Body Clock refers to the body’s biological clock or the 24-hour cycle circadian rhythm that is affected by light and darkness. This controls functions like sleeping and waking, body temperature, and balance of body fluids. It’s what signals your body that it’s time to sleep or wake up.
When there is a problem with the body clock, sleeping issues may arise. The hormone responsible for the body’s sleep and wake cycles is called melatonin. Darkness triggers the production of melatonin that signals the body that it’s time for slumber. Daylight, on the other hand, slows down the production of this hormone so that you can wake up and feel more energetic in the morning.
Disruptions in Body Clock
If there is artificial light in the evening, the body makes less melatonin than necessary. Same is true for people who stay up very late or have sleep/wake cycles different from what’s supposed to be.
One problem that can be associated with melatonin production is jetlag. When you travel and cross time zones, your body clock is disrupted. Until your body becomes fully adjusted to the new time zone, you’ll have sleep problems because your body thinks you’re still in your old time zone.
For instance, if you travel from Chicago to Rome where the time is seven hours ahead, your body will think it’s only 10 p.m. when it’s already 5 a.m. The sleeping pattern will then be disrupted. Your body would want to sleep but it’s already daytime in your destination.
Another problem arises when you change your sleep schedule. When you work at night and sleep during the day, the body clock needs to be reset. But that can be difficult to do because melatonin is triggered by total darkness. If the body senses the sunlight, it won’t produce enough melatonin to make you sleepy. This would result in sleep deprivation and less alertness at work.
Other than these, body clock problems can also occur when your sleeping environment is not conducive to rest such as when there is too much light or noise.
Moreover, certain illnesses and medications can also affect a person’s sleeping routine. Examples of such illnesses are head injury, depression and dementia.
Drugs and alcohol also cause sleeping problems. While alcohol will enable you to sleep immediately at night, it will keep you up before the break of dawn.
Fortunately, sleeping problems related to your body clock can be treated, sometimes without medical intervention. For example, for jet lag, you can take melatonin supplements that can help in resetting the body clock. Studies have shown that these supplements can reduce jet lag symptoms. Talk to your doctor first before taking these supplements. These are not recommended for people with epilepsy or those taking blood thinners.
If the disruption of the body clock is not due to travel but to a night shift work, try to get a good sleep by keeping your bedroom dark and quiet. You can also use a sleep eye mask and ear plugs. It’s also a must to take good care of yourself. If you’re going to work night shift, it would help your health a lot if you quit smoking and drinking alcohol.
If your sleeping problems are brought about by a certain illness (ie, head injury, depression and dementia), you need to have this illness treated immediately. Visit your doctor to find out your treatment options. Other than that, strive to keep yourself fit and healthy. Eat healthy, get regular exercise, and learn stress reduction techniques.