Circadian Rhythm – Why We Can’t Live Without It
The discovery of the human circadian rhythm won the Nobel Prize for Physiology / Medicine in 2017. This is because, without a functioning circadian rhythm, we would all be dead.
Jeffrey C. Hall, Michael W. Young, and Michael Rosbash were jointly awarded the 2017 Nobel Prize for discovering the human molecular mechanisms controlling our circadian rhythm.
What Is Circadian Rhythm?
Our circadian rhythm is the process through which our body self-regulates within our environment. The enaction of our circadian rhythm allows us to be entirely in sync with the natural world. It also ensures optimal physical performance and a better quality of life.
Sadly, because of industrial and technological advancements, we now inhabit very unnatural environments. This process of civilisation has moved us further and further away from our true nature and the natural world. But, it does not need to.
We can still inhabit a technologically evolved world, and keep our all-important connection with nature, so that we can have the best of both worlds.
How Does Our Circadian Rhythm Work?
We need the natural light from the sun shining directly into our eyes to activate our circadian rhythm. This simply signals to us what time of day it is, which in turn allows us to budget our energy accordingly. If we expose our naked eyes to the sun in the morning, for at least fifteen minutes, our body will register what time it is and prepare for the rest of the day.
Our circadian rhythm also assists us in winding down in the evening, reducing energy levels so that we are ready to sleep at bedtime.
However, the use of modern technologies, especially those that emit blue light, like mobile phones, TV’s and computer screens, will all seriously interfere with our circadian rhythm… especially at night.
Thankfully, we are growing increasingly aware of the need for restricting the use of blue light technologies in the evenings, especially the closer we get to bedtime. Shutting down our computers and TV for an hour or two before we plan on going to sleep is vital for achieving a good night’s sleep. Reducing blue light exposure is this way will dramatically improve our ability to drift off into sleep soon after laying down and getting comfortable.
Somewhat unsurprisingly, blue light is very ageing. It can significantly accelerate the ageing processes of our skin.
Technologies Disrupt Circadian Rhythm
In addition to the deleterious effects of blue light, electronic devices expose us to radiation, that also causes dysregulation within our bodies.
And, whilst the blue light we are exposed to is worse for us at night, even daytime blue light exposure is harmful. This is because our screens emit the same level of light as the midday sun in summer, which means that our eyes are unable to determine what time of day it is when we use devices with screens.
Inevitably, we will misproduce and misuse our energy, and our physical and mental performance will be suboptimal, on the days when we use devices with screens.
And, the problems are compounded over time. Chronic overuse of technologies will lead to chronic energy issues, poor sleep, anxiety and depression.
The Importance Of Sleep
Sleep, and when we sleep, is tremendously important. This is because our bodies repair and regenerate whilst we are asleep.
In order to work in accordance with our natural circadian rhythm, we need to go to bed between 10.00pm and 11.00pm and then rise early.
In Sleep Issues & The Mineral Connection the Bodily Daily Maintenance Schedule is listed, according to Eastern medicinal principles. This list is reproduced below.
A quick scan of this list reveals that much of the maintenance and repair of our body occurs when we are asleep.
This means that sleep is effectively more important than our diet and how much we exercise. Although, a good diet and sufficient exercise also contribute to our ability to sleep well.
- 9.00pm to 11.00pm :: Endocrine System & Pancreas
- 11.00pm to 1.00am :: Gallbladder
- 1.00am to 3.00am :: Liver
- 3.00am to 5.00am :: Lungs
- 5.00am to 7.00am :: Large intestine
- 7.00am to 9.00am :: Stomach
- 9.00am to 11.00am :: Spleen
- 11.00am to 1.00pm :: Heart
- 1.00pm to 3.00pm :: Small Intestines
- 3.00pm to 5.00pm :: Bladder
- 5.00pm to 7.00pm :: Kidneys
- 7.00pm to 9.00pm :: Circulation
Good Sleep Hygiene
It is considered extremely beneficial to be asleep when nocturnal organ regeneration and detoxification processes take place.
For example, the Liver, which is our major detox organ, fulfils many of its most critical functions in the early hours of the morning.
