Our lives are governed by daily rhythms, such as the sleep-wake cycle that tells us when it is time to get up or fall asleep. The rest of the patterns that we go through day in and day out, are referred to as our circadian rhythm which is regulated by our biological or internal clock that is being generated by our brain.
However, studies show that our body clock can do more than just tell us the difference between night and day. As a matter of fact, it can also regulate our mental alertness, hunger, heart function, stress, and even our immunity just to name a few. The only time you will know that your biological clock is working is when you suddenly shifted your sleep-wake cycle such as in the case when you are doing night shift, or when travel to a new time zone. Not only does this shift in your cycle can cause you many sleepless nights, your body clock gets out of whack.
What Happens When Our Body Clock is Out of Sync?
If you think that there is nothing wrong with your body clock going out of sync, think again. There have been several studies that point to more traffic accidents as well as injuries in the workplace because of lack of sleep. Patients who have heart problems are at a higher risk of myocardial infarction within the week after shifting to Daylight Savings time. But what’s worse is that there is now evidence linking a disrupted body clock with various chronic health issues. It’s not easy determining whether a disrupted body clock is the reason for health problems or if it is the other way around.
Running on a Cycle
It is understandable that many will feel confused with the concept of the biological clock. After all, don’t we just wake up when it is already day and go to bed at night? Ask yourself this, how does your body know the time? This is where the suprachiasmatic nucleus comes in which is located right above the area of the brain where the optic nerve fibers tend to cross. What this means is that the nucleus is able to receive information when there is light coming from the surroundings.
However, it is important to take note that our genes can also play a role in our biological clock as well as circadian rhythms. Not only does our body need an outside source of input, such as sunlight, it also relies on our genes. For example, if our body is kept in constant darkness, our daily cycle can lengthen up to 25 hours.
Causes of Disruption in Our Body Clock
There are many factors that can cause disruption in our body clock which can lead to sleepless nights, mood swings, fatigue, and health problems. Here are a few that you should know of:
Shifting to a new time in your work can become a problem in the long run since it can disrupt your circadian rhythm. Those who work in this schedule often develop insomnia, chronic fatigue, and the like. Although it isn’t clear yet as to how shifting to a new time in work can lead to weight gain, it is possible that the body’s need for energy can trigger hunger pangs.
Traveling to a new destination that has a different time zone compared to yours can also affect your biological clock. This can have an effect on your sleeping patterns which can take days before you adjust to your new time. If you wish to minimize the effects, you can start training your body to the new schedule so you will be able to ease into the new time by the time you have to travel.