Out of Sync: The Body’s Internal Clock & its Effect on Our Health

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circadian rhythm

You’re probably familiar with the idea of the human body’s “internal clock.” It serves an important purpose when it comes to our sleeping and eating habits. You may not know, however, that modern science has expanded upon this concept.

It’s now understood that the body is actually full of little “clocks,” located within every cell and every organ. These clocks follow different rhythms because various systems in the body are designed to perform specific tasks at specific times. In the same breathe, they all work in sync with the body’s master clock.

You might be wondering why this should matter to you, yeah? Doesn’t all this happen pretty automatically… kind of like breathing? Well, not exactly. Scientists are coming to understand that when these internal clocks fall out of sync, our health and well-being are deeply impacted. And as it turns out, we humans are really good at overriding our natural rhythms and throwing our bodies out of whack.

Live by the Clock – The Circadian Rhythm

The body’s “master clock” (Circadian Rhythm) takes its cues from daylight and darkness. It determines our sleep-wake cycles. When everything is functioning as it should, The circadian rhythm maintains a complex balance of hormones in the body.

In an ideal world, our master clocks would always work together harmoniously with the natural rhythms of our bodies. Sadly, it’s not very hard to throw off your internal clock — in fact, today’s fast-paced world practically requires it.

One incredibly common way to override your circadian rhythm is with not getting enough sleep. This is a problem that affects nearly half of the U.S. population. Sleep deprivation disrupts the body’s hormones, including those related to stress and hunger. This typically causes cravings for unhealthy starchy and sugary foods. In cases of prolonged sleep deprivation, it can lead to weight gain!

Another common way we toy with our internal clocks? Not eating on a consistent schedule. This includes:

  • skipping meals

  • delaying meals

  • consuming the majority of your daily calories at night

  • late-night eating

Learn more about the circadian rhythm and how Tranquility Labs’ own, Sleep Fast can help you get your master clock back on schedule:

More Sleep = Less Unwanted Pounds, More Energy, Better Health

Like sleep deprivation, these bad eating habits disrupt important hormones and processes in the body. According to Northwestern University circadian rhythm scientist Fred Turek, in the instance of eating late at night, “the clock in the brain is sending signals saying: Do not eat, do not eat!,” but you eat anyway…

When we disrupt the one system’s clock, elsewhere in the body, organs such as the pancreas must perform certain functions at times that don’t align with natural rhythms. If this happens over an extended period of time, the conflicting cues cause the body’s various clocks fall out of sync.

Ultimately, the hormonal disruptions and imbalances may lead to health problems ranging from mild to severe. These include:

Our body’s circadian rhythm is far more likely to be in sync if you are able to sleep and eat on a consistent schedule. The benefits of maintaining this balance include:

  • more energy during the day

  • greater ability to focus

  • higher productivity

  • healthier eating habits

  • stronger immune system

Recognize the Need for Balance

In an ideal world, it wouldn’t be difficult to keep your body’s rhythms synchronized for optimal health and well-being. But the reality, as we know, isn’t so simple.

Sometimes life just gets in the way. For instance, parents enduring months of sleepless nights with a new baby, or the millions of Americans doing shift work with constantly-changing schedules and late-night hours. Compounding the problem, the structure of our society makes it hard for the average person to prioritize his or her health. However, we are seeing signs of change!

health and wellnessHealth and wellness matters (including mental/emotional health) are steadily receiving more attention, than ever. Individuals have become more concerned with what they feed themselves and their families, which seems to be generating a decline in processed food sales. Employers are starting to pay attention to studies showing that vacation time, daily lunch breaks, and paid sick time (among other “benefits”) are essential to the health and productivity of the workforce. Even some schools are adjusting their start times to better fit with the internal clocks of young people, which differ from the rhythm of the adult body.

These are all steps in the right direction. We may still have a long way to go, but with continued research and growing public awareness of these issues, there is hope for the future!

Perhaps one day, shifting attitudes will allow our society to prioritize physical and mental health – recognizing the needs of all its citizens.

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