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Could Your High Levels of Fatigue Be Caused by a Defective Body Clock?

Post Written By: Anne Forshaw 

Our Circadian Rhythms (more commonly known as our Biological Clock) are responsible for regulating our sleep-wake cycles, as well as for balancing our hormone levels, and coordinating many of our normal body functions to ensure that they are all in sync. Whilst we all feel tired sometimes, if you are experiencing the symptoms of genuine fatigue that does not pass after a day or two then it could be that your body clock is defective. One of the most obvious signs that our circadian rhythms are defective (and our biological clock is out of sync) is that we will develop a common sleep disorder, such as insomnia, however other issues that can develop as a result of a defective circadian rhythm include obesity, diabetes, depression, bipolar disorder and seasonal affective disorder.

How Can You Reset Your Body Clock?

Just like any kind of clock, if your body clock is defective then it needs to be reset.  But how, exactly, can you reset your body clock? Firstly, you need to ensure that you are sleeping in an appropriate environment, and this means putting yourself to bed at a reasonable time in a bed that is warm and comfortable and, most importantly, in a room that is dark. The main cue influencing circadian rhythms is light, and since the main body clock in the body is situated just above the optic nerve, it is very susceptible to the influences of external light. During the day when there is plenty of light, your body’s master clock, which controls the production of melatonin (a hormone that makes you sleepy) will reduce the amount it produces to keep you awake and alert whilst at nighttime, when there is less light, it will considerably increase your melatonin production to make you sleepy. This is why going to sleep in a dark room with no external, artificial light sources present, is so important for helping you to reset your body clock and get a good night’s sleep. According to a 2010 study completed by the Lighting Research Center, daylight has a direct and positive effect on our core circadian rhythms and, consequently, on our overall performance and well-being. Artificial light can replicate this, and light therapy has been shown to have hugely positive results in helping to reset the body clock and reduce levels of fatigue. There are many other positive outcomes of utilizing light therapy, including the reduction of stress and tension, so this is a great first step if you feel your body clock needs to be reset.                                                                 

Learning From Your Inner Teen

Did you ever wonder why teens tend to lie in bed all morning at the weekend? This is because the hormonal changes of puberty lead to a sleep delaying shift in their circadian rhythm. This makes it difficult for them to fall asleep much before 11 and therefore they want to wake up later too, but the demands of school make this impossible: this is why they choose to catch up on their sleep at the weekends. Individuals who regularly drink alcohol also experience this same kind of sleep delay, because alcohol consumption has long-term adverse effects on the body’s internal clocks, and causes a shift in hormonal balances that can make it difficult to regulate sleep.  If you recognise this kind of teenage sleep pattern in yourself then it could well be that you have a long term delayed circadian rhythm, and you will need a more long term commitment to resetting your body clock by focusing on the sleep/wake restorative process, as well as on your regularity of your circadian rhythm. This means keeping to regular sleep patterns, listening to your body when it tells you that it needs sleep, and ensuring that you get into bright light as soon as possible when you wake up in the morning. This will instruct your body clock to quickly reduce your melatonin levels and help you to feel more revitalised and ready to face the day ahead. 

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