Your body clock, also known as an internal clock or circadian rhythms, and sleep pattern go hand-in-hand. Your body clock is a series of internal variations that occur in a 24-hour cycle. When your body clock is thrown off track, it can take a toll on various aspects of your health.
The following scenarios can throw your internal clock off track:
- Light From Electronics: The darkness tells your brain when it is time for bed. When you use electronics such as your television, cell phone or even a book light, your brain does not realize it is time to settle down and tends to stay alert later than necessary.
- Jet Lag: When you fly across the country and change your time zones, you are changing your internal clock, and this is especially true if you are taking the red-eye to your destination. Your internal clock is still going by the previous time zone, which results in feeling tired and confused. It can several days for your body to get used to the time zone change.
- Social Jet Lag: You do not have to change time zones to feel the impact of jet lag. Straying away from your sleep routine disrupts your internal clock, even if you are only staying up later than usual on the weekends. You may find yourself feeling tired and unmotivated come Monday. This is why it is recommended to go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day.
- Turning The Clock: Turning the clock when Daylight Savings Time begins and ends is another scenario that disrupts your internal clock. For example, the clock is telling you that sunset is at 7pm when it is time to Spring Forward, but your brain is still telling you that sunset is at 6pm.
- Night Shift: Whether you work from home or in a store that is open 24-7, you may end up taking the night shift at times. Working the night shift causes an irregular sleep pattern, which may lead to a circadian rhythm disorder. You may find yourself feeling tired during your shift and unable to sleep during the day.
When your internal clock is thrown off track, you may find yourself suffering from the following side effects:
- Bad Mood: Everyone feels irritable when they do not get enough sleep, but an irregular sleep pattern may increase irritability or cause stress. It can also worsen current conditions such as anxiety and depression.
- Mental Alertness: It is hard to focus on your daily tasks when you are tired. Imagine the lack of focus when your sleep schedule is thrown off track for days or even weeks at a time. You may not be able to focus on running the household, work and other tasks that require your full attention.
- Change in Appetite: The two hormones that control your feelings of hunger are leptin and ghrelin, and the lack of sleep disrupts both hormones. You may find yourself overeating or not eating enough due to your irregular sleep pattern.
There are ways to fix your internal clock, such as regulating your sleep pattern, letting in the natural light every morning or giving your body several days to get used to the time zone change. However, it is best to see a specialist for a chronic sleep disorder.
It is important to learn about your body clock and sleep to make sure you are not depriving yourself of the rest you need. If you find yourself running on a lack of sleep, take the steps to regulate your internal clock so you can feel your best every day.