Cool Things You Didn't Know About Circadian Rhythm

Circadian rhythm is the internal clock that makes us feel tired at nighttime and awake during the day. The circadian rhythm is an extremely intricate mechanism, with an internal control system that responds to external signals.

Despite its complexity, scientists think that circadian rhythm is one of life's most primitive adaptations. All living things have circadian rhythms, including animals of all sizes, plants, and even fungi and bacteria.

This list is full of circadian rhythm facts that should make you realize how important it is that you stay faithful to your circadian clock. This internal "clock" regulates more than just sleep - we rely on circadian rhythm to regulate metabolism, insulin and glucose levels, hormone production, core body temperature, brain wave activity, and cell regeneration. Almost all of our biological processes can be tied back to circadian rhythm, and messing with these biological rhythms can lead to serious health issues.

So read on to learn about what your circadian clock does, and how to keep it working properly - it can truly be a matter of life or death.

  • Using Your Phone in Bed Keeps You Up at Night

    The SCN knows what temperature to set the body at based on the amount of light that our eyes are receiving. This is why using electronic devices before bed can make it difficult to fall asleep. It can also make sleeping difficult for people who live close to the poles, where the sun might be up for 18 hours or more.
  • If Your Clock Gets Out of Sync, You Might Age Faster

    Scientists have discovered that circadian rhythm controls when the stem cells in your skin differentiate. If your circadian clock is out of sync from sleep deprivation, you could be causing your skin to age faster, and even putting yourself at risk of skin cancer.
  • City Life Can Reset Your Circadian Rhythm

    One study found that birds that lived in cities had faster circadian rhythms than birds in the wilderness. The city birds started their days earlier and ended it later because of the artificial light and sounds of the environment.

    What does that mean for humans? Research is ongoing, but there is reason to believe that the late nights associated with urban living have fundamentally changed our circadian rhythms and may contribute to depression, obesity, and other health issues.

  • Your Circadian Rhythms Are Controlled by a "Master Clock" in the Brain

    Your Circadian Rhythms Are Controlled by a "Master Clock" in the Brain
    Photo: bykst / Pixabay / CC0 1.0

    A group of nerve cells in the brain called the suprachiasmatic nucleus, or SCN, controls our circadian rhythm. The SCN controls the body's temperature, and small fluctuations in temperature throughout the day will trigger various cells in different organ systems in the body to be active or inactive.

    This is how the SCN controls the release of melatonin, the hormone that makes you sleepy.

  • Abnormal Circadian Rhythm Can Cause Health Problems

    Scientists have found links between abnormal circadian rhythms and potentially life-threatening health problems, such as diabetes, obesity, heart and kidney disease, and even cancer. One reason for this is that disruption in circadian rhythm affects how your blood vessels grow.

    Disruptions to your circadian clock impairs the growth of new blood vessels, and inadequate blood vessels, in turn, can lead to heart attacks, strokes, and some forms of cancer. It can also mean you don't heal as quickly from wounds.

  • Circadian Rhythm Is the Reason You Shouldn't Snack at Midnight

    Circadian Rhythm Is the Reason You Shouldn't Snack at Midnight
    Photo: Shari Weinsheimer / Public Domain Pictures

    You've probably heard that late-night snacking can lead to weight gain. That's because our circadian rhythm tells us to eat in the daytime, and if we disobey it and eat at night, our bodies may not be prepared to process the calories we're taking in.

    Studies have shown that if you are trying to lose weight, eating large meals late in the day can make weight loss much more difficult.