Tips to recalibrate your circadian rhythms and restore sleep

Presse Santé

You probably know that not getting enough sleep is bad for your health and well-being. But did you know that sleeping at the wrong time of day can be just as bad? Chronobiology is the study of the body’s circadian rhythms. It suggests that the daily timing of activities such as diet and exercise, and especially bedtime and light exposure, can have a profound impact on the daily functioning of the body and ultimately , be linked to the onset of long-term health conditions such as diabetes. or cancer. Circadian rhythm and sleep: how to keep both on track Our body’s circadian rhythms control bodily functions that are closely related to sleep. Definition of circadian rhythms and their biological clock Circadian rhythms are the physical changes , mental and behavioral changes that occur naturally in the body, and follow a 24-hour cycle, usually in response to light and sunlight. An example: being awake during the day and sleeping at night. Our biological clocks, or internal body clocks, are the natural timekeeping devices in our cells. It’s a collection of molecules that interact with cells to tell them when to do certain things (like release hormones that make you feel sleepy, awake, or hungry) that keep these circadian rhythms on track. The set of molecules triggers the production of other molecules. , which in turn trigger the next phase of the cycle and keep the cells going. The body also has a master internal clock. This clock is located in the hypothalamus of the brain (above the optic nerve). It’s called the suprachiasmatic nucleus, and it contains specialized cells that use a molecular process to keep time, research has shown. The master clock takes cues from the brightness or darkness to which we are exposed (the fact that these cells live near the eyes is no coincidence: the cells receive direct input from the eyes). The master clock coordinates the body’s other clocks by regulating things like body temperature and hormone levels, which in turn trigger the molecular clocks of individual cells. Most bodies operate on similar schedules (in terms of the natural need to sleep at night and be awake during the day) because we are exposed to similar light patterns during the day. But there are variations based on our behaviors, genetic makeup, and other factors. Research has identified, for example, that certain genes are linked to whether a person has an earlier or later circadian rhythm (whether they are an early bird or an owl). Some people fall right in the middle, others tend to naturally lean towards one end of the spectrum or the other. Others may have dysregulated circadian rhythms (and sleep-wake cycles) due to other factors, such as a night work schedule or a sleep disorder such as insomnia. The brain tries to synchronize its clock with daylight. So when you’re exposed to artificial light late at night, your body clock can shift toward the night end of the spectrum. Age is another factor that can affect circadian rhythms and whether the natural sleep-wake cycle (and other cycles) tend to be early or late. Teenagers, for example, may need to wake up an hour later and be more alert later in the day. Then, in adulthood, the cycle returns to about the middle of the day. What is the relationship between circadian rhythms and health? Since our internal clocks, which control each of our various bodily functions, are linked to the brain’s master clock, many things can go wrong if our circadian rhythms are out of whack. The sleep-wake rhythm is critical because physiological processes such as the production of appetite hormones, digestion, and even the immune system are designed to activate when we are awake and slow down when we sleep. Circadian rhythms themselves are really fundamental to our biology. If we disturb them, it has an impact on most systems. For example, the digestive system has its own circadian rhythm. After we wake up, the body releases certain hormones that make us hungry (and make us eat) and other hormones that help us break down and digest that food. These processes slow down during sleep. When we eat too early or too late in the day, there are fewer hormones that help digestion and the body has a harder time regulating blood sugar after a meal and absorbing and store the nutrients contained in food. That’s why, over time, this type of behavior may contribute to the development of obesity and diabetes, according to some research. Research suggests that circadian rhythm disruption and misalignment may play a role in the development or the progression of the following health conditions: – Diabetes – Heart disease – Certain cancers – Depression When are circadian rhythms disrupted or disordered? Insufficient sleep (less than seven hours per night for adults) and delayed sleep schedule (sleeping several hours later on weekends than during the week, or traveling across time zones) are among the most common clock disturbances biological But other factors can also alter circadian rhythms. Exposure to sunlight is an important factor. Some blind people, for example, have disrupted circadian rhythms because they don’t receive the light that powers the brain’s master clock. Research suggests that this can lead to a state where the body is out of sync with the environment and begins to “drift,” resulting in extended periods of what appears to be jet lag, Wright says. Night shifts are another factor in disrupting circadian rhythms, even if you get enough sleep. Spending too much time indoors under artificial lights, especially later in the day, can also disrupt your body’s natural rhythms and make you go to sleep later. And then, you may have a harder time waking up the next morning because of this mismatched bedtime. (The body’s circadian cycles aren’t designed for late-night TV binges.) Eating too close to bedtime can send signals to the brain to speed up digestion and thus stay awake. Research suggests that physical exercise can also send signals to the body that affect circadian rhythms. Long-term use of certain substances such as caffeine, melatonin, or marijuana can also affect your circadian rhythms. How to reset your circadian rhythm and keep it on track? Keeping a regular sleep schedule, even on the weekends, is one of the best ways to keep your circadian clock on track. If not, follow these tips to reset your circadian rhythms Maintain these habits to keep your clocks on time: Avoid eating and exercising during the day. This is especially important during the two hours before going to sleep. – Reduce exposure to artificial light during the night. In particular, try to reduce the amount of time you spend in strong, bright light (such as fluorescent light bulbs or the blue light from your cell phone or computer). Use soft light bulbs in your home and if you must use your appliances, put them in a mode where blue light is reduced – Get out in the morning. Or expose yourself to another bright light in the morning. Sunlight is ideal, but artificial light is better than nothing. If you work indoors, try to set up your desk near a window if possible. If not, take your morning coffee outside to expose yourself to the sun – Ask your doctor to recommend melatonin supplements. Melatonin is a natural hormone produced by the body to promote sleep at night. In some cases, such as before or after traveling to another time zone or with short-term insomnia, low doses of melatonin (between 1 and 3 milligrams) can help the body readjust to a sleep schedule and a healthy awakening. This supplement may interact with certain medications and should not be used long term. Therefore, it is advisable to talk to your doctor first.– If you work night shifts or irregular hours, you may not be able to avoid sleeping during the day and working at night. These people should be especially careful to try to prioritize other healthy choices, such as getting enough physical activity and not smoking, as these healthy habits can decrease the health risks associated with night work. And if shift workers can maintain meal times during the day, or at least align them more closely with a typical meal schedule, that’s ideal. Travel can also disrupt sleep schedules and the body’s circadian rhythms. Try to slowly adjust your sleep times by going to bed and getting up earlier before crossing time zones, so your system doesn’t take as much of a hit when you leave. Adjust your sleep schedule by one hour per day (starting enough days in advance so you can be at your destination on your departure date) to reduce jet lag upon arrival. * Presse Santé strives to transmit health knowledge in a language accessible to everyone. In no case can the information provided replace the advice of a health professional. Do you like our content? Get our latest posts for free every day straight to your inbox Tags Chronobiology internal clock melatonin sleep
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