The internal clock in our body is called as circadian rhythm that cycles every 24 hours where these 24-hour rhythms influence our sleep/wake cycles, food intake and endocrine and metabolic pathways that are needed to maintain normal physiology and organismal homeostasis but disruption of this rhythm often leads to sleep disturbances called circadian rhythm disorders. Circadian rhythm disruptions can significantly impact one’s health, particularly sleep patterns as shift work, long-distance travel, irregular sleep cycles and exposure to artificial light at night can all affect the body’s natural circadian rhythm.
A disrupted circadian rhythm can lead to symptoms such as fatigue, mood swings and difficulty concentrating. In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Suhas HS, Consultant- Pulmonologist at Manipal Hospital in Sarjapur, revealed that it often presents with symptoms of:
- Struggles with initiating or maintaining sleep
- Too much sleepiness or fatigue during daytime or during work
- Extreme tiredness and exhaustion
- Decreased alertness and difficulty concentrating
- Problem in decision-making in potentially risky situations, such as when driving
- Difficulty managing mood and emotions
- Aches and pains, including headaches
- Stomach problems in people who have a jet lag disorder
Highlighting that dysfunctional circadian rhythm often results in risks for metabolic syndrome and cancer, even altered health span and accelerated ageing, he suggested some of the measures that can be followed:
- Keep a regular meal schedule.
- Sleep hygiene measures:
- Having a fixed time for awakening and sleeping
- Early dinner.
- Sleep on mattress and pillow that are comfortable
- Avoid disturbances in the sleeping room: laptop, mobile phones, television.
- Keep the room temperature cool.
- Keep the room dark.
- Avoid daytime naps.
- Have regular physical activities: Avoid having physical activities close to sleep.
- Limit caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, and other sedatives close to sleep.
- Manage your exposure to light: Light is the strongest signal in the environment to help reset your sleep-wake cycle. It might be necessary to increase exposure to natural sunlight in the daytime and reduce the use of artificial light at night from electronic gadgets and TV screens. Artificial light can reduce melatonin levels, making it difficult to sleep. Avoid the use of laptops/TV screens just before sleep.
- Medicines: Consult a doctor for medications that help in regulating sleep rhythms. These may include Melatonin, sedatives, or wake-promoting medications.
Dr Shankar S Biradar, MBBS, Medical Director in association with Magniflex India, recommended, “To improve one’s sleep cycle, several lifestyle changes can be made. Adopting a regular sleep schedule can help regulate the body’s internal clock and can help establish a consistent circadian rhythm and lead to better sleep quality. Additionally, it’s crucial to create a relaxing sleep environment. Keeping the bedroom dark, cool, and quiet can promote restful sleep. Furthermore, avoiding electronic devices before bedtime can reduce exposure to blue light, which suppresses melatonin production and makes it harder to fall asleep. Another way is to incorporate regular exercise into one’s routine. However, it’s important to avoid exercise right before bedtime, as it can be stimulating and make it harder to fall asleep. For a good night’s sleep, you need the right quality of mattress, a patented weight induced memory foam mattress would help in better blood circulation and less toss and turn due to the right support and comfort in comparison to a spring mattress.”
He pointed out, “Melatonin supplements can reset the circadian rhythm and promote better sleep. Melatonin is a hormone that the body produces naturally, but it can also be taken in supplement form. However, speaking with a healthcare professional before starting any new supplements is essential. Relaxation techniques, such as meditation or deep breathing, can also help improve sleep quality and reset the circadian rhythm. Finally, it’s important to limit the consumption of caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine, as these substances can disrupt sleep patterns and affect sleep quality.”