Human beings are guided by some natural behaviors. For instance, they sleep during the night, wake up in the morning, and work through the day, before falling asleep again. There are more or less fixed meal times, and during these times, there is a feeling of hunger and craving for food. This is nothing but a mechanism which controls the body’s various physiological activities. It is known as the ‘circadian rhythm’ in medical terms, and ‘body clock’ or ‘biological clock’ in common parlance. It is from deep within the brain that this clock operates when the signal waves are sent and received, which guide the body to act a certain way through the day. The normal course of activity that takes place during the day, usually happens by following this biological clock.
Working of the body clock or the circadian clock
There are certain signals that the body uses for understanding whether it is day or night. Factors like different activities and daylight help in ascertaining the difference between day and night. This whole thing is controlled by a part of the brain known as suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), which is very tiny and located right above the optic nerves. Melatonin production is also controlled by the SCN. Melatonin is a neurotransmitter that helps in regulating the sleep-wake cycle in humans. Since external factors like darkness and light play an important role in the body clock, SCN can be interrupted by many factors, including jet lag, working night shifts, blindness and so on. The result is sleeping problems and disorders.
Body functions and behaviors run on the biological clock cycle
As mentioned above, melatonin is responsible for maintaining the body’s daily cycle. At dusk, when the night sets in, it is the body’s tendency to feel sleepy and the urge to go to bed increases. Melatonin is secreted in greater amount when it is dark, and this is a signal to the brain to switch to sleep mode. Again, with sunrise, melatonin secretion is inhibited and a signal is sent to the brain to wake up and resume daily activities. Other body functions like hunger, metabolism, immune system, etc., are also controlled by the body clock.
It has been seen that environmental disruptions also hamper the proper functioning of the body’s natural clock. Jet lag and shifting jobs are two of the most common reasons which hamper the body clock and cause disturbances in sleep.
How is overall health affected with a hampered biological clock?
When the biological clock is hampered and disrupted, various kinds of physical as well as psychological disorders affect your body.
- Circadian rhythm sleep disorder – This is probably the most common problem which is seen. In this sleep disorder, the afflicted person is unable to sleep properly at night. Hence, they are sleep-deprived and the effects of the same continue throughout the next day. There are feelings of fatigue, sleepiness, lack of focus, lack of alertness, and other similar symptoms.
- Risks of diabetes and cardiovascular diseases increase – When the biological clock is hampered, it takes a toll on the cardiovascular health of an individual. Chances of developing diabetes and high cholesterol levels are common with the body clock going out of whack.
- Immunity is hampered – When the circadian rhythm in the body is disturbed, it affects the immune system of afflicted individuals greatly. Hormones controlling the immune function fail to function properly, and hence, various kinds of problems manifest.
- Negative effects on mood – Mood swings, bad mood, irritability, etc., are common symptoms when the body clock is disturbed. This happens as the hormones in the body experience an upheaval.
Therefore, it is highly recommended to follow a definite pattern in your lifestyle. This is important as the body clock follows that pattern and the body adjust accordingly.