Disarray the little clocks and you have Big Brother Clock to contend with. And Big Brother Clock doesn’t mess around. Keep messing with him and your resilience will be compromised as you find yourself struggling to stay healthy, focused and productive at work.
Allow us to help you make sense of Big Brother and his ways?
What are circadian rhythms?
Most of the stuff that takes place in your body and mind follow natural rhythms. The processes with a period length of about 24 hours are called circadian rhythms.
Circadian rhythms are controlled by small nuclei (Big Brother Clock) in the middle of the brain. Big Brother Clock is connected to other parts of the brain, and like an orchestra, together they control your circadian rhythms.
A pathway runs from your eyes to the nuclei. Light and dark seem to play the biggest role in setting your body’s “clock.”
The reason for circadian rhythms is to help us help our bodies do what they need to do at the time they need to do it. For example, at night we need to rest, the memory needs processing, cellular repair and brain development take place, and during the day, we need to be alert and have the availability of glucose.
What do circadian rhythms affect?
Circadian rhythms affect just about every function of the body, but the 13 most notable ways unbalanced circadian rhythms mess with your productivity are as follows:
- Body temperature
- Blood pressure
- The release of hormones
- The timing of wakefulness
- The timing of sexual arousal
- The stages of sleep
- Sleep quality
- Heart rate
- Hunger and appetite
Ongoing disruptions to your circadian rhythms can also result in insomnia, impaired glucose tolerance, obesity, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, poor mental health, rheumatoid arthritis, Diabetes Type 2 and a shortened lifespan.
What interferes with circadian rhythms?
- Shift work
- Jet lag
- The times you eat
- What you eat
- Times you sleep
- Darkness of your room at night when you sleep
Dr Joseph Michael Mercola, an alternative medicine proponent, says:
“When your circadian rhythm—which acts like a built-in time-tracking system—is disrupted by late-night artificial light exposure, or being roused from sleep by beeping phones, it can have a profound influence on your physical and mental health and well-being.”
So what can you do to protect your health and productivity?
Most of us do not get enough natural sunlight in the day, and then at night, we get too much bright light! If you’re indoors for work for most of the day, you are probably being exposed to very poor quality light, and what your body needs for optimal health and well-being is the light you get outdoors.
On the other hand, once the sun goes down, you’ll want to reduce the light you’re getting. Low blue light bulbs emit an amber light, instead of the blue that suppresses melatonin production. Try to use low blue light bulbs in your living room, bedroom and bathroom.
Computers and TVs also give out blue light, so it’s best to turn these off once the sun sets.
When you plan to sleep, make sure your bedroom is pitch black. If you have to use an eye mask, do so. And if you have to use the bathroom in the night, don’t turn on any lights.
If you have to stay up at night, or if you work night shifts that can’t be changed, counter the bad health effects to some degree by keeping to a schedule. It’s less damaging for your body to adjust to a sleep/wake cycle, than constantly changing shifts.
Eating food with a high nutritive value is really beneficial along with avoid processed, fatty, sugar foods that don’t offer much nutritional value. Don’t eat when you’re supposed to be sleeping (no snacking in front of the refrigerator at 2am).
How much natural light and sleep do you need?
Sunlight is powerful. In fact, it could be called the new vitamin. Getting enough of it during the day can go a long way toward keeping your natural circadian rhythm. And maximum productivity. Aim for at least 30 minutes sunlight every day. Remember that to benefit during your outdoors activities, you need to keep the glasses off.
The next natural question is, how much sleep do you need?
We need to start listening more to our bodies, because one-size-fits-all is not ideal. You should be able to feel how much sleep you need. Having said that, sleeping less than eight hours a night consistently can have significant consequences. If you feel tired or sluggish upon waking or during the day, you’re likely not getting enough. Then again, what you consume in terms of food and beverages will influence your energy level, so take this into account too. It’s not the norm for anyone to need less than six hours of sleep, so it’s more likely you’ll need between 7 and 8 hours.
Unbalanced circadian rhythms can seriously hamper your work productivity due to stress and the well-being of your body and mind. To circumvent as much damage as possible, get enough sleep and sunlight, eat well, sleep in a very dark room and exercise. If you’re a shift worker, get into a schedule so that your body can adjust so that the overall damage is less harmful.
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