The circadian rhythm is a biological process that runs through a 24-hour cycle rhythm. The 24-hour rhythms are driven by a clock known as a circadian clock. This phenomenon is not only experienced by human beings but also by plants, animals, and fungi. The term circadian originated from the Latin word meaning ‘around’ and diem means day. Just as the circadian study refers to the 24-hour cycle of animals and plants, there are also studies pertaining to weekly, seasonal annual rhythms. The concept of the circadian rhythm became well-known when the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded to Jeffrey Hall, Michael Rosbash and Michael Young for discovering the mechanisms that controlled the circadian rhythm.
People have different levels of sleepiness and alertness that is there are those people who go to bed and get up early in the morning. There are those who sleep late and get up late in the morning. People who work on the graveyard shift sleep during the day as they are at work during the night which can be dangerous as the body requires us to be asleep at night.
Sleep is regulated by two systems known as the sleep and wake homeostasis and the circadian biological clock. The sleep and wake homeostasis are alert tools that balance our sleeping and wake hours. When a person is awake for longer than necessary, the sleep and wake homeostasis will come into play by telling the body that sleep is overdue and it is time to sleep. A normal person requires 6-8 hours of sleep. The sleep and wake homeostasis ensure the body gets sufficient sleep that balances with the hours of being awake. The restorative process whereby one sleeps regularly for 6-8 hours of daily sleep enables alertness after waking up. The longer the number of sleep hours the previous night, the longer one is able to be awake the following day. Subsequently, the number of wake hours during the current day determines the following number of hours of sleep. If one has been awake for long periods of time during the day, then the sleep mode will kick in earlier and for longer hours of sleep.
The circadian biological clock regulates the timing of periods of sleepiness and wakefulness throughout the day. The circadian rhythm will dip and rise at different times during the day depending on the sleep and wake homeostasis, the overall health of the person and the health conditions of the internal systems. People will feel the strongest urge to sleep between 2.00 and 4.00 am in the early morning and 1.00 to 3.00 pm in the afternoon. There could be variations depending on the personality traits of being a morning or evening person. The level of sleepiness one experiences during the circadian dips will depend on the number of sufficient sleep hours as it will be less intense if there is sufficient sleep and more intense in the case of sleep deprivation.
Although the circadian rhythms are built in the bodies rhythm, they can be adjusted to environmental influences. The body is believed to have a time clock which determines the time when the body starts the process of daily detoxification. The normal recommended time for sleep at night is around 10 pm which is when the body goes into rest mode and gets ready for detoxifying the organs of all the waste collected during the day. Environmental influences such as high temperatures and light can impact the circadian rhythm. If a person is influenced by these external influences of high temperature and light and is unable to sleep, then the body will not be able to start its detoxifying process resulting in the accumulation of toxic waste in the body.
Gentle reminder: The information on this article is not meant to replace a qualified healthcare professional and should not be considered as professional advice. Please seek appropriate medical help when necessary.