Circadian rhythms

What are circadian rhythms and how to respect them?

What are circadian rhythms? As you well know, twice a year there is a time change, summer and winter, which means that we have more or less hours of sunshine during the day. Let’s start at the beginning, who created the time change? Benjamin Franklin, American scientist, politician and inventor, was the one who first suggested the time change, in the 18th century. He even did it through some letters he sent to ” The Journal ” of Paris proposing it. They ignored him and years later, the subject reappeared at the hand of the builder William Willet, but again the option of carrying it out did not succeed.

Then it was Kaiser Wilhelm II in Germany, in the middle of the First World War, April 30, 1916, who implemented the first official time change with the intention of saving energy. Gradually, the change was introduced to the rest of the countries.

To this day, there is still debate about whether or not it is necessary to make this time change, since it has been studied that it can cause changes in health, more specifically fatigue and general tiredness, drowsiness during the day, difficulty falling asleep at night, irritability, lack of concentration and decreased physical and intellectual performance. We can also feel hungry after hours, or even just the opposite, lack of appetite or a feeling of fullness after eating.

What could we do to try to avoid the effects of the time change?

  • Try to anticipate: the days before the change, go to sleep and get up 15 minutes earlier or later depending on the type of time change that touches
  • Modify your meal schedule: depending on the time change, try to advance or delay meal times, so your stomach will end up adapting.
  • Practice moderate physical exercise: try to exercise first thing in the day or hours before going to sleep.
  • Reduce your activity during the weekend of the time change: try to do things that involve little effort, so as not to accumulate fatigue.
  • Try to avoid napping for a few days: it is better that your sleep patterns are not affected, so avoid napping in the days before the change, even days after.
  • Moderate the consumption of stimulating drinks: try not to drink coffee, tea, alcohol or any exciting drink that has an effect on sleep.
  • Control the use of electronic devices: the light emitted by these devices can disturb sleep, so it is recommended to avoid them just before falling asleep.
  • Do not take sleep medications: do not self-medicate, the effects of the change will disappear after three days.

All these changes that occur in our body every time there is a time change are due to our biological clock, which is what controls circadian rhythms. This clock is located in the hypothalamus, an area of the brain that, among other things, is responsible for controlling body temperature, heart rate and even hunger.

Circadian rhythms are physical, mental and behavioral changes that occur during the day in our body. These changes happen repeatedly in periods of 24 hours, because of a synchronization with the environment. The word “circadian” means “around a day” and comes from the Latin words “circa” (around) and “diem” (day), hence it refers to everything that happens over 24 hours.

Examples of circadian rhythms:

  • Sleep-wake alternation
  • Temperature changes
  • The production of certain hormones
  • The digestion process

Circadian rhythms are of vital importance when it comes to maintaining an optimal state of health, for this it is important that we respect and listen to the rhythms of the body, keeping regular schedules and taking into account things like when it gets dark we should significantly reduce our exposure to artificial and blue light (screens) and when it is daytime we should expose ourselves to the sun for at least half an hour every day. Of course, resting between 7 and 8 hours is also of vital importance to keep our system in good condition and not get out of adjustment. As in everything, balance is the key.

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