Mumbai: First, let’s start with an introduction to the circadian rhythm. This is your body clock. One can relate to it while travelling across the world in the form of jetlag or how we feel sleepy around the same time everyday, regardless of where we are. Technically, the circadian system orchestrates metabolism in daily 24-hour cycles. This phenomenon known as chronobiology is predominantly based on the principle of light and darkness or day and night.
Babies do not have a fully functional circadian rhythm, hence they sleep at odd hours and cry for food at different times of the day. If we, as adults did not have a body clock, we too would sleep or feed randomly throughout the day.
Our body is like a self-driven machine. If it remains active all the time, for 24 hours a day, it would certainly go into an overdrive and crash. Hence we need a proper periodic cycle, to manage our working and resting hours well.
There are three significant zones which affect and build our body clock and they are the ‘light and darkness; feeding and fasting and sleep and activity’ zones. It is important to ensure that these three zones should work in harmony with each other.
Tuning the body clock aids in developing an efficient version of you, with higher cognition, more stamina, and no food cravings. This is done by training one’s body clock to switch certain genes on and off efficiently throughout the 24-hour cycles so that we are alert during work, feel hungry for breakfast, have ample endurance during a workout, sleep well at night.
The introduction of artificial light, work at night-time and disrupted sleep patterns cause circadian misalignment. Evidence has shown a strong connection between the rise in recent epidemics such as obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases with increase in disruption of the circadian clock. This results with us complaining often about how we do not feel fresh, even after sleeping and the quality of sleep in general.
It is believed that the same cells which are used for vision (i.e. rods and cones that are light-sensitive cells) are also responsible for signalled synchronisation between our body clock and the sun’s rising and setting. It is fascinating to know that recent studies on blind subjects have shown that the human eye has two separate light-sensing systems – one that perceives visual signals that allow us to see and a second, separate system that tells our body when it is day or night which is controlled by sunlight.
The one component of sunlight is the ‘blue light’, which is the most powerful resetting button for the circadian rhythm. Studies have found that exposure to this part of natural light can results in the shifting of a subject’s body clock by up to 1.2 hours, with increased alertness (measured by brain alpha wave activity), hearing performance and the subject’s reported sleepiness throughout the 24-hour cycle.
Blue Light is what is also emitted by LED/LCD screens and all other artificial lights that we use. One can now easily gauge the impact of continuous exposure (<10 hours) of blue light on our body clock. With a prolonged exposure of blue light after sunset, one resets his/her circadian rhythm, without even realising it.
When we fight our biological clocks, it does a lot more than make us grumpy coffee drinkers. What is interesting is, artificial light is not the only aspect which muddles up our clock. Eating constantly or frequently also affects the clock. With a little discipline you can train your body clock and you will automatically feel more energetic and reduce the risk of many diseases. You will not need to rely so heavily on exercising to lose weight or stay fit.
Unfortunately, we tend to override the biological clocks in our brains and instead pay attention to the mechanical clocks on our wrists. One must be mindful of two things, when it comes to maintaining your body clock. Firstly, if you feel hungry at night, you must take a look at your watch and avoid the indulgence and secondly, when you want to sleep, start dimming down all the bright lights at home, including turning all the device screens off, an hour or two prior to sleeping.
*Disclaimer: This article has been contributed by Ishita Biswas, Nutritionist, Pristine Organics. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of Deccan Chronicle and Deccan Chronicle does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same....