What is the Circadian Rhythm?

By Sheila Kun RN, BSN, MS, CPN, FCCP

By the time this article comes out, you have already fallen back, re-set your clock one hour backward. We ended the daylight saving regimen this last Sunday. This annual ritual raises a subject that I am pretty curious about – circadian rhythm. I never really understand the total ramification of the phenomenon. Hence I decided to devote the next few weeks exploring this subject and learning from it. Researching through the internet, I found this article present the topics in a simple, but easy to understand manner. It has 10 important facts to share. Therefore, I am going to share this article by Shayna, Facty Staff from Facty Health – this was updated March 07, 2019.

Most people feel tired at night and hungry at lunchtime. That’s because our bodies have a built-in process that regulates sleep, hunger, and energy levels — the circadian rhythm. Although the cycle can be affected by artificial lights or travel, unless a health issue is at play, our 24-hour “clock” always resets itself in time. We share this rhythm with all life on earth, from plants to animals, and even bacteria, and it affects more than just sleep and hunger.

What is a Circadian Rhythm?

Sometimes called the body clock, the circadian rhythm is about 24 hours long. All life, even the simplest cyanobacteria, has a circadian rhythm of the same duration. This daily cycle influences brain-wave activity patterns, cell repair, and hormone levels. The cycle is built into to all life, but changes in light levels and temperature conditions can alter them, if temporarily.

Why We Have Circadian Rhythms

Scientists know all life has a circadian rhythm of about 24 hours, but no one knows why. An educated guess suggests the cycle is linked to the day length. However, the answer may not be this simple, as the earth has not always had a 24-hour day. 400 million years ago in the Cambrian, when animals evolved onto land, the day was about 21 hours long. The most popular theory today is that circadian rhythms are linked to changing oxygen levels in the air. Hours of sunlight affect this factor because plants only release oxygen in daylight. Scientists do not understand the exact reasons for this link.

Your homework from the Care Ministry this week: just enjoy this interesting topic – more fun facts to come.

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