What Is Circadian Rhythm ? Everything You Need To Know
The question is what is circadian rhythm? (Also known as your biological clock.) Have you heard about circadian rhythm and how it can affect things like your body temperature, how well you sleep, and what time of day you’re more likely to give birth or die from a heart attack or stroke?
What is circadian rhythm? How does it affect you? And what can you do to help regulate your biological clock? Let’s talk about it.
What Is Circadian Rhythm?
What does circadian mean?
The word “circadian” was coined by a scientist in 1959 from the Latin words circa (“about”) and “dies” (“day”). According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of the word circadian is: “being, having, characterized by, or occurring in approximately 24-hour periods or cycles (as of biological activity or function).”
The word “circadian” is typically used in the phrase “circadian rhythm,” a phrase that refers to the biological processes that happen in a body or cell every 24 hours.
Circadian rhythm definition
Circadian rhythm examples
What is circadian rhythm and examples of it? The most common example of the biological clock is the sleep-wake cycle. Daylight controls processes that happen while you’re awake, and a lack of light helps trigger your body to start falling asleep. Other circadian rhythm examples include:
- Babies are born more frequently after midnight than during the afternoon. Evolution would favor giving birth after dark when there are fewer predators to contend with, so natural births are more likely to occur at night and are triggered by a circadian rhythm process.
- The risk of heart attack and stroke is highest from 8 am to noon every day. That’s because the circadian rhythm causes our blood pressure to be lowest around 3 am. When the sun rises and we get out of bed, our blood pressure can spike dangerously, leading to the higher frequency of morning deaths.
- Asthma attacks are more likely at dawn, likely because our bodies produce less cortisol, an anti-inflammatory steroid, during the night.
- Allergies also tend to be worse first thing in the morning.
- Jet lag is a problem when our body’s circadian rhythm is set to one-time zone, but we find ourselves in another. If you fly from the west coast to the east coast, for example, you may set your alarm for your regular wake-up time but still feel sleepy when you wake up because your body thinks you’re waking up 3 hours early.
Reasons to maintain a good circadian rhythm
What is circadian rhythm and how to maintain a healthy one? Having a good biological clock is crucial to having a healthy life, especially since our sleep cycle is tied so closely to our circadian rhythm. A lack of good sleep can lead to a wide variety of problems including:
- Increased risk of accidents
- Impaired thinking
- Heart attack
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Irregular heartbeat
- Heart failure
- Decreased libido
- Increased risk of depression
- Weight gain
- Higher risk of death
- Impaired judgment
Apart from the sleep-wake cycle, circadian rhythms also affect:
- Hormone release
- Eating habits and digestion
- Body temperature
- Many other bodily functions
In fact, your biological clock impacts a large fraction of your genes and how they function.
Since your circadian rhythm affects so much of your life and health, it makes sense that you would want to keep it as regular and healthy as possible.
Ways to maintain a good circadian rhythm
There are several things you can do to help establish and maintain a biological clock. Some examples include:
- Keep a regular sleep schedule – including weekends. Sleeping in on the weekend messes up your circadian rhythm, so try to get up at the same time every day. If you aren’t getting enough sleep, try going to bed earlier rather than waking up later.
- Take a morning walk. The sun tells your body that it’s time to start the day. A brisk stroll can also get your blood pumping. If you don’t have time to walk or you get up before dawn, consider getting a UV lamp and turning it on while you get ready in the morning.
- Stay away from your phone and computer before bedtime. The blue light that comes from computer screens, phones, and tablets tricks your brain into thinking it’s still daylight, which can mess up your circadian rhythm and make it harder to fall asleep. Try to stay away from tech for a couple of hours before bedtime.
How NAD+ Can Help Support A Healthy Circadian Rhythm
NAD+ is short for nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide, which is a coenzyme that helps regulate your biological clock and metabolism. It’s found in all living cells and helps maintain the function of your entire body. In fact, NAD+ is so important that increased levels of NAD+ are associated with preventing and treating aging and age-related diseases, increased energy production, and coordinating circadian rhythms.
David Sinclair, co-director of the Paul F. Glenn Center for the Biology of Aging at Harvard Medical School, told TIME: “NAD+ is the closest we’ve gotten to a fountain of youth. It’s one of the most important molecules for life to exist, and without it, you’re dead in 30 seconds.”
The amount of NAD+ in our bodies declines as we age. Various NAD+ supplements aim to replace that NAD+ to help reverse aging. NAD+ supplementation has also been shown to help reset biological clocks in mice.
While there has been little human testing on the effects of NAD+ supplements yet, studies done on mice are promising, with the mice looking and acting younger and living longer than expected