Have you ever wondered how the body's processes are timed? How does the body know when it's hungry? Or how does it know when it’s time for sleep?
These processes, and many others, are managed by the body's internal clock. This biological clock is a sophisticated physical mechanism entrusted with determining the timing of processes in the body. It exists in all living creatures (even plants). The circadian rhythm - our biological clock - is responsible for adapting the body’s activities to the hours of day (sunlight) and night (darkness).
This natural mechanism can be affected by many factors, including illness, the nature of our work (irregular work hours common to shift workers or jet lag), age, and more. Thousands of years ago, the course of ancient man's day was determined by the hours of light and darkness, in perfect harmony with his inner clock. The development of artificial light led to disruption of the biological clock, as night light disrupts the body’s circadian cock, and the element that is most affected is our sleep.
How to sleep well? Here’s what you need to do to help adjust your circadian rhythm on your way to more restful nights.
Avoid exposure to blue light
Different lights have different effects on the body's natural rhythm; the worst offender is the blue light emitted from LED screens and smartphones. The hormone melatonin is responsible for preparing the body for sleep, making us feel drowsy as soon as the sun goes down. The blue light emitted from screens delays the production of melatonin, reducing the duration of sleep and thereby significantly affecting its quality.
In the hours before bedtime, make sure to avoid exposure to bright light coming from LED screens. If you find it difficult to resist the one last look at your smartphone just before you fall asleep, download an app that filters out the blue light waves at night, or switch your smartphone to ‘night mode’ to reduce your exposure to blue light.
Get your morning dose of sunshine
Sunlight signals the brain that it is time to be awake and alert, and promotes reduction in melatonin secretion which elevates feelings of wakefulness. Unable to sleep? you may be surprised to find out that sunlight exposure during the first hour after you wake up helps adjusting your circadian clock; if you live or work in an area where there is little natural light in the morning, consult your doctor about using a lightbox that is designed to expose you to bright light. During the late afternoon hours, try to avoid exposure to sunlight or artificial bright light. If you go out during this time and there is still daylight, wear sunglasses to avoid the light interfering with your inner clock, and help your body start its preparation for sleep at an earlier time.
Keep a regular bedtime routine
Your calendar is full of chores and you want to get everything done, check-off your list of tasks at work, get back to your fitness regime and also keep up with your social life. Sleep is probably the first thing you choose to drop from your hectic routine. But regular sleep times have a critical effect on our health. According to the Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 35% of American adults are sleeping an average of less than 7 hours each day.
Sleep is directly related to the 24-hour clock of the circadian rhythm. When we don’t maintain constant waking and sleeping times, we knock our rhythm out of balance. Sleep irregularities also decrease your quality of sleep and increase our feeling of exhaustion. Waking and sleeping times that constantly change cause weakening of the immune system, increase the risk of accidents and contribute to the development of chronic diseases.
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