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?