The Power of Your Body’s Internal Clock
Have you ever flown across several time zones and had difficulty falling asleep or staying awake? Or do you wake up at the same time every day, almost down to the minute? If you answered ‘yes’ to either question, then you’ve experienced clear signs of your body’s internal clock at work.
Contrary to popular belief, your body doesn’t have one set ‘clock.’ Instead, it has many different clocks that all operate at different schedules every day, which are sometimes referred to as circadian rhythms. So, in the case of your sleep habits, your body's circadian rhythms cause you to fall asleep and then awaken around the same times every day.
These cycles work, in part, thanks to your brain’s hypothalamus. This part of the brain observes the changes in daylight and helps the rest of your body subconsciously know what time it is.
Researchers are beginning to understand how much your body’s internal clock affects aspects of your health beyond sleep.
Studies show your risk for heart attack and stroke are highest in the morning. This could be due to your body’s naturally increased hormones and heart rate at that time of day. Your risk of viral infections and severity of cold symptoms and allergies peak in the morning, too.
Doctors may use this information when treating conditions. By prescribing drugs or giving medicine at certain times of day, they can help reduce side effects and improve its efficacy.
Circadian rhythms affect another major aspect of your health: your diet. One study compared the insulin levels of men with prediabetes on two different eating schedules. It found that the group that ate earlier in the day had improved insulin sensitivity, lower blood pressure and even less hunger at night.
Keep in mind our understanding of the body’s connection to its internal clock isn’t fully understood. It’s best to follow the advice of your primary care physician, especially when it comes to things like dieting and prescriptions. Always consult with your doctor before making lifestyle changes.
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