April 20, 2020

The importance of rhythm.... (written during lockdown April 2020)

Not the type that I've tried to harness whilst desperately trying to prove to my daughters that I CAN do the dance to "you'll never have a friend like me" on TikTok, but the natural one that controls our inner biological clock.....

The circadian rhythm

If you’ve ever noticed that you tend to feel energised and drowsy around the same times every day, you have your circadian rhythm to thank (although this may also have something to do with blood sugar – that’s a whole other blog!). Your circadian rhythm is basically a 24-hour internal clock that is running in the background of your brain and cycles between sleepiness and alertness at regular intervals. It's also known as your sleep/wake cycle.

A part of your brain (your hypothalamus if you want to get technical) controls your circadian rhythm but other factors such as light and dark can also impact on it. When it’s dark at night, your eyes send a signal to the hypothalamus that it’s time to feel tired. Your brain, in turn, sends a signal to your body to release the hormone melatonin, which makes your body tired. That’s why your circadian rhythm tends to coincide with the cycle of daytime and night-time (and why it’s so hard for shift workers to sleep during the day and stay awake at night)

Routine

Your circadian rhythm works best when you have regular sleep habits, like going to bed at night and waking up in the morning around the same times from day to day (including weekends). When things disrupt this cycle e.g. staying up late to binge watch 'Grey’s Anatomy' (okay, I know I’m so late coming to this), having lie ins because you’ve been up late, talking to friends on 'House Party', drinking alcohol, having too much light in your bedroom, too much screen time, the list is endless – this cycle can be disrupted and you could get ill.

Health and immunity

Experts warn that ignoring our circadian rhythm may contribute to a range of diseases such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, fatly liver disease, depression and anxiety. Research is starting to find that the immune response function varies according to the time of day and this in turn may impact on when medication is taken so even conventional medicine is seeing how important this rhythm is!

Lockdown

I’m writing this as I expect a lot of us will be doing quite a few of the above (even when we’re not on lockdown) so now is a great time to try and sort your rhythm out. Good sleep hygiene e.g. no screen time an hour before bed, bedroom dark as possible and cool, going to bed and getting up at the same time every day would be a great place to start. In addition, thinking about when and what you eat to support your immune system is just as important so that it can do its job at the time of day its been used to over the years of evolution....

Now back to my sad Mum dancing.

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