First and foremost, the circadian rhythm is an approximately 24-hour cycle that controls things like when you go to sleep, when you get up, when you eat, etc. In fact, the circadian rhythm controls your body’s physical, mental, and behavioral changes that follow a daily cycle. Moreover, the circadian rhythm is synchronized with the solar day and night.
Why is the Circadian Rhythm Important?
Now, as mentioned above, the circadian rhythm is important in determining when you sleep and when you eat. In addition, the circadian rhythm controls your brain wave activity, hormone production, cell regeneration, and other important biological processes. Moreover, disruptions in the circadian rhythm have been shown to give rise to a multitude of issues, such as sleep disorders, cardiovascular diseases, and certain types of cancer.
Disorders Due to Circadian Rhythm Disruptions
Regrettably, circadian rhythms aren’t always perfect. In fact, some of the disorders caused by disruptions in the circadian rhythm are listed below.
- First, you sleep late and get up late in the morning.
- Second, you sleep early and get up early in the morning.
- Third, you sleep early but wake up in the middle of the night.
- Fourth, you wake up too early, in the morning, but can’t go back to sleep.
- Next, you have difficulty even falling asleep.
- Or, you might get enough sleep but do not feel refreshed by the sleep.
- Or, you can fall asleep on the weekends but not on weekdays.
- Meanwhile, your circadian rhythm may keep moving forward every couple of days. As a result, you sleep later and later at night. Also, you get up later and later in the morning.
- Next, the, so called, delayed sleep phase syndrome may cause you to fall asleep very late at night. Also, you may have a hard time waking up in time for work, school, or social activities. By the way, this disorder is common in teens and young adults.
- Or, you may have the advanced sleep phase syndrome in which you go to sleep earlier and wake up earlier than you wanted.
- Finally, the irregular sleep-wake rhythm disorder can cause your circadian rhythm to be disturbed. As a result, you may sleep in a series of naps over 24 hours.
Other Disorders Due to Circadian Rhythm Disruptions
- First, if you work rotating shifts, your circadian rhythm is totally wrecked. For example, a conflict between your circadian rhythm and the time of your shift can mean you may sleep up to four hours less than the average person.
- Also, nighttime exposure to light disrupts your circadian rhythm. Furthermore, these disruptions have been linked to pathophysiological changes such as increased body mass, increased waist circumference, elevated triglyceride levels, and poor cholesterol balance. By the way, these are, also, all risk factors for cardiovascular diseases. Consequently, these pathophysiological changes and cardiovascular diseases occur frequently in evening-shift and overnight workers.
- Next, when the circadian clock of someone, who is blind, is disturbed, it causes a serious loss of quality sleep time at night while feeling sleepy during daylight hours.
- Or, you can’t fall asleep when you are travelling.
- Finally, jet lag or rapid time zone changes can cause symptoms like too much sleepiness, and a lack of alertness during the day. Therefore, it’s necessary to let your circadian rhythm adjust itself to the new time zone. By the way, the problem gets worse for each time zone crossed, especially when travelling east.
Causes of Circadian Rhythm Disruptions
- First, shift work.
- Second, rapid changes in time zones.
- Third, being pregnant.
- Fourth, taking certain medications.
- Fifth, changes in routine, such as staying up late or sleeping in.
- Next, medical problems such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s.
- Or, mental health problems.
- Or, menopause.
- Moreover, your circadian rhythm will likely change as you get older.
- Also, you may not have the same sleep/wake cycle as your partner, child or parents.
- Finally, critically ill patients in intensive care unit suffer disproportionately from sleep deprivation and frequent sleep disturbances from continuous lighting, noise, overnight patient-care interactions, mechanical ventilation, pain, surgery, fatigue, stress, sedation, and critical illness itself. And these, all disrupt the circadian rhythm of the critically ill patients.
However, as outlined below, there are ways to treat some of these disruptions.
- First, stay with your regular sleep-wake cycle.
- Second, don’t take naps in the afternoon.
- Third, exercise regularly. However, avoid exercising within several hours of bedtime. By the way, use machines that are said to help you sleep.
- Fourth, don’t drink or eat caffeinated items such as coffee after two in the afternoon.
- Also, avoid nicotine for several hours before bed.
- Next, people who sleep late should reduce indoor lighting, avoid bright TV and computer screens.
- Furthermore, those who sleep early should keep lights on in the house or spend time outdoors
- Moreover, you can use bright light therapy so that those who sleep too late, sleep earlier and those who sleep too early, sleep later. Also, the circadian rhythm can be reset by being around a bright light for a certain amount of time each day.
- Use medications to adjust your sleep-wake cycle to your desired schedule. These medications include melatonin, drugs to keep you awake, and short-term sleep aids. By the way, melatonin is also helpful to get over jet lag.
- Next, sleep in a quiet and dark room, which is also well-lit when you wake up.
- Finally, chronotherapy is useful to slowly adjust your bedtime until it reaches the time you want.