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A highly popular jazz song composed by George and Ira Gershwin and published in 1930 proclaimed, “I got rhythm. Who could ask for anything more.” The lyrics speak of music and happiness. But let’s consider another side of rhythm which can also lead to happiness and is an important factor in human health—circadian rhythm. 

What is Circadian Rhythm 

Circadian Rhythm is like a clock that is programmed into our body, a biological clock that regulates our natural body functions and is based on our wake/sleep cycle. It also determines our feeding patterns. As author Oliver Heath has written poetically, “We no longer wake up with the dawn chorus and settle down for the night with the hum of crickets. But just as our circadian rhythms are affected by exposure to natural light, sounds can act as cues for our sense of time and how we feel.”  

Circadian rhythm represents a 24-hour period of the physical, mental, and behavioral changes that an individual experiences. Light and dark have the largest impacts on one’s circadian rhythm, but other influences include things such as: food intake, physical activity, temperature, social environment, and stress. Circadian rhythm has impacts on these bodily functions: sleep patterns, bodily temperature, appetite and digestion, and hormone release.   

What Factors Can Interfere with or Change Circadian Rhythm 

Consider these factors that can interfere with or change circadian rhythm:  

  • Poor sleep habits, include eating or drinking late at night, watching screens too close to bedtime, not following a regular sleep schedule, and not having a comfortable place to sleep. 
  • Health conditions, including dementia, head injuries, blindness, brain damage, and mental health problems. 
  • Some medications. 
  • Stress. 
  • A lifestyle involving late-night hours or early wake times. Similarly, work shifts that are opposite to the normal light and dark daily times. 

How to Achieve and Maintain a Healthy Circadian Rhythm 

First, it is critical to follow a consistent sleep schedule. Second, keep your naps short and early in the afternoon. Third, make sure your bedroom is conducive to sleep, with a comfortable mattress, and the right amount/heaviness of bedding. Fourth, limit light sources before bedtime, especially reading in bed, watching TV in bed, and using electronic devices in bed.  Fifth, avoid caffeine before bedtime. Sixth, get some daily exercise. Seventh, seek out some sun during the day and especially in the morning. 

What Are the Health Effects of Poor Circadian Rhythm 

Consider these effects: memory issues, lack of energy, poor coordination, drowsiness, delayed wound healing, difficulty focusing and learning, and problems with digestion and bowel health. Long-term problems of poor circadian rhythm include increasing the risks of diabetes, mood disorders, obesity, heart and blood pressure problems, and cancer. Additionally, any existing health problems can worsen. 

How Often Do People Experience Circadian Rhythm Problems 

The National Institutes of Health has reported studies suggesting that up to 3% of the adult population in the U.S. suffers from a circadian sleep disorder.

The Importance of Obtaining Enough Good Sleep 

Medical experts state that most adults need 7 or more hours of quality sleep each night following a regular schedule. Teens need 8 to 10 hours each night, and younger school-aged children need 9 to 12 hours each night. 

There are many benefits of getting good sleep on a regular schedule: 

  1. Strengthens your heart. 
  2. Regulates your body’s blood sugar. 
  3. Reduces cortisol levels. 
  4. Decreases inflammation. Inflammation can damage bodily structures and increase your risk of ulcers, dementia, and heart disease. 
  5. Helps you maintain a healthy weight. 
  6. Improves your balance and coordination. 
  7. Increases your energy and alertness. 
  8. Improves your memory and thinking functions. 
  9. Naturally promotes healing.

Get Professional Home Care for Your Loved Ones  

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