Your body’s internal 24-hour clock, your circadian clock, tunes to the day-night cycle by the light coming through your eyes and optic nerve. Nearly every organ in your body also has its clock, and “timekeeping” proteins cycle on a curve every 24 hours, like the sun. Yes, these clocks are in our DNA. When we override these natural cycles, our health may suffer. Whether you are a night owl or an early bird, your internal clocks can keep you healthy.
“Circadian” is not just a measure of sleep
Your biological clock thrives on stable light and dark cues, and regular sleep-wake times, exercise, and eating. As a result, exercise, yoga, massage, or special foods can’t reset your internal clock.
Jet lag and your internal 24-hour clock
When your light/dark, sleep/wake cycle shifts too suddenly, your internal clock fights to catch up. The timing of your light exposure is the real key to eliminating jet lag. The right light at the right time. Control it yourself or go high-tech. And yes, there’s an app for that: Timeshifter – the Jet Lag App adjusts your need for different light (or no light!) depending on your travel itinerary or your work schedule. In addition to controlling your light exposure by wearing sunglasses or watching a movie on a brightly lit screen, it can tell you when to get that cup of coffee and when to nap.
High-tech or no-tech, you’re in charge of your light!
No-tech is easy: disconnect from your electronics and TV, dim your house lighting well before bed. Sleep means avoiding light. Specifically, use bright, short-wavelength, blue-light bulbs during the day. Then, switch to dimmer, warmer, longer wavelength bulbs (red, yellow, and orange color) at dusk. This boosts melatonin, a hormone that increases when it’s dark and decreases when it’s light, playing a role in sleep.
High-tech tunable LED lights can automatically adjust day and night light color temperature and brightness. You can get as fancy as you want.
When you’re hot, you might sleep poorly
Sleeping in cooler environments, between 60° and 67° F, can reduce your morning stress hormones. Your body needs to lose heat to sleep, and your brain and body temperatures drop. Choose from a huge selection of high-tech mattresses that can help adjust your bed’s temperature, or simply lighten your bedcovers and lower your thermostat. Although external temperature control affects your sleep health, it is not part of your internal 24-hour clock.
So when do you eat?
Humans evolved to digest food in the day, suggesting that synchronizing meals to our internal clock, between dawn and dusk, is good for our metabolism. Studies at Hebrew University show that synching mealtimes with our internal 24-hour clock lead to more weight loss and reduced insulin resistance than eating the same foods without a schedule.
Rethinking time, light, and life
Get out into the sun’s natural light. Stop lighting up your nights with screens. Respect solar time, the seasons, and your night-owl or early bird tendencies. Your physical and mental health depend on respecting your internal 24-hour clock!
Woodlands Functional Family Medicine
We are minutes from I-45 (Houston’s North Freeway) in The Woodlands, Texas. Call 281-298-5476 for an appointment with Dr. Nangrani. We look forward to seeing you soon!