We’ve all heard of circadian rhythm before. However, do you know what it means as it pertains to your health and fitness? Do you know that being out of rhythm can actually have negative effects on your body? Well we’re here to tell you all about it!
What is it?
Your circadian rhythm is a 24-hr internal clock that directs your sleep, wake and feeding drives. We are completely tied into the sun and moon cycles because of our dependence on this clock. If there was no artificial light, you would simply go to sleep when the sun went down and wake up as it rose.
Linked to our circadian rhythm is the production of melatonin and cortisol. Ideally your cortisol begins to rise in the early AM, peaks mid-day, and then decreases into the evening. Your melatonin on the other hand would work just the opposite and corresponds with a nighttime cycle.
Melatonin is produced by the pineal gland in the brain. It is crucial to keeping cortisol in check and balancing our sleep/wake cycles. High amounts of cortisol (our stress hormone) can lead to excess fatigue, weight gain, metabolic issues, suppressed immune function, and even a lowered libido! Nature requires balance and our circadian rhythm is no exception to that rule.
Not only does it affect your sleep, but also your feelings of hunger and how your body responds to food. Studies show that eating on a normal daylight cycle when we are awake and alert is more beneficial than eating off this cycle and into the nighttime.There is even some compelling evidence that links obesity and nighttime eating habits. Studies also show shift workers being at a higher risk for things like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and even cancer due to being misaligned to the behavioral and hormonal norms of the day cycle.
How to improve it
If you’re curious as to how you can improve your circadian rhythm there are a couple of things you can do. First and foremost, clean up your sleep habits! Check out our blog 5 Steps to Better Sleep to upgrade your sleep hygiene! Second, it’s important to eat breakfast and maintain consistent healthy eating habits throughout the day. For more easy nutrition tips, check out our blog on Simple Nutrition.