Circadian Rhythm And Sleep (As Per Modern Science And Ayurveda) – Heal Me Right

Circadian Rhythm And Sleep (As Per Modern Science And Ayurveda)

Sync your body clock: Understanding the importance of circadian rhythm

Ever wondered why we only sleep at night and stay awake during the day?

Why staying awake at night is shown to cause health problems? (even though some of us may claim to be more productive at night)

It is through sleep that our body takes rest and restores physical and mental health. There’s a lot more that happens in your sleep than just physical rejuvenation. The duration and timing of your sleep are directly related to the quality of your life in multiple ways through the circadian rhythm.

What Is Circadian Rhythm?

Circadian rhythm is an internal process that regulates the sleep-wake cycle and our other behavioural and physiological processes. This rhythm is controlled by an internal “biological clock” and is influenced by various external cues such as light and temperature. 

How Does Circadian Rhythm Work?

The molecules and the organs of your body constantly interact with each other to keep this biological clock running properly.

The circadian rhythm regulates our physical, mental, and behavioural changes that occur in a roughly 24-hour cycle, according to NIH.

This rhythm helps to regulate physio-psychological processes such as sleep, hormone release, metabolism and mood. It is controlled by the hypothalamus also known as your body’s “smart control”. It is only because of this rhythm that we are able to sleep at night and stay awake and active during the day. 

When the sun goes down the light receptors in your retina sense the darkness and this stimulates the production of melatonin which makes you drowsy. So, darkness helps in sleeping.

human body function as per circadian rhythm

Source: NIH 

Ayurveda, the 5000-year-old system of holistic healthcare, has also documented the details of this circadian rhythm and its health correlation named by the principle of dinacharya.

Circadian Rhythm And Dinacharya

In Ayurveda, the circadian rhythm is associated with the concept of “dinacharya,” which refers to the “daily routine” and practices that help maintain physical, mental, and spiritual health.

Different bodily processes follow different rhythms, and it is important to synchronize these rhythms with the daily routine to maintain balance and wellness.

The Ayurvedic daily routine/dinacharya tells that there is a specific time at which you should do your daily activities like,

  • waking up early in the morning
  • doing physical activity 
  • having meals
  • working during the day
  • going to bed

According to Ayurveda, maintaining a disciplined dinacharya helps balance the three doshas vata, pitta, and kapha – which are considered the fundamental energies that govern the body.

The 24-hour duration is divided into 6 parts during which the essential bodily functions happen. This division is not done strictly based on our digital clocks but on the position of the sun in that geographical region.

ayurvedic biological clock

So, the concept of circadian rhythm is

  • well recognized in both modern science and Ayurveda,
  • shown to affect overall health and well-being, 
  • closely connected with the light (position of the sun in the sky).

Studies prove that disruptions to the circadian rhythm can have adverse effects on health and well-being, as discussed below.

6 Causes Of Circadian Disruption

When you are constantly working against the natural and your own biological clock, your circadian rhythm gets disturbed. Some common reasons are listed below 

  1. Artificial light exposure

Exposure to artificial light at night, particularly from electronic devices, can interfere with the production of melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep. This can cause circadian disruption and lead to sleep disturbances.

  1. Shift work

Working irregular hours or night shifts can disrupt the natural circadian rhythm, leading to fatigue, sleep disturbances, and other health problems.

  1. Travel across time zones

Rapid travel across time zones, such as during air travel, can cause circadian disruption due to the mismatch between the body’s internal clock and the new time zone. This is commonly referred to as jet lag.

  1. Ageing

As people age, the circadian system can become less synchronized with the external environment, leading to sleep disturbances and other symptoms of circadian disruption.

  1. Chronic illness

Chronic illnesses, such as depression, can interfere with the circadian system and cause symptoms of circadian disruption.

  1. Substance use

Certain substances, such as caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine, can disrupt the circadian system and cause sleep disturbances.

7 Signs Of Circadian Disruption

The following are common signs of circadian disruption:

  1. Insomnia or difficulty falling asleep
  2. Fatigue or excessive sleepiness
  3. Mood changes, such as irritability or depression
  4. Difficulty concentrating or decreased cognitive function
  5. The decreased physical performance or increased muscle fatigue
  6. Increased appetite and weight gain
  7. Falling sick too often and having weak immunity

It is important to note that these symptoms could be caused by reasons beyond circadian rhythm disruption.

