How to Reset the Biological Clock?

How to Reset the Biological Clock?

How to reset my biological clock? If you have Googled this question, chances are you want to change your sleep patterns, making them more consistent. Your sleep routine can be disrupted because you had to work a long shift and got home way past your bedtime. Your internal clock can also go off if you experience jetlag, travel too much, and pull all-nighters to study.

You cannot claim to be healthy if your biological clock is messed up. Release of hormones and neurotransmitters, transport of oxygen, storing energy in the form of glycogen, and timely excretion of wastes and toxins; in short, all biological processes - keeping you alive as you read this article - are dependent on your biological clock.

1. What Is a Biological Clock?

What Is a Biological Clock

Our bodies have an in-built clock. This clock is the reason you manage to wake up and sleep at similar times.

If you planned to sleep in on a Sunday but found yourself wide awake at 6 a.m., that is because of your biological clock. The more “biological” term for this 24-hour human clock is the “Circadian Clock” or Circadian Rhythm.

You might be interested to know that we, humans, have genes that tick like a wall clock. This circadian rhythm not just controls your sleep-wake cycle but also affects your digestion and metabolism. No wonder a disturbed circadian rhythm increases the risk of diseases and disorders.

According to a behavioral sleep medicine psychologist
"It’s (circadian rhythm) not just for sleep. It’s for everything that goes on in our bodies. We have internal clocks for our hormones, immune system, and digestion. All of our organs run on some sort of timing system."
(Alicia Roth, PhD)

Hence, our biological clock (circadian rhythm) dictates when a certain process should take place. A disrupted circadian rhythm is much more serious than being unable to sleep and wake up on time. There is scientific evidence that circadian disruption exacerbates or contributes to the development of grave, chronic diseases such as cancer, Type II diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and obesity.

2. How Does Your Biological Clock Work?

How Does Your Biological Clock Work

The circadian rhythm consists of multiple clocks and the one “master clock” called the suprachiasmatic nucleus. In humans, the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) is made up of 20,000 neurons and is located in the hypothalamus - the part of the brain that controls the production and secretion of the sleep hormone, melatonin, from the pineal gland.

The master clock receives input in the form of light signals directly through the eyes as it is located above the intersection of the optic nerves. When the melanopsin cells in the retina are exposed to light, they send signals to the biological clock.

Circadian rhythm reacts to light and triggers the release of chemicals in the brain. Blue light tends to disturb circadian rhythm more than red light.

3. How Do Humans Create Their Biological Clock?

Humans are capable of making their biological clocks (circadian rhythms). The genes called “Cryptochrome” and “Period” code are proteins that generate and maintain the circadian rhythm in your cells. These proteins influence alertness and sleepiness.

4. Zeitgebers - Factors Affecting Biological Clock!

Zeitgebers - Factors Affecting Biological Clock!

External stimuli such as temperature, light, and the time you have your meals also affect your internal clock. These factors are known as zeitgebers.

5. How Does the Biological Clock Affect Us?

How Does the Biological Clock Affect Us?

  • Circadian rhythm affects changes in the sleep-wake cycle.
  • SCN controls melatonin (sleep hormone) production, which is why changes in the biological clock mainly affect changes in sleep patterns.
  • It also affects your hunger pattern. If you are suddenly feeling hungrier than usual or have a loss of appetite, chances are your circadian rhythm is disrupted. The time you feel hungry may also change.
  • Release of hormones.
  • The suprachiasmatic nucleus is in the hypothalamus and can affect body temperature, too.

6. Why Do You Need to Reset Your Biological Clock?

Why Do You Need to Reset Your Biological Clock?

From traveling, working, or wasting time watching T.V., you lose a lot of much-needed sleep. Some people tend to make up for lost sleep by taking a nap. According to research published on Wiley Online Library, even an effective nap is not enough. Your body will only function properly when your sleep patterns are uninterrupted.

Getting your internal clock back to normal can take time. You may have to experience sleepless nights and feel dizzy and disoriented the next day.

Irregular sleep hours, using devices in bed, and midnight cravings can cause a displaced circadian cycle that needs to be reset or you may suffer from various health issues

6.1. Minor Health Issues

  • Mood swings and anger
  • Irritability
  • Weight gain
  • Low energy
  • General weakness
  • Weak immune system.

Some major issues can be:

6.2. Indigestion

Your digestive is the most active during morning hours and secretes the right amount of gastric juices and enzymes. As night approaches, these secretions for healthy digestion decrease, causing indigestion.

6.3. Disease

An impaired biological clock causes increased blood glucose levels, high blood pressure, and elevated insulin levels.  All three of these pave the path to cardiovascular diseases. 

