Although circadian rhythms have been observed by scientists for centuries, they never gained much footing in the Western medicine paradigm, and therefore seem to be on the periphery in terms of importance. This shouldn’t be the case. In this post, I’ll share some beneficial reasons for learning about and supporting these internal cycles that are tied to Nature.
Derk-Jan Dijk, director of the Surrey Sleep Research Centre in Guildford, UK, explains in an article for the international journal Nature that the human body is a house with clocks in every corner, yet in one way or another they work in an organized way. The timing of our internal clocks profoundly influences metabolism, immunity, and many other critical functions, he goes on to say. Pretty important, wouldn’t you agree?
A fact sheet from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences describes the body’s various clocks. Circadian rhythms are physical, mental, and behavioral (processes) that follow a 24-hour cycle. (They) respond primarily to light and dark and affect most living things, including animals, plants, and microbes. We also have biological clocks, which regulate the cycling of our circadian rhythms. And then there is the master clock found in the brain which helps keep everything in sync.
In a past post, Nature Interrupted, I mentioned the importance of these biological time keepers. Disruption of circadian rhythms, whether through jet travel, shift work, or sleep disturbances, is a known risk factor for several types of cancer, states a release from the Public Library of Science: Biology. Additionally, a paper from Aging-US indicates many physiological processes such as hormone production and the sleep-wake cycle are under direct control of the circadian clock, and interferences in these cycles are linked to various diseases.
Over the years, I’ve read a lot about how psychological issues can be brought on or exacerbated by poor sleep. A Harvard Health Publishing write-up reports a person’s circadian tendency can affect their choice of emotional coping skills, such as assertiveness or rationalization. And an article from the National Institute of Health asserts the disruption of circadian rhythms can contribute to depression.
Disturbances in our biological rhythms can contribute to premature aging, as well. The fact that several different components of the circadian clock are involved in the regulation of aging supports the idea that an intact circadian clock is important for longevity, and disruption of circadian oscillations may lead to the acceleration of aging, according to this research paper out of Cleveland State University.
As for metabolism, Dr. Michael Greger’s site nutritionfacts.org reports on a most interesting weight loss study. Two groups of women were given the same number of calories throughout the day, although the timing of the calorie loads differed: one group was given a 700-calorie meal for breakfast with a lighter lunch & dinner, while the others got a 700-calorie meal for dinner, and fewer calories for breakfast & lunch. The group that ate most of their calories early in the day lost 11 pounds more than the other group. This, the article says, is due to the power of biological timing. I’ve read from various sources that lunch should be larger than dinner, but breakfast as the most calorie-dense meal of the day? Fascinating!
Supporting healthy biorhythms is pretty simple, but requires habituation. Viewing the sun as it rises and sets, spending time outside during the day, and shutting down devices a couple hours before bedtime are good places to start. In addition, this article from The Holistic Ingredient suggests trying to stick to a pretty regular schedule of sleeping, waking, eating, working, and exercise. Keeping a schedule can help you maintain your internal rhythms, even after a restless night’s sleep, and your focus and attentiveness will improve because your body learns how to get ready for (your planned activities), the article states.
How Western medicine can virtually ignore the significance of circadian rhythms is beyond me. Taking steps to keep our bio-clocks in sync with the rhythms of our primal Mother Earth appears to be of utmost importance for a healthy mind and body, as well as a long life.
Blessings for Biorhythmic Sync,
The content of this article is for educational and informational purposes only, and is not intended as medical advice. Please consult with a qualified health care professional before acting on any information presented herein. Any statements about the possible health benefits of any subject discussed have not been evaluated by medical professionals or the Food & Drug Administration and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease or illness.