Prolonged disturbance in the natural sleep cycle is linked with an increased risk of metabolic health issues like diabetes, hypothyroidism, obesity, and heart attack.

Best Time And Duration For Sleep

Studies conducted on the ayurvedic texts reveal that the most crucial time for sleep is between 10 PM to 2 AM.

Similarly, According to modern science, the best time for sleep is between 10 PM and 6 AM, as this aligns with the natural circadian rhythm and allows for the most restorative and rejuvenating sleep.

As for the duration of sleep, the National Sleep Foundation recommends the following sleep durations based on age:

  • Newborns (0-3 months): 14-17 hours
  • Infants (4-11 months): 12-15 hours
  • Toddlers (1-2 years): 11-14 hours
  • Preschoolers (3-5 years): 10-13 hours
  • School-age children (6-13 years): 9-11 hours
  • Teenagers (14-17 years): 8-10 hours
  • Young adults (18-25 years): 7-9 hours
  • Adults (26-64 years): 7-9 hours
  • Older adults (65+ years): 7-8 hours

It’s important to note that individual sleep needs may vary, and some people may need more or less sleep than the recommended guidelines. Factors such as lifestyle, health, and personal sleep habits can all affect the duration of sleep needed.

Overall, the best time and duration for sleep is a personal and individualized matter, and it’s important to pay attention to your body’s natural sleep patterns and to prioritize good sleep hygiene to ensure optimal sleep quality and health.

7 Tips To Fix Circadian Rhythm And Sleep Better

A perfect circadian rhythm can be observed in a natural setting where you are able to experience the daylight and darkness of the night and have natural sleep and wake cycle.

In recent times, there has been the number of people staying up late at night has increased due to numerous professional and personal reasons, causing them to mess up their circadian rhythm adversely, leading to physical and mental stress.

Here are some tips that may help you fix your circadian rhythm and sleep better:

  1. Establish a consistent sleep schedule

Try to sleep and wake up roughly at the same time every day, including at weekends. This may gradually help regulate your body’s internal clock and enhance your sleep quality.

  1. Avoid gadgets before bedtime

The blue light emitted by screens (e.g., phones, laptops, and televisions) can interfere with the production of melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate sleep. Avoid using screens before bedtime.

  1. Get exposure to natural light

During the day, try to get as much exposure to natural light as possible. This helps regulate your circadian rhythm and improve the quality of your sleep.

  1. Avoid caffeine and alcohol

Caffeine and alcohol can disrupt your sleep, so avoid consuming these substances for at least a few hours before bedtime.

  1. Create a relaxing bedtime routine

Develop a relaxing routine that you follow every night before bed. This could include reading a book, taking a warm bath, or practising relaxation techniques like meditation or deep breathing.

  1. Exercise regularly

Regular physical activity can help regulate your circadian rhythm and improve the quality of your sleep. Just be sure to finish exercising a few hours before bedtime, as exercising too close to bedtime can make it harder to fall asleep.

  1. Sleep in a dark room

Create a sleep environment that is cool, dark, and quiet to help promote restful sleep without distractions. Darkness helps in melatonin secretion which ensures good sleep.

Remember, it may take some time for these changes to have an effect, so be patient and persistent. Consult a healthcare professional if you face difficulty falling asleep or have had poor sleep quality for a long time. 

Key Takeaways

  • Circadian rhythm can be caused by irregular sleep schedules, exposure to artificial lights and health imbalances.
  • You can sync your circadian rhythm by following a disciplined lifestyle, avoiding caffeine ad eating healthily.
  • Consult your physician if your disturbed sleep pattern is impacting your ability to focus or leads in day-to-day tasks.

Frequently Asked Questions

What hormone regulates circadian rhythms?

The hormone that regulates circadian rhythm is called melatonin, which is produced by the pineal gland in the brain.

What is the fastest way to reset a circadian rhythm?

The fastest way to fix your circadian rhythm is by exposing yourself to bright natural light in the morning, which can help shift the body’s natural clock earlier. Wake up with the sun and avoid bright light in the evening and keep a regular sleep schedule to help to reset the circadian rhythm.

Is circadian rhythm 24 or 25 hours?

The human circadian rhythm is typically about 24 hours, although it can vary somewhat from person to person and may be influenced by factors such as age, genetics, and exposure to light. However, in the absence of time cues from the environment, the body’s natural circadian rhythm tends to drift slightly over time, such that it is closer to 24.2-24.9 hours.

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