The circadian rhythm

The circadian rhythm
Drawing by Adrian Serghie

   It is a strange term that sounds like a form of dance or something, but it’s actually our internal clock. Yes, we have an inner clock. This 24-hour clock pretty much sets when we need to feel energized and when we need to feel tired based in the daylight and based on our sleeping habits.

   From a biological point of view, when it gets dark outside, our eyes signal our hypothalamus about this and our hypothalamus signals to our body to release some melatonin and the result is that we get tired. Our body does this because we need to sleep from time to time even though we try to push as much as we can to get the most out of the day. Batteries need their charging time and so do we.

   It is called a rhythm because it needs to be similar from one day to another. This means that in order to keep it, we need to go to sleep pretty much the same hour every day and wake up at the same hour in the morning. If we mess this up, we disrupt the rhythm and we all know that our body loves harmony and balance (remember the homeostasis).

   What’s the big deal if we mess it up? It will still have 24 hours, right? Well, not necessarily. If we wake up at 7 AM and we do our things until 12 PM and then we sleep until 8 AM the next day, it’s a 25-hour cycle. If we wake up at 6 AM, it’s a 23-hour cycle. It’s ok to do it from time to time, but apparently disruptions in our circadian rhythm have negative consequences in the long term (btw, even though we wake up at 7 each morning, if we go to sleep at different hours each day, it’s also called a disruption).

   “Disruption to rhythms usually has a negative effect. Many travellers have experienced the condition known as jet lag, with its associated symptoms of fatigue, disorientation, and insomnia.

A number of other disorders, for example bipolar disorder and some sleep disorders such as delayed sleep phase disorder (DSPD), are associated with irregular or pathological functioning of circadian rhythms.

Disruption to rhythms in the longer term is believed to have significant adverse health consequences on peripheral organs outside the brain, in particular in the development or exacerbation of cardiovascular disease. Blue LED lighting suppresses melatonin production five times more than the orange-yellow high-pressure sodium (HPS) light; a metal halide lamp, which is white light, suppresses melatonin at a rate more than three times greater than HPS. Depression symptoms from long term night-time light exposure can be undone by returning to a normal cycle.” – Wikipedia

   If you ever thought you need some rhythm in your life, you’re probably looking for the circadian rhythm. Researching this made me think that I need a better sleeping schedule because now I don’t have one and according to the above, it’s not a good thing.

   What sleeping pattern do you have?

38 thoughts on “The circadian rhythm

  1. My sleep pattern is very much disturbed. There is no pattern. Just… moments of passing out. I slept maybe 3 or so hours last night. Because I know when I crawled into bed and back out again. But otherwise… Just.. random. I used to sleep 10 hours plus naps.

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  2. I’m pretty good with timing…I wake at 5am every day, go to bed 11pm and always fall straight to sleep. But I use Twitter on my phone (blue light) right up until I go to sleep, and I have a severe fear of the dark, which means there has to be a light on for me to sleep. It’s not ideal for circadian rhythm that’s for sure.

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      1. It’s an Android. Both times it set the screen brightness to maximum and disabled the slider so there’s no way to turn the brightness down, even after uninstalling the app! I’m glad it works for you though, I’m sure it’s great when it works…must be my phone 🤔

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  3. Thank you for this post, DM. It’s a great reminder for those of us who are so eager to do so much, only to suffer from depression cycles as a result. I often hear “sleep is for the weak” while I was still in the university. Well, I always thought that sleep is life. It’s just that I often fall into the trap of extending my sleeping time to do much more in a day. Hmmm. Looks like I got to watch on myself even more closely and think, think, think always about the consequences of not getting the right amount of sleep and not getting it at the right time.

    To better sleeping habits!

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  4. Well, I believe that the clock/calendar was invented in order to organize society and the only creatures on the planet that use such inventions are the human beings… 🙂 if one goes back in history far enough, one will find that not even the human used such invention… as for me, I only use the clock/calendar for social events (appointments, etc), otherwise it is totally ignored… 🙂

    “Why should we live with such hurry and waste of life? We are determined to be starved before we are hungry.”
    – Henry David Thoreau

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      1. Most of the part, myself (even with my job when I chose it). And I’m ok with it. I find freedom in discipline because it allows me to do all sorts of things.

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      2. I see…. 🙂

        “I used to have all these plans and think ‘Ah, I have my whole life figured out’, but then I realized no matter how much I plan: life happens! So I find myself living day to day trying to do my best, embracing every moment as a learning opportunity and chance to get to know myself a little more.” Q’orianka Kilcher

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      1. I fall asleep but literally can’t make my mind stop going! I have tried meditating and breathing deeply. I think a lot of it is b/c we have been in constant transition since January and just moved across the country 3 short months ago.

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      2. I’ve battled sleep my whole adult life especially as a result of the depression and anxiety that went undiagnosed and treated from 17-27. Once that was treated things got more into a rhythm but I haven’t needed meds since 2003 and I am so thankful. For about 6 months before moving I was in the most stressful time of my entire life and I think I just allowed it to do its worst even though I couldn’t control any of it. I am hopeful with some changes before bed things will find a more normal pattern again.

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  5. I have always been a night person who has had to conform to society’s day schedule. The same with my children and grandchildren. My son always takes the graveyard shift at work; which, works really well for him. I think that we are probably descended from people who were watchers–those who kept watch over the camps and fortresses at night while others slept.

    For the past 2 years, my sleeping habits have turned into something like a cat’s. I sleep for 3 hours and I’m up for 3 hours over and over continuously. I’m sure it was brought on by intense stress. Now that the stress has lessened, the sleep pattern is still the same. However, I sleep deeper now and feel much more rested upon waking. Throughout my life, I have always fallen asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow, though. I very rarely have insomnia.

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  7. There was a point in my life when I realised that I had to change my priorities and schedule my sleep. Due to increased workload, I ended up sleeping on occasions only 3-4 hours. I started to become ill. That had to change. But I didn’t know how much sleeping hours I actually needed.
    So when the opportunity came (in the form of a few weeks off work), I gave it a try. I went to bed at the same time (9:30 pm) and I woke up when I woke up. My brain/body didn’t need too much time to fall into a rhythm (probably three weeks): I started to wake up at 6:00 am. That is 8.5 hours sleep. Then I changed the starting point to see if it would make any difference (8:30 pm, 9:00 pm, 10:00 pm, 10:30 pm, 11:00 pm). I ended up sleeping the same length. However, how I could function during the day wasn’t the same. I found that when I go to sleep between 9:00 pm and 10:00 pm, and wake up between 5:30 am and 6:30 am is optimal for me.
    8.5 hours seems a lot. But I had to accept that my body and brain is human, with their annoying little needs. Like sleep… Eh

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