How the Circadian System Affects Your Body
How does your body know what to do, say, and think, when to spring out of bed full of energy or drift off to sleep? The answer is Circadian rhythms. Tuned into each person’s daily daylight-darkness cycle, this system of biological processes manages a full range of life functions.
Sleeping is one of the well-known domains of Circadian rhythms. People doze off when their sleep rhythm says it’s time. When they can’t fall asleep at night, it’s often because they are out of rhythm.
An important player in this process is the hormone melatonin. When secreted in proper amounts, melatonin promotes the comforting drowsiness that carries us off to sleep. In harmonious fashion, the versatile melatonin doubles as a powerful antioxidant, providing ample firepower to our immune systems.
Circadian rhythms also manage the secretion of other hormones. One of these is serotonin. A known mood-elevator, serotonin production rises in response to blue light. If you suddenly get the urge to smile when the sun hits your face, now you will know why.
Do you feel more proficient at certain times of the day? That’s your Circadian rhythms kicking in again. The rhythms play a huge role in personal productivity. How? By processing the blue light of the sun and using it to boost energy and alertness.
The Circadian rhythms of the daylight-darkness cycle are a large part of many other biological functions, including:
- Cognition – Research reveals that blue light has a positive impact on non-visual brain functioning, particularly when an individual faces tasks requiring prolonged attention.
- Vigilance – The ability to focus on sensory signals, such as auditory or visual, over a sustained period.
- Digestion – Genes tied to our Circadian clock assist with processing meals, snacks, and drinks.
- Enzyme Activity – Our internal clock helps control the flow of active enzymes into our system.
- Bladder Activity – Light filtered through photoreceptors has been shown to impact muscle contractions in the human bladder.
- Cell Proliferation – Circadian rhythms penetrate all the way down to the microscopic building blocks of life – our cells. From all appearances, these light-synced processes stimulate cell reproduction and ultimately impact our health, well-being, and overall quality of life.
It’s hard to believe all these crucial processes are tied to a single phenomenon abundantly available any place the sun is shining – natural blue light. In fact, light is the single most powerful time cue that determines Circadian entrainment, or its adjustment to varying circumstances.