Sleep & Your Circadian Rhythm
Your Circadian Rhythm
The sharp increase in various diseases over the last 50-100 years can be explained, in part, by recent dietary and lifestyle changes.1 It is suggested that humans in industrialised countries are living in an environment which we have not fully evolved to thrive in1. With technology at our fingertips and an abundance of food available at any hour, our bodies have come to believe it is daytime most of the time. This may not seem like a big deal, but this disruption of this light/dark cycle, or ‘circadian rhythm’ is a huge issue for human health.
Chronically disrupted circadian rhythms contribute to global diseases such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and obesity.2 These conditions, and many others, can feature circadian disruption as an underlying cause.
Why is the circadian rhythm important?
This finely tuned system has an influence over many aspects of human health. Environmental disruptions to this ancient system, such as night-time artificial light exposure and irregular eating patterns, are linked to a group of health risk factors. When these disruptions occur over an extended period of time ‘circadian syndrome’ is the result. The risk factors include weight gain, impaired control over blood sugar levels, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and abnormal heart rhythm.2-4 Circadian rhythm disruption greatly affects multiple organs – including the intestines, liver and kidneys. It also increases inflammation throughout the body.5 Metabolic disorders, or the collection of these disorders known as ‘metabolic syndrome’ (including high blood pressure, high blood sugar and excess body fat) are challenging to treat and the traditional pharmaceutical approach may not be most effective as a stand-alone treatment.3 Addressing circadian disruption through diet and lifestyle changes can go a long way to improve the health of the individual and the general population.
Practicing good sleep hygiene for better health
Significant periods of good quality sleep are vital to maintaining overall health.6 Some easy steps to support your circadian rhythm include:
- Reduce evening light exposure where possible and consider wearing blue blocking glasses or changing the back-light settings on your mobile phone, tablet and/or computer.
- Avoid heavy meals late at night to allow the body to repair while sleeping.3-5 Overnight fasting helps to reduce blood pressure and improves blood sugar levels.2
- If you do need to eat something, a protein-rich snack before bed can help to balance blood sugar.6
- Eat a whole food diet – whole foods contain higher levels of B vitamins found in whole grains, nuts, seeds, meat and egg yolks. B vitamins help the body to produce serotonin and melatonin – hormones required for good quality sleep and repair.6
There are so many simple actions we can take to honour the circadian rhythm we have evolved to be in sync with. Small actions on a daily basis can help to harness the power of our normal biological processes to not only reduce the risk of disease but help us to thrive.
To read more about why sleep it vital for your health, click here.
- Ganci M, Suleyman E, Butt H, & Ball M. The role of the brain-gut-microbiota axis in psychology: The importance of considering gut microbiota in the development, perpetuation, and treatment of psychological disorders. Brain and Behaviour 2019; 9(11):e01408
- Zimmet P, Albert K, Stern N, Bolu C, El-Osta A, Einat H, & Kronfield Schor E. The circadian syndrome: is the metabolic syndrome and much more! Journal of internal medicine 2019; 286:181-191
- Longo V & Panda S. Fasting, circadian rhythms, and time restricted feeding in healthy lifespan. Cell metab 2016; 14(23):1048-1059
- Bedrosian T & Nelson R. Timing of light exposure effects mood and brain circuits. Transl psychiatry 2017; 7(1):e1017
- Sulli G & Manoogian E, Taub P, Panda S. Training the circadian clock, clocking the drugs and drugging the clock to prevent, manage and treat chronic diseases. Trends pharmacol sci 2018; 39(9):812-827
- Hechtman L. Clinical naturopathic medicine. Chatswood: Elsevier, 2012
- Cherasse Y & Urade Y. Dietary zinc acts as a sleep modulator. International journal of molecular sciences 2017; 18(11):2334