Your circadian rhythm, sometimes also called “the body’s clock” is the natural cycle of physical, mental, and behavior changes that the body goes through in a 24-hour cycle. Circadian rhythms are mostly affected by light and darkness. Our circadian rhythm is controlled by the Suprachiasmatic Nucleus (SCN), a group of cells in the hypothalamus (in the brain) that respond to light and dark signals..
Circadian rhythm sleep disorders involve either difficulty falling asleep, waking up during the sleep cycle or waking up too early and being unable to fall back to sleep. Circadian rhythm sleep disorders are a group of sleep disorders that all share the common feature of a disruption in the timing of sleep.
Circadian rhythm sleep disorders may be caused by one of these problems:
- It is the most common circadian sleep problem. This occurs when a person travels across many time zones. The jet lag can last for a week depending on distance travelled. Insomnia and daytime sleepiness are some symptoms of jet lag.
- It affects people who work night shifts or rotating shifts. This problem is similar to jet lag. People who work rotating shifts often find it hard to get enough sleep. Their changing work schedules keep them from setting a sleep pattern.
Delayed sleep phase disorder (DSP)
- People with delayed sleep phase disorder are not able to fall asleep at a normal time at night. They may stay awake until 2 a.m. or later and this makes it hard for them to wake up in time for work or school and may cause mental stress especially in young adults.
Advanced sleep phase disorder (ASP)
- Older adults experienced this kind of problem where they tend to get very sleepy in the early afternoon. As a result, they go to bed much earlier than normal. This causes them to wake up too early in the morning and then they are unable to go back to sleep.
Irregular sleep-wake rhythm
- People with an irregular sleep-wake rhythm are unable to set a sleep pattern and their bedtimes may occur at various times in a 24-hour period. The problems that result are much like those related to jet lag.
A disrupted body clock can lead to poor quality sleep, weight gain and even health problems, such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Get your body clock in sync and improve your sleep quality with these handy tips.
- Force Yourself to Get up Early
- Resetting your sleep clock starts with getting up bright and early, whether you feel like it or not.
- Eat at regular meal times
- Breakfast, lunch and dinner are signals to our body to fire up our metabolism and fuel up during our active hours of the day. Eating irregularly can confuse our body clock.
- Stay Hydrated Throughout The Day
- Drinking water throughout the day can improve your energy levels and help to recalibrate your body, bringing you back to homeostasis.
- Dim the lights in the evening
- Darkness plays a role in making you feel sleepy. If you’re exposed to too much artificial light at night, it can hamper this process, interfering with your desire to sleep.
- Stop Looking at Screens
- Give yourself a two-hour before-bedtime to turn off all devices, or you can wear blue-blocking glasses if that is not possible. It’s simple if you’re going to bed at 9:30 pm, stop looking at your phone and other kinds of gadgets by 7:30 pm.
- Work Out Early
- Working out first thing in the morning to signal to your body and brain that it’s time to wake up time. Avoid working out at night, if you have issues sleeping as the work out may keep you too revved up to sleep.
We are all different and if you want a better work/sleep schedule, your circadian rhythm plays an important role. You need to see what does and does not work for you, by trying different things and noting what happens.