released during the evening, reaching its peak level at the middle of night, and decreasing to very low levels at the moment to wake up. Blue light exposure is the most widely-known factor impacting our circadian rhythm but several others exist, such as temperature. Adults usually have their lowest energy levels in the middle of the night, but the exact time can vary depending on your sleep chronotype. Night owls have peak energy at different times compared to morning people: the existence of an internal clock is more evident for shift workers and when you experience jet lag. Even the biannual hour shift can disrupt our cycle.

Obesity and diabetes are associated with both genetic and lifestyle factors and amongst them, disruptions in the sleep cycle might play a role in the development of metabolic disorders. Irregular eating times is associated with insulin sensitivity and higher body mass, which may lead to cardiovascular and hypertension in the long-term, reducing the life expectancy. 

The bottom line is that the little clock living inside our body actually matters a lot more than you'd think. Regulating sleep, of course, is crucial in keeping our little clock cranky rather than happy. Our Sleep Kits are designed to appease any bed time woes you may have - and ensure you keep your circadian clock happy, healthy and ticking as it should. 

Tags: Science, Wellness