Our bodies are designed to be awake during daylight, and resting during the dark hours.
It is important to get into the practice of going to sleep at a regular time each night, and making the time of going to sleep a reasonable one. We should aim to be asleep between 10.00pm and 11.00pm each night at the latest, if we are to obtain a truly beneficial night’s sleep.
In order to achieve this, turning off our blue-light emitting screens an hour or two before bedtime is a must.
Blue light from electronic devices, such as TVs and computers, is not only very ageing, it is also very disruptive of sleep. This is because the blue light, from these devices, emits at a very intense frequency. It is equivalent to midday sunlight in a tropical country, which, of course, causes chaos within our circadian rhythm.
The upshot is that it prevents us from falling asleep when we finally make it to bed.
Turning off our devices an hour or two before bedtime is a must if we are going to rectify our sleep issues. Picking up a book, on the other hand, (not a Kindle!), will have the opposite effect.
Hormones & Circadian Rhythm
Melatonin, our sleep hormone, is integral to our circadian rhythm. This means that when we disrupt our natural bodily rhythms by forcing ourselves to stay up late, the consequences can be severe.
Melatonin secretion occurs in the pituitary gland in the brain, but there are body-wide benefits when it is released into our blood supply.
The neurohormone melatonin is not stored in the pineal gland but rather is released into the bloodstream and can penetrate all body tissues. It is important to note that “darkness” stimulates the pineal gland to secrete melatonin whereas exposure to light inhibits this mechanism.National institute of Health1
Melatonin works within the body at an intracellular level. Once in our cells, it accesses our energy engines, called the mitochondria. Melatonin exerts beneficial influences to protect and stabilise our mitochondria. It effectively prevents our mitochondria from sustaining damage from oxidative stress, etc.
The blue light from devices, and the unnatural light from strip lights, LED lights, neon lights, street lights and eco energy bulbs etc, experienced after dark, all suppress the ability of our pineal gland to produce melatonin.
Chronic melatonin depletion leaves our mitochondria exposed to oxidative damage, which leads to a diminishing supply of energy, thereby creating a very negative downward spiral.
Melatonin is also required for the production of glutathione. Glutathione is the most potent antioxidant within our bodies. It is needed for the detoxification of harmful waste from our systems, such as heavy metals, synthetic chemicals, environmental pollution etc…
New research also suggests that melatonin plays a very important role in maintaining our immune health.
Melatonin, a versatile and pluripotent molecule, has been shown to have several beneficial effects above and beyond its highly celebrated property of sleep promotion. While melatonin has been shown to exhibit protective effects against certain neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and sundowning syndrome, perhaps the most exciting of these pleotropic effects include anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anticoagulopathic as well as endothelial-protective properties. This has led to an exciting hypothesis by Dun-Xian Tan, et al. from the University of Texas in a recently published article highlighting these various beneficial effects of melatonin and proposing it as potential treatment for Ebola, a highly dreaded modern-day epidemic that has claimed over 4,500 lives thus far without a glimpse of hope for an effective therapeutic strategy in sight.National institute of Health1
Circadian Rhythm & Autophagy
Autophagy is a fundamentally important process within our bodies. It is a process that essentially detoxifies and regenerates cells. Or, put another way, it is our cellular recycling system.
Autophagy allows a cell to disassemble dysfunctional elements and even repurposes the salvageable elements into new, usable cell parts, whilst also allowing our cells to discard the parts it doesn’t need.
Autophagy acts as ‘quality control’ for our cells!
A disrupted circadian rhythm interferes with the ability of our body to perform autophagy.
Circadian Rhythm & Neurotransmitters
Our circadian rhythm also helps to regulate our neurotransmitters, as well as our hormones.
This means that our circadian rhythm influences the health of all of our chemical messengers. And, as our chemical messengers maintain homeostasis within our bodies, our circadian rhythm plays a vital role within the overall health of our body.
Circadian Rhythm & Weight Loss
Did you know improved sleep results in weight loss, as well as, better levels of health, improved brain function, improved emotional health, and a more fulfilling life?
It seems that our circadian rhythm is fundamentally important for all aspects of our lives!