If you have tiredness and fatigue and can’t seem to get a good night of sleep, it’s pretty important to consider your circadian rhythms.
Circadian rhythms is a big term if you haven’t heard it before.
This is a scientific term that means a natural rhythm occurring in your body every 24 hours.
Four Criteria For Circadian Rhythms
1. The rhythm has to repeat itself every 24 hours.
2. If you are in a new environment, the circadian rhythm must still repeat itself.
3. If you are physically located in a different place where the light and darkness cycle is different, your body’s natural rhythms will try to reset themselves.
4. No matter what the outside temperature is in the environment, your body still has these natural circadian rhythms.
The question you may be asking yourself is what is it that these rhythms are for and what do they do?
Your body can have circadian rhythms for sleeping and waking, thirst, eating (appetite), and body temperature. In other words, at a certain time of the night, you will get tired, no matter what.
At a certain time in the morning, you will want to get out of bed. At a certain time of the day, you will be hungry or thirsty.
And at a certain time of the day–two hours before you wake up–your body temperature will be the lowest it’s been all during the 24 hours of the day.
How Your Body Uses Light And Dark Cycles To Determine Circadian Rhythms
The reason why these circadian rhythms can work at all is that certain types of cells called ganglion cells in your eye are constantly detecting how much light is outside in your environment.
These ganglion cells work no matter whether you are blind or can see. The cells send a pigment called melanopsin to your hypothalamus, which then responds to the information it has received.
The hypothalamus is amazing in that it takes all the information on how many minutes of night light and daylight you get during the day and sends it off to your pineal gland. In response, the pineal gland secretes melatonin.
What Resets The Circadian Rhythms
The melatonin can help reset your circadian rhythms when they are out of whack. But even in this advanced technological age, scientists still can’t say how this is done.
More recent studies have found that lithium can help reset the genes related to circadian rhythms.
This is a particularly interesting fact since there are geographic areas in the world where high levels of lithium are found and other areas where low levels of lithium are found in the soil and the water.
For example, parts of Texas are found to have high levels of lithium and correspondingly, there are low rates of depression there. Whenever a person has depression, he or she will usually have fatigue and tiredness as well.
In Oregon in the U.S., there is a river called the Lithate River, which contains high levels of lithium in its water. People visit this river from all parts of the world to feel better.
It’s a known fact that if the hypothalamus is destroyed, you will not ever be able to set up a natural sleeping and waking cycle. But those who are fatigued don’t usually have this problem.
What Do Circadian Rhythms Have To Do With My Fatigue?
How this relates to your fatigue is in this way: If you are staying up long past 11 p.m. with artificial light on, the cells of your eyes are detecting this artificial light as light from the sun.
You may be able to stay up until 2 a.m. or 3 a.m. working but all those extra hours of work have offset your circadian rhythms. Soon it becomes difficult to adjust to normal waking hours.
Here’s an example. Pilots are in a profession where it’s quite easy for them to change time zones during one long flight. They fly long hours as well. They can experience jet lag, lots of fatigue and insomnia.
This same fatigue and insomnia can also be felt if you aren’t a pilot and are traveling outside two time zones from your origination point.
When pilots have disturbed circadian rhythms, it can be quite dangerous since no one really would want to be on a plane where the pilot is fatigued.
Reaction times would be slower than what they should be and he would not be able to make sound decisions.
Drinking several cups of coffee won’t be enough to restore the circadian rhythms; it will only lead to further adrenal exhaustion.
It’s the same thing for you. You end up with tiredness, fatigue, inability to make decisions and even personality disorders when you don’t get normal sleep cycles. All this is because your circadian rhythms need to be a certain way.
How Can You Help Your Body Reset The Circadian Rhythms?
One Harvard researcher found that the circadian rhythms really are set to a very narrow range: Your body operates on a 24 hour 11 minute cycle plus or minus 16 minutes.
Your rhythms will always fall back daily to reset themselves to the same cycle of the Earth’s rotation. That’s where they want to be and they’re quite stubborn about you trying to change them.
So the best thing you can do if your sleep cycles are off is to give yourself about three weeks to get back on track.
You could even take melatonin as a supplement (usually 2 mg to 5 mg) to try to reset the cycles faster than doing it on your own.
When your body has normal circadian cycles, it’s entirely possible that your fatigue will be gone.