6.4. Sleep Issues

The biological clock is designed to put the body into sleep mode at night. This is because many other functions have to take place such as repairing damaged muscles, healing of wounds, immunity-boosting chemicals circulating in the blood, brain processes storing information, and bones being strengthened. This is the only time of the day when your brain gets to clean itself and flush out the toxins as a result of chemical reactions that took place. When you don’t get enough sleep, all of these processes are compromised.

7. When Should You Reset Your Biological Clock?

If you can relate to any of the following situations, your biological clock needs a reset: 

  1. Your productivity is going down.
  2. You find it difficult to sleep.
  3. Waking up well-rested every morning has become a challenge for you.
  4. You wake up groggy and disoriented.
  5. You experience the “afternoon slump.”
  6. You feel sleepy in the evening.

8. Is It Possible to Reset Your Biological Clock?

Your circadian rhythm is a result of gene expression. Some people are genetically morning people, while others are night owls. Moreover, the circadian rhythm, set by your genes, also determines what times of the day you are most productive.

Making drastic changes to your sleep patterns can be difficult but not entirely impossible.

But before you take the plunge to change your circadian rhythm, it is important to decipher how your internal clock is different.

If you are genetically programmed to sleep late at night, waking up early at 5 o'clock is near to impossible for you and too ambitious.  

9. How to Reset Your Biological Clock the Right Way?

How to Reset Your Biological Clock the Right Way?

Resetting your circadian rhythm essentially entails sleeping and waking up at a specific time. It does not necessarily guarantee a certain quality of sleep.

Wake Up at the Same Time

According to Jordan B. Peterson, a clinical psychologist, it is okay to delay your sleep at night till you feel tired. He believes waking up at the same time every day is more important.

His observations emphasize that going to bed before you feel sleepy will prevent you from relaxing, thus the whole purpose of trying to sleep gets defeated. You will grow restless, frustrated, and angry, trying to will sleep to come.

Start Slow

Once you are disciplined enough to wake up at the same time every day, start working on waking up early. Don’t rush, take it slow. Give your mind and body time to adjust. Set your alarm five minutes early every day.

Set A Night Routine

Curate a calming night routine that your brain can detect as a cue for bedtime. If you want to wake up early and you are not a morning person, chances are you will have trouble falling asleep early as well. Set a bedtime and stick to it. Once you become comfortable with it, you can make small changes by going to bed five minutes earlier.

Melatonin Production

The melatonin hormone plays an important role in regulating your circadian rhythm. Eat melatonin-rich foods to boost the production of melatonin. Exercise also helps in the production of melatonin. However, some people become energized after exercise and if you tend to exercise before bed, it might not be a good idea for you.

Cut Down Caffeine

No matter how difficult, say no to that last cup of coffee in the evening. Caffeine intake in the late evenings will stimulate your mind making it difficult to sleep.

No Screens Before Bedtime

According to a study performed in 2014 at Michigan University, it was concluded that prolonged use of cell phones is directly related to sleep deprivation among students.

Our laptop and cell phone screens emit blue light. The Harvard Health Publications inform that blue light inhibits the production of melatonin - the hormone that keeps the circadian rhythm in check. Low levels of melatonin make it difficult to sleep and wake up at a consistent time. Try to leave your phone outside your bedroom or at least avoid using it 1 hour before you intend to sleep.

Create a Sleep Environment

You need to send signals to your brain to prepare it for sleep. Dim the lights and bring the temperature of the room down. The ideal temperature for sleep is not more than 68° Fahrenheit. Taking a shower before bedtime also helps to bring down your body temperature. Remove all sources of noise inside the room and close the door to keep outside noise from disturbing you.

10. Biological Clock and Age

Age influences change in your circadian rhythm. People tend to start wanting to go to bed and wake up early without any difficulty as they age. It comes quite naturally. People who claim to be night owls turn into early risers on the courtesy of their increasing age. If this phenomenon seems too far-fetched to you, read on to find ways you can reset your biological clock based on your preferred schedule.

11. Do I Have Circadian Rhythm Disorder?

Circadian rhythm disorder means that your sleep schedule is not to your preference. Circadian rhythm disorder requires a deep assessment before treatment. You need to check with a sleep medicine specialist or a behavioral sleep medicine psychologist to determine whether you suffer from it. Your psychologist will work with you to devise a schedule and help you change habits through light therapy, melatonin supplements, and other medication.

12. Bottomline

The human body has a built-in time system called the biological or circadian clock. Preserving the patterns of this biological clock is important as it affects more than just the sleep-wake cycle. Our biological clock gets disrupted because of a sudden change we make in our sleeping patterns. The reason could vary from busier than normal work schedules or studying all night for a big exam. In any case, resetting the biological is important. You can do this by making sleep-wake schedules and sticking to them. Increasing melatonin production and decreasing cell phone use also help to reset your biological clock.

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