Restoration of our body clock, the Circadian Rhythm

circadian rhythm fertility hormone Agnes Ryu

Understanding the Biological Terrain and Disease Development

The symptoms experienced by your body reflect the state of your biological terrain—the internal environment of your organism. From this perspective, diseases arise only when this internal ecology is imbalanced. We do not simply ‘catch’ diseases; rather, we develop them through various factors.

Critical Health Factors: Microbiome and Circadian Rhythm

Two recently identified critical health factors— the gut microbiome  and the circadian rhythm —play pivotal roles in regulating numerous functions in the human body and influencing overall metabolism. To restore balance to your internal terrain and enhance vitality, optimizing these factors through conscious lifestyle choices is essential, regardless of specific medical diagnoses.

 

The Cellular Orchestra: Understanding Circadian Rhythms

Nearly one-third of all human genes are clock genes, and almost every cell possesses its own clock, operating in a timed, rhythmic, sequential manner. The master clock in the hypothalamus orchestrates the peripheral clocks of various body parts, ensuring synchronized cellular activity. All cells follow the conductor’s signal and coordinate like the work of an orchestra moving to synchronized beats. Otherwise, discord and cacophony ensue. This internal harmony is crucial for maintaining robust health and resilience against stressors. Intriguingly, most hormones, including sex hormones, adhere to this circadian rhythm, influencing bodily functions from metabolism to fertility. In fact, almost every hormone in the body is released according to this clock and hormones, in turn, strengthen the circadian rhythm.
Mating and the oestrous cycle of animals depend on the effect of light to stimulate the hypothalamus for stimulating the ovaries and folliculogenesis.

 

 

 

The Impact of Light Exposure on the Circadian Rhythm

The master clock, situated atop the optic nerve in the hypothalamus, acts as a GPS, responding to light cues to align our bodies with the earth’s location and natural cycles. Adequate exposure to natural light and adherence to natural sleep patterns are crucial for maintaining this rhythm.  A lack of exposure to sunlight during the day and staying awake late at night under artificial lighting (junk light) dampens our natural circadian rhythm and can cause various cellular dysfunctions and organisational disruptions. Simply staying up late at night, sleeping in late, eating at the wrong time can cause havoc with the coordinating functions of different organs.

 

Resetting the Circadian Rhythm: Practical Tips

To reset your circadian rhythm, limit evening exposure to artificial light and light-emitting electronic devices, and prioritize sleep in a darkened room. The production of the hormone melatonin ceases when it senses light. Bed should be strictly reserved for sex and sleep.
Witnessing the sunrise can powerfully realign your body’s internal clock. Morning sunshine with blue light sends strong signals to the brain that day has begun and sets the tone of metabolism for the day. Your body will recognise night time better and be primed for sleep.

Avoidance of the sun combined with a sedentary, indoor lifestyle is totally unnatural to our genome. Going outside frequently during the course of the day to gain exposure to natural light is highly encouraged. Use the lunch break, within a couple of hours of noon, to get sunshine. By sunset, prepare to wind down the mind and body by dimming the light and prioritising sleep. Schedule eating and activities with sleep optimization in mind. The aim is to establish stark contrasts in cellular functions between day and night: deep restorative sleep in darkness generates peak mental and physical energy during waking hours.

Sleep: A Pillar of Health

Sleep accounts for one-third of the lifespan. Sleep is not a dormant, passive state when the brain shuts off. According to new studies, sleep is a period during which the brain is engaged in a number of activities necessary to life—which are closely linked to quality of life. Good sleep facilitates the body’s self-healing mechanism, resilience, cellular rejuvenation, the consolidation of memory and organization of information.

As we age, the circadian rhythms become less robust. Declining levels of growth hormone, thyroid hormone and sex steroids affect the quality and quantity of sleep and the action of melatonin and cortisol directly affect the sleep-wake cycle.

We can readily identify the distinctive sleep patterns of babies, teenagers, those who are going through menopause and the elderly. Peri- and post-menopausal women’s sleep disturbances are partly attributed to progesterone secretion shifting from the ovaries to the adrenal gland, therefore, following the cortisol cycles with some negative repercussions.

The stress response should be sufficiently dampened once the essential reaction occurred, but if it becomes pathological (excessive and prolonged) and disrupts the diurnal cycle then this creates a vicious downward cycle of disturbed sleep, heightened stress response and progressively less tolerance to stress in turn.

The triad of super network systems of the body, the nervous system, endocrine system and immune system all require maintenance and replenishment through deep, restorative sleep, otherwise accelerated ageing and degeneration are inevitable.

Studies show a link between chronic sleep deprivation and serious health conditions such as metabolic syndrome, cancer, and autoimmune disease, weight gain and mood disorders. Poor sleep is not another vexing symptom, it is a period that engenders many diseases and illnesses! If you can get a good amount of quality sleep, you can reverse the cascade that triggers disease processes and recovers cellular function. Investment in quality sleep is one of the smartest choices you can make which rewards with many dividends over the course of your life.

 

References:

Circadian clocks: regulators of endocrine and metabolic rhythms

Circadian control of the immune system

 

Agnes Ryu

Agnes Ryu

Dr. Ryu is a clinician and biochemist specializing in integrative medicine. Her clinical interests include fertility, hormones, metabolism, healthy ageing, menopause, and natural breast cancer care. As an integrative practitioner, Dr. Ryu aims to uncover the root causes of health issues and strives to empower patients with the knowledge and tools to take charge of their own health.

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