If you devote enough time to your well-being, you have probably noticed how often you feel drowsy during the day and find it difficult to fall asleep at night, all accompanied by constant fatigue. It may be your “internal clock” whose activities are not always well aligned with your agenda.
It turns out such a mismatch can affect not only comfort but also health, including the functioning of the immune system.
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Biorhythm is a natural process of every organism
Although the very name of this physiological phenomenon – “biological” or “circadian” rhythm – may sound a bit mystical, these terms are well known to scientists in various fields who study both the life cycles of plants or animals and the internal rhythm of humans. The fact that everything on this Earth lives at a certain rhythm has been known since ancient times, and in the 18th century, scientists were already conducting more meaningful research.
Astronomer J. Jacques d’Ortous de Mairan observed that the mimosa plant, which under normal conditions raises its leaves as soon as it is illuminated and folds at night, behaves even when brought into a dark place out of reach of sunlight.
Later, the researchers also noticed that not only plants but also animals and humans are affected by the same “internal clock”, which helps to activate different physiological functions at different times of the day. Even the term circadian rhythm itself derives from the two Latin words “circle” and “day”.
The point lies in genes
2017 J.C. Hall, M. Robash, and M. W. Young received the Nobel Prize for discovering a model of how this mysterious mechanism actually works. Scientists say a certain gene is responsible for everything, which controls the action of the protein responsible for the circadian rhythm. This protein accumulates in the cell during the night and gradually decreases during the day.
It goes without saying that this complex mechanism takes place, and many other proteins have involved that bind at various stages of the mechanism. It is already well known that these biorhythms affect our behavior, emotions, hormone levels, sleep, body temperature, metabolism, and mental activity. That’s why if your “internal clock” is well “calibrated” and aligned with your external agenda, you’re likely to feel good. However, if this is not the case, the risk of immune system failure and many diseases increases.
Disruption of biorhythms puts you at risk for health
The impact of biorhythms on health is best illustrated by studies conducted with workers who work night shifts. Even with a temporary change in daily routine, disorders such as fatigue, difficulty sleeping, indigestion can be observed, and more serious health complaints can occur if the adverse situation persists.
One of the most common consequences of a prolonged change in biorhythm is a variety of gastrointestinal ulcers. Several scientific studies suggest that night shift workers are also more prone to cancer or diabetes. An interesting connection was also revealed in the study of pregnant women.
Assessing more than 22,000 pregnancies, it has been observed that night-shift workers tend to give birth to lower birth weight babies. The results of these studies suggest that we should pay more attention to biorhythms and their coordinated activities in caring for our health.
The body understands when it is day and when it is night
Melatonin, an important hormone secreted by the pineal gland, can be boldly called an internal guide that helps the body balance physiological functions according to the needs of the day. Generally speaking, it helps our body understand when the darkness of the night prevails and when the morning dawns.
Even more interesting is that the secretion of this hormone is coordinated not only with the time of day but also with the time of year. On long winter nights, the hormone is synthesized significantly longer, and when summer comes, this time is shortened, which is why various body functions, such as weight control, are so affected by the seasons.
The importance of this hormone is also shown by the fact that although it is produced at night, its ability to control cell and tissue function remains for 24 hours. We can say that melatonin, due to its listed properties, is one of the most important guides for human biorhythm.
Melatonin is essential in maintaining the proper functioning of the immune system
Other important properties of melatonin are also observed. This hormone is thought to be important in regulating oxidative stress, cell apoptosis (the mechanism by which cells destroy themselves), and oncological and immune processes. Many studies show that there is a strong link between rhythmic melatonin production and the immune system.
This has been confirmed in both experimental and clinical studies: by increasing the levels of this hormone in the body in various ways, the number and activity of cells involved in immune processes increase significantly. The function of melatonin as a substance against viruses, bacteria, and parasites has been observed and important in recent decades.
It was noted that the survival of mice infected with certain viruses was improved when treated with melatonin. Researchers talk about the positive effects of the hormone not only in the aforementioned cases but also in the control of autoimmune diseases and organ transplants.
Researchers who are more interested in the effects of melatonin on the human body believe it could be one of the reasons why children get COVID-19 infection more easily than older people. It is known that higher levels of melatonin are found in children than in adults, and it decreases significantly with age.
You can help balance the amount of melatonin in your body yourself
There is a lot you can do yourself to keep your biorhythms in balance. The setting sun is a sign that it is quite possible to use modern technologies and it is worth “turning off” the screens until the next day. If this sounds too drastic, don’t use them for at least an hour or two until you go to bed.
If your beloved bedtime is a ritual you need, at least try looking for apps that can reduce the intensity of blue light on smart devices. Try to sleep in a darkened room, and during the day, on the contrary, get as much natural daylight as possible.