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What Do You and Bread Mold Have In Common?
Circadian Rhythms: The Bare Essentials
Published March 15, 2017 by Kala Sleep
Written by Kala Sleep
Mar 15, 2017
Tags:
  • body clock
  • chronotype
  • Circadian rhythm
  • Kala sleep
  • sleep type

Jetlagged? There's a reason, and it's all about daylight. (Does bread mold get jetlagged? TBD).

Short Version:

Circadian rhythms are the 24 hour(ish) cycles in the body processes of all living things.

The main cues that control them are daylight and darkness.

They vary slightly from person to person - they're influenced by genetics as well as lifestyle - which accounts for different "chronotypes."

Circadian rhythm disruptions can happen when you work night shifts, or vary work shift schedule; when you're regularly exposed to too much bright light before bed (eg. from your cell phone, computer, or TV); when you chronically get too little sleep; and when you're traveling between time zones.

They can even be disturbed when your regular routines - patterns of waking/sleeping, eating, exercising, social interaction, drugs/coffee consumption, and even temperature - are thrown off.

They've been linked to sleep disorders, insomnia, obesity, diabetes, depression, bipolar disorder, and seasonal affective disorder.

Regular disruptions can lead to weight gain; impulsive behavior; slower thinking; mood shifts; and other physiological and behavioral changes.

 

Last week we explored chronotype - the behaviors associated with when you feel sleepiest and most awake over the course of a day. There are 4 types of people when it comes to these behaviors, and it turns out that there are even some personality differences between them.   But why do these "types" exist?  The answer: circadian rhythms.

You may have heard this term before, maybe in conversations about jet lag (bane of work travelers and wanderlusters everywhere!). Circadian rhythms are the 24 hour(ish) cycles in the body processes of all living things.  People have them, but so plants, animals, and even fungi (including bread mold) and types of bacteria. 

Circadian rhythms are the 24 hour(ish) cycles in the body processes of all living things.  People have them, but so plants, animals, and even fungi (including bread mold) and types of bacteria. 

Although circadian rhythms are influenced by many things both in and out of the body, the main cues that control them are daylight and darkness. Basically, when your optic nerve sees that it's light outside, it triggers a bunch of chemical changes that wake your body up. Similarly, when it gets dark, it triggers other chemical changes that prepare your body for sleep. These rhythms vary slightly from person to person - they're influenced by genetics as well as lifestyle - which accounts for the different "chronotypes" discussed in our earlier post.

The problem, you may have noticed, is that modern life rarely encourages us to be up and down with the sun. Jet lag is just the most drastic version - other circadian rhythm disruptions can happen when you work night shifts, or vary work shift schedule; when you're regularly exposed to too much bright light before bed (eg. from your cell phone, computer, or TV); when you chronically get too little sleep, and use off days to try to "catch up" on sleep; and when you're traveling between time zones.  These rhythms can even be disturbed when your regular routines - patterns of not only waking/sleeping but eating, exercising, social interaction, drugs/coffee consumption, and even temperature - are thrown off.

It isn't just about feeling groggy, though. Circadian rhythms have been linked to not only some sleep disorders and insomnia, but also to obesity, diabetes, depression, bipolar disorder, and seasonal affective disorder. Regularly disrupting these rhythms can lead to weight gain; impulsive behavior; slower thinking; mood shifts; and other physiological and behavioral changes.

So how can you get back on track, if you feel off? Stay tuned - we'll be exploring that in our next post!

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