The fact that most people prefer to sleep at night and stay awake during the day is not by accident. Our circadian rhythm, or internal clock, controls our sleep-wake cycle. This internal clock, like old-fashioned clocks, needs to be reset every day and is adjusted by the morning’s initial exposure to light.
What causes the circadian rhythm?
Numerous genes regulate our circadian rhythms, which are in charge of a number of crucial processes like daily variations in wakefulness, body temperature, metabolism, digestion, and hunger. The timing of hormone production (for instance, the hormones controlling body growth function primarily at night) and bodily healing are similarly governed by circadian rhythm. Long-term memories are formed during sleep.
While the circadian sleep phase normally takes place at night, it can happen at any time of the day. Some people, known as morning larks, are programmed to sleep from early evening until early morning, while others stay up late and sleep late (known as night owls). A person’s circadian tendency might affect their choice of emotional coping mechanisms, such as assertiveness or rationality, as well as their propensity for psychological illnesses, in addition to how much and when they sleep.
How is your mood affected by your circadian rhythm?
A person’s ability to sleep and operate normally can be negatively impacted by an irregular circadian rhythm, which can also lead to a variety of health issues, including mood disorders like despair and anxiety, seasonal affective disorder, and bipolar disorder. According to a new study, people who are night owls may be more prone to psychological problems. The morning larks’ coping mechanisms had greater results and caused fewer psychological issues than those used by other circadian types, according to the authors’ research. Since this was a correlational study, the rationale for choosing coping strategies was not discussed; however, the study highlights the significant influence circadian rhythms have on health and functioning.
Circadian rhythm and depression
Studies of shift workers, whose sleep cycles are uncoordinated with their circadian rhythms, provide most of the evidence for the connection between mood disorders and circadian rhythm. Numerous studies have found that night-shift employees are more likely to experience depression. According to a meta-analysis, night-shift employees have a 40% higher risk of developing depression than day-shift workers. On the other hand, circadian rhythm abnormalities are prevalent among depressed individuals, who frequently experience alterations in their sleep patterns, hormone rhythms, and body temperature cycles.
Given that some persons have more severe depressive symptoms in the morning, depression symptoms may also have a circadian pattern. The degree of a person’s circadian and sleep cycle misalignment is correlated with how severe their depression is.
Bright light therapy, wake therapy, and interpersonal and social rhythm therapies are just a few of the effective treatments for depression that can have a direct impact on circadian rhythms.
The circadian rhythm and anxiety
The circadian rhythm being uncoordinated can also make people anxious. When your midnight work shifts interfere with your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep, you develop a sleep problem from shift work. This excessive daytime sleepiness causes distress and impairs your ability to function properly. On questionnaires, nurses with shift work disorder scored higher on anxiety. Travelers scored higher on anxiety and despair in a study on jet lag, which occurs when time changes during transit such that the external environment is no longer coordinated with the internal clock and affects sleep.
Affective seasonality and the circadian rhythm
People with seasonal affective disorder experience wintertime blues and depression. This, according to researchers, is caused by adjustments in circadian rhythms brought on by seasonal variations in the length of daylight. Artificial morning light helps people with the seasonal affective disorder feel better by realigning their circadian rhythm with their sleep-wake cycle.
How can my circadian type be changed?
Since your circadian type is genetically determined, there is no way to change it, although there are some natural changes that take place throughout your lifespan. For instance, as we mature, our circadian sleep phase tends to advance earlier and shift later during adolescence (more owls) (more like the lark). You can either adjust your social life to match your circadian rhythm or try to adjust your circadian rhythm to match your social life if you discover that your circadian sleep phase is uncoordinated with the schedule you would want to follow. It might be simpler to try to adjust your work and social life to your circadian rhythm. For instance, a person with a delayed circadian rhythm who prefers to sleep in and wake up late might switch from a job that requires a 7 AM start time to one that starts work at 10 AM. The alternative would be to consult a sleep specialist and continue working to try to change your circadian rhythm to match an earlier wake-up time for work and social activities.
Get a good night’s sleep by synchronizing your circadian rhythm with your sleep-wake cycle to boost your mood. Early morning exposure to light aids in synchronizing the clock. The disturbance of circadian rhythm that can result from night-time exposure to intense light, such as strong artificial lighting and screen time on laptops, tablets, and phones, may affect mood and have detrimental effects on health.
Tips to enhance your mood and sleep
Spend the entire night asleep. Adults typically require seven to nine hours of sleep. Every day of the week, rising at the same time. Regular wake-up times in the morning result in regular sleep-onset times, which helps your circadian rhythm and sleep-wake cycle match.
At least 60 to 90 minutes before bedtime, stay away from bright lights and screen usage. Consider doing things like reading a book in low light, listening to audiobooks, practicing guided meditation, or attending mindfulness lectures.
How to sleep better?
1. Adhere to a regular bedtime
Limit your sleep time to eight hours. The suggested hours of rest for a grown individual are at least 7 hours. Most individuals do not need any more than eight hours every night to be well rested.
Including weekends, going to bed, and rising at the same hour every day. Consistency strengthens the sleep-wake cycle in your body. After settling down for around 20 minutes, if you still cannot sleep, get out of bed, and relax. Read a book or play some relaxing music. When you are exhausted, go back to bed. Repeat as necessary but keep your bedtime and wake-up time the same.
2. Pay close attention to your diet and beverage choices
Do not overeat or go to bed hungry. Avoid eating a big, heavy dinner right before bed. You might not sleep due to discomfort.
Alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine should all be used with caution. Nicotine and caffeine have energizing effects that take hours to subside and can disrupt sleep. Additionally, alcohol might interfere with sleep later in the night, even if it may make you feel drowsy at first.
3. Establish a tranquil setting
Keep your space cool, quiet, and dark. Light exposure in the evenings could make it tougher to fall asleep. Avoid extended use of light-emitting devices just before bedtime. To create a setting that is appropriate for your needs, think about using earplugs, a fan, room-darkening shades, or other gadgets. Better sleep might be facilitated by relaxing activities like taking a bath or practicing relaxation techniques before bed.
4. Restrict daytime naps
Long naps during the day can keep you up at night. Avoid taking naps in the afternoon and keep naps to no longer than an hour. If you work evenings, though, you might need to take a nap in the afternoon before work to help make up for lost sleep.
5. Make physical activity a regular part of your day
Regular exercise can help you sleep better. Avoid exercising too soon before going to bed, though. Daily outside time could also be beneficial.
6. Control Anxiety
Before going to bed, try to put your worries or concerns to rest. Write down your thoughts, then put them aside until tomorrow. Stress reduction may be beneficial. Start with the fundamentals, such as organization, prioritization, and work delegation. Additionally, meditation reduces anxiety.
When to contact your doctor is something you should know
Everybody occasionally has a difficult time getting to sleep. However, if you frequently have difficulties falling asleep, speak with your doctor. You may be able to get the better sleep you need by figuring out the root of your issues and treating them.
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