Tick-Tock Goes the Body Clock

Learn more about the circadian rhythm and how it helps you sleep.

Do you go to sleep and wake up around the same time every day? Do you notice that you tend to feel drowsy at certain times of the day and wide awake at other times? If so, you have your circadian rhythm to thank for this. The circadian rhythm is a 24-hour sleep/wake cycle that’s found in most living beings – not just humans, but also animals, plants, and even fungi and some bacteria. In humans, its effects can be measured in hormone production, body temperature changes, and of course, sleepiness and wakefulness. Without your circadian rhythm, you’d find it much harder to go to sleep and be awake at the proper times. Learn more about how the circadian rhythm works and what you can do to keep it working well below! How does the circadian rhythm work? The circadian rhythm allows you to keep a consistent sleep/wake cycle even when you don’t have access to outside stimuli, like clocks and the lightening and darkening sky. The rhythm itself is run by a cluster of 20,000 nerves in the brain called the suprachiasmatic nucleus, or SCN. This is the body’s “master clock.” The SCN controls the hormone production, body temperature changes, and more that get you through your routine each and every day. One of the most important things it does is receive light information from the eyes. As night draws in and the light dims, your SCN tells the pineal gland to start producing melatonin. This is the hormone that makes you sleepy at night. Most of the time, the SCN runs your circadian rhythm so unobtrusively that you don’t even notice it. You don’t think of it as a complex biological and chemical process; to you, it’s just your routine. It’s only when the circadian rhythm gets disrupted that you start to notice negative effects. These range from feeling grouchy or groggy after an episode of jet lag to diseases such as diabetes, obesity, seasonal affective disorder, depression, and bipolar disorder. How can you keep your circadian rhythm working well? Routine is the key to a well-functioning circadian rhythm. Try to go to bed and wake up at around the same time every day – even on the weekends. Make sure you’re getting a full night’s sleep every night (seven to nine hours for adults). Practice good sleep hygiene, like banishing screens from the bedroom. The bright light from televisions, tablets, and cell phones can confuse the SCN and interfere with the production of melatonin, which can make it harder to sleep. The other important thing you can do is monitor your circadian rhythm and bring up any changes to your doctor. To a certain extent, the circadian rhythm is outside our conscious control. If you find yourself suffering from insomnia or an irregular sleep/wake schedule, the best thing you can do is consult with your doctor. He or she may be able to find and treat the underlying cause so you can get back on track. Let the folks at Mattress One help! While we’re certainly not doctors, all of us here at Mattress One understand the importance of a good night’s sleep. We also know you won’t be getting that kind of sleep on your lumpy old mattress! If you find your mattress is keeping you up at night, don’t waste another day. Come to Mattress One and find your perfect mattress today.