Circadian Rhythms: What Are They and How Do They Apply To Us?

Although travel from one place to another has been around over the past few centuries, it is only in the last 100 years that commercial flights really began. A person’s desire to travel even more frequently than most people would also expose them and their bodies to more situations as opposed to a non-traveler. Of course, along with these new places, we’re also subjected to new experiences. With great travel comes great responsibility to oneself. We must take extra care of our bodies and our minds in order to make long distance traveling into something sustainable and enjoyable rather than detrimental to our health.

So, one of the things that take a toll whenever we move from one country to another far-off country is the effect it has on our bodies due to the changing time zones. If you’ve ever heard of the word “jet lag”, then, you know what I’m talking about.

There are many ways we go about to decrease its adverse effects on us like putting on our high waist leggings and getting on our mats or already sleeping on the plane, maybe even going as far as taking a sleeping pill, but the effects aren’t completely unavoidable.

But why are we so under the control of our body clock, and what is this thing called a circadian rhythm?

We all have our natural body clocks and that controls our circadian rhythms or our body’s timing. Circadian, which comes from two words circa, meaning an “approximation”, and dies meaning “day”, explains patterns our body gets used to within a 24-hour time period that we generally follow.

Have you ever found yourself waking up at around the same time every day regardless of what time you’ve set your alarm? That’s your body clock and the circadian rhythms available within you working.

You have one master clock located in your hypothalamus, and it’s called your suprachiasmatic nucleus or SCN. It’s a receptor and works in line with external stimuli to trigger cycles within the body. The most crucial stimulus that humans are dependent on is light and that cues different bodily systems. For example, as the day starts to get darker, humans start producing the hormone melatonin that promotes drowsiness making us sleepy. The lack of light also conditions the body’s natural abilities. For example, voluntary muscle movements are decreased to zero, and your metabolic, respiratory and heart rates slow down. Your digestive system starts working quicker. Your urinary system is put on pause. Then, when you’re nearing your waking period, the body will automatically produce more epinephrine – your body’s adrenaline hormone – to prepare it for an activity.

Now, what do we do to keep these things on the right track especially when we move around often? We do our best to adjust, stay hydrated, and get enough exercise, sun, and sleep when we need to. Another thing to do is to try and avoid caffeine and sleeping pills. It’s always better to condition ourselves as soon as possible to prevent running into problems later on.

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