The Circadian Cycle / Your Body Clock
Each one of us has a built in alarm clock; a natural cycle of roughly 24 hours that persists even in the absence of external cues. This is called the Circadian Cycle, or our body clock. Before electricity, humans would naturally go to sleep and wake up with the sun. Our ancestors lived in sync with the natural cycle of day and night. Our bodies are designed to depend on light signals to function properly each day. With the advent of artificial light sources, we can have light in our lives 24 hours a day, 7 days a week! Sounds wonderful, but our bodies are still in tune with the natural cycles of day and night, and we need to listen for optimal health.
Sleep/ Wake Cycles
To function at our best, we should try to follow our natural sleep/wake cycles. Light, to our bodies, equals sunshine, which, in turn, equals the release of Cortisol. Cortisol activates the body and prepares it to move, work, and survive and is associated with daytime activities. As the sun rises, our cortisol levels rises and peaks between 6am and 9am, and maintain a relatively high level through the day. In the afternoon, levels begin to drop drastically, usually in time with the setting of the sun. Decreased levels of cortisol allow the release of melatonin and increase our bodies’ ability to repair. To follow natural sleep / wake cycles, we should fall asleep at around 10pm as that is when the mental and physiological repairs in our bodies begin to take place. Physical repairs take place between 2am and 6am. They key is not to disrupt our natural cycle so that we can function at our best during the day, and maintain optimum health.
Certain factors can disrupt our sleep/wake cycles and cause high levels of fatigue. If you’re in bed at 2am, you’ve missed the crucial hours in which our bodies were supposed to be repairing. If you’re having a difficult time achieving a balanced sleep/ wake cycle, here are just a few elements that could be getting in the way:
Stimulants such as sweet drinks, caffeinated beverages, or cigarettes trigger the release of cortisol. You may recall that cortisol activates your body and kicks it into daytime gear. Adding stimulants to your body gets in the way of healthy sleep.
Electromagnetic energy that is emitted from small appliances in your house. A television in your room can be very damaging to your sleep patterns.
Toxicity in the body is common as people eat more processed food and bad fats. Eat right for your metabolic type and avoid junk!
When our bodies aren’t getting enough sleep and we’re abusing our sleep cycles on a regular basis, we are stressing the body and causing fatigue, causing our immune systems to suffer. As much as we need to make sure we’re getting the proper nutrition, exercise, and hydration, we need to monitor our sleep patterns AND feel better for it!