The circadian rhythm is a major foundation of mental health which effects mood, sleep, stress, pain, and depression. The circadian rhythm is a 24 hour sleep (dark cycle)/ awake (light cycle). With on going disruption of the rhythmicity of this cycle, the disruption reinforces mental distress and issues such as bipolar, depression, insomnia, stress, and PTSD the symptoms of which all reflect disruption of this rhythm. During our day light hours, light travels through the retina of our eyes to a gland in the brain (pineal) responding to our internal pacemaker by secreting melatonin.
The transition of light through the eyes stimulates the brain and hormones. Other mood disorders such as bulimia and PMS can result with a dis-regulated circadian rhythm and the release of cortisol. In order to be able to regulate both mood and health your circadian rhythm also needs to be regulated. The light and dark cycle plus nutrition as well as the time that you eat during the day, called chromo-nutrition is extremely important.
People who suffer from seasonal effective disorder (SAD), experience dis-regulation of their circadian rhythm. Signs of which are vegetative like symptoms of depression including hyper-somnia, increased appetite, carbohydrate craving, all resulting in weight gain. Early life trauma can also disrupt sleep from childhood and is also a risk factor in mood disorders. Chronic stress can also be another factor as chronic stress exacerbates mood at every life stage change and both trauma and stress disrupts circadian rhythm and later cortisol rhythm of the adrenal glands.
Physical symptoms of adrenal stress as disruptive rhythm, can influence cravings for sweets and carbohydrates as well as indigestion and a whole host of other symptoms, such as excessive fatigue, light headedness, irritability, nervousness, and can result in gritting teeth as well as darkness and puffiness around the eyes. Insomnia is actually quite common with 30% of the population experiencing disrupted sleep at some time in their life. Aging actually does not decrease the total amount of sleep needed however, what does happen is that sleep becomes more and more restless, with good and long deep sleep being harder and harder to come by. Insomnia can be caused by anxiety, environmental change, emotional arousal, pain or discomfort, as well as caffein or alcohol ingestion.
The key is to be able to start to reduce stimulants such as coffee, tea, coke, chocolate with healthy substitutions that do not contain sugar or caffein. Start to pay attention to reactive hypoglycaemia, which is the cycle of highs and lows of eating a high carbohydrate diet. People who have disrupted circadian rhythms can have a stress response at night meaning that the cortisol is off balance, high at night when it is supposed to be low at night and high in the morning, often seen with people who suffer from depression.
When people wake up at 3AM, it could be that the body is actually deprived of glucose, so try eating a light protein and carb snack before bed in order to support the body with the glucose it is actually needing. Like for example, grapes and cheese!
Melatonin is a hormone (surprise) that regulates circadian rhythm but it doesn’t actually help a person to sleep, turning down the lights a few hours before you intend to head off to bed, can help. Turning on the lights as soon as it is that you get up, signals the start of the day with light passing through your retina. The time of day in which you eat can either speed up or delay your internal clock, so by eating later you may also move your bodies internal clock back. Doing a physical activity in the evening such as going for a walk can also shift your circadian rhythm. Moving your physical activity and eating plans either earlier or later each day by fifteen minutes will help you find a rhythm that will help your sleep pattern work for you and manage your weight better.
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