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Circadian Rhythms

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On a 24 hour period, we should be in tune with our natural circadian rhythm.  The word circadian comes from the Latin word circa, meaning ‘around’ and diem which means ‘day’.  Every animal, plant and other living organism tunes into this 24 hour period.  The natural rhythm affects our body’s temperature, alertness, performance, blood pressure, immunity, hormones, bone turnover, neurotransmitter function, etc. All of our rhythms are interconnected so if you strengthen one rhythm you positively affect others, but this can work against us as well.  If you allow one rhythm to be disrupted it will also take the others and with it.

When a medicine or supplements are given at a particular time in the cycle it can have a different effect on the body than it would if given 12 hours later.  For example, a hormone given at the right time and in the correct sequence with other hormones can be very effective at regulating the body’s endocrine function.  However, if given at the wrong time can be very disruptive.  When you go to sleep is important in dictation rhythms, but it pales in comparison to when you wake up and what you do in those early hours.  This is the most important part of the day for providing the cues our biological watch needs to remain accurate.

Our Body’s Primary Cues:

  • Light and dark -need approximately 3 hours of quality light exposure to entrain rhythms (many probably need more)
  • Meal timing- eating breakfast and lunch are most important
  • Social conditioning- a routine behavior done at the same time every day can and will have some influence as an external cue for keeping our biological clocks accurate

Disruptive Factors

  • Excessive stress
  • Artificial lights at night
  • Screen time, especially at night
  • Electromagnetic fields
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Flying over time zones
  • Excessive caffeine or alcohol intake
  • Medications- dependent on time and dosage
  • Supplements- dependent on time and dosage
  • Hormones- dependent on time and dosage

Why is maintaining a healthy circadian rhythm important?

Many studies have shown a connection between the disruption of the rhythm and increased risk of cancer, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.  This article from the Academic Journal of Qatar is a great overview of major non-communicable diseases (lifestyle based disease) and the circadian rhythm.

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