Circadian Rhythms - What Are They and How Do They Affect Our Health?
"Circadian rhythms are physical, mental,
and behavioural changes that follow a daily cycle."
They serve to coordinate internal time with the external world, and can be affected by lack of sleep, shift work and changing time zones (jet-lag). Exposure to natural light is one of the key elements to maintaining healthy, balanced circadian rhythms. Overexposure in recent decades to false light sources such as televisions, computers and most recently mobile phone screens have contributed to an imbalance, compounded by eating processed foods, not exercising daily, working late into the wee small hours, and drinking caffeine to stay awake.
Natural factors within the body produce circadian rhythms, and these rhythms affect bodily functions such as our sleep-wake cycle, hormone release, appetite, body temperature and strengthening of the immune system. Irregular rhythms can have a detrimental effect on our health and can contribute to health concerns such as obesity, sleep disorders and seasonal affective disorder.
Try adopting these lifestyle changes to regulate your circadian rhythms:
1. Being present in nature and away from artificial light sources in a great way to balance your internal body clock. Camping is a fantastic way to get away from it all, but if you are anything like me and don't have a camping bone in your body (!) then daily exercise outdoors is also a great way to expose yourself to natural light and the rhythms of nature.
2. Exercising in the morning has been known to help destress the body, thereby regulating our natural rhythms. Reserve your nighttime for journalling and reading, and avoid strenuous activity or stress filled television programmes.
3. A peaceful sleeping environment is crucial to regular internal body rhythms. Our brains produce melatonin, the sleep hormone, as our environment gets darker and so dimming lights as it begins to get dark outside whilst avoiding artificial light in your bedroom should have a positive effect.