How a Faulty Circadian Rhythm Negatively Impacts Your Health (and What to Do to Make It Right)
Your circadian rhythm, or your body's internal clock, regulates
numerous biological processes that take place in your body
throughout the day and night.
Jet lag is a well-known reason why your body clock
may become disrupted, but anything that causes you to
lose sleep or change your normal routine can be problematic.
Your biological clock regulates what time you go to sleep
and wake up, and it also has profound impacts on other areas
of your physical and mental health, such as your metabolism,
sleep, weight, and risk of diseases and mood disorders.
What Disrupts Your Circadian Rhythm?
Your internal clock is highly intertwined with physiological
and behavioral processes, such as what time you wake up and
eat breakfast, your brain wave activity, hormone production,
and cell regeneration. Because of this, it doesn't quickly
adapt when your body suddenly takes on a new routine such
as may occur during:
For example, if you travel into a different time zone, your
body clock may be telling you it's time to go to sleep, when
it's actually time to wake up. This is why people with jet
lag often feel fatigued and disoriented, and may suffer
from insomnia, lost appetite, stomachaches, and feeling "out
of it." It can take a day or more for your circadian
rhythm to adjust to the new routine.
However, sometimes your body clock will have a hard time
adjusting to your new schedule (such as taking on a night
shift), and this faulty body clock can wreak havoc on your
People who are sleep-deprived tend to be hungrier and
crave high-sugar, high-carb foods, according to new
research that further solidifies the link between your
internal clock and potential weight gain.
Meanwhile, researchers are discovering that other factors,
such as your diet, may also impact your circadian rhythm.
The Dangers of a Faulty Body Clock
Researchers from Northwestern University and Evanston Northwestern
Healthcare have found that a faulty body clock can damage
your metabolism and raise your risk of obesity and diabetes.
In one study on mice, they found that those fed a high-fat
diet had disruptions to their body clocks that caused them
to overeat when they should have been sleeping. The finding
was similar to the patterns observed by people who snack all
day long and then continue to eat during the night, when they
should be asleep.
Meanwhile, research is increasingly showing that people who
work night shifts or travel to different time zones frequently
have disruptions to their body clocks that could impact their
Numerous studies have shown that both short- and long-term
sleep deprivation leads to a higher body-mass index (which
leptin, which helps to regulate your appetite, is almost
assuredly involved. When you don't get enough sleep, your
leptin levels are disturbed, and so is your ability to feel
According to researchers from the University of Chicago,
people who are sleep-deprived report feeling hungrier and
craving foods high in sugar and starch.
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In short, once your sleep patterns and body clock have been
disrupted, your body will be prone to weight gain and overeating.
Meanwhile, overeating may further throw off your circadian
rhythm, leading to a vicious cycle that can be hard to overcome.
How to Keep Your Circadian Rhythm Running Smoothly
Quite simply, getting
enough high-quality sleep is crucial to your body's internal
clock. Ideally, this also means sleeping when the external
cues tell you to (i.e. sleeping when it's dark outside and
waking when it's light). You can help yourself to a restful
night's sleep by:
Keeping to a regular schedule that includes a standard
time to go to sleep and wake up.
Creating a relaxing bedtime routine. This can include
a warm bath, a foot massage, stretching,
or listening to the Sleep
Easy CD. With guided sleep meditations by a leading
meditation expert (and contributing editor to SixWise.com)
and music by a renowned meditation music composer with
20 years experience, this CD will help you find deep rest
and sleep in just minutes every night.
stress in your life.
Following a regular exercise program, but refrain from
working out at within three hours of your bedtime.
Not drinking caffeinated or alcoholic beverages near
Makings your room "sleepable." A very dark
(pitch black), cool room is best for sleep. You should
also consider upgrading your mattress so that you feel
completely comfortable and relaxed.
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Metabolism November 2007, Vol 6, 414-421, 07
February 12, 2008
Daily February 11, 2008