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The Importance Of Rhythm – Have You Got Rhythm?

Written by Wellness Club on August 19, 2011 – 5:11 pm -

Dr. Myatt’s Advice for Healthy Circadian Rhythms

 

Well, so sorry to hear that your energy isn’t up to what you think it should be. However, before we go looking for some complicated explanation, or simply chalk it up to “old age,” let’s correct one obvious and easy potential cause of this problem: Circadian Rhythm disturbance.

Short course: get to bed by 10 p.m.! Here’s why.

The Importance of “Early to Bed, Early to Rise”

The 24-hour sleep/wake, light/dark cycle, also called the Circadian Rhythm Cycle, sets the pace for the entire endocrine system. This is big. HUGE, in fact.

Humans evolved sleeping when it was dark and being active by daylight. Our circadian rhythms, including natural melatonin production, respond to this cycle.

Melatonin, a hormone and antioxidant, is produced primarily between the hours of 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. when our eyes are closed and we are not exposed to light.

Any time that we are awake during this critical period decreases melatonin production and serves to de-stabilize our circadian rhythms.

Many people think that if they go to bed later and simply sleep in later in the morning, everything is fine. This belief recognizes only the total number of hours that we need to sleep but ignores the importance of sleeping (or at least having eyes closed in the dark) between the hours of 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. It’s not just the total number of hours we sleep, but the times and light/dark conditions under which we sleep, that determine the health of our 24-hour Circadian cycle.

Importance of the Circadian Rhythm in Humans

Hormones affected by Circadian Rhythm disturbances include cortisol, thyrotropin, prolactin, growth hormone, and melatonin.

Disruption of the human “Circadian Clock” is associated with fatigue, disorientation, insomnia, impaired detoxification and liver function, blood pressure dysregulation, altered heart rate, cardiovascular disease, mood disorders (depression, anger, inattention, irritability), bipolar and unipolar disorder, seasonal affective disorder and neurological diseases including dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and stroke.

Given the far-reaching importance of a normal circadian rhythm to overall health, I recommend that you alter your “pre-bed routine” and do whatever it takes to establish a health sleep/wake cycle.

Here are my “get your circadian rhythms right” recommendations.

  1. Get to bed by 10 p.m. with lights out.
  2. Expose yourself to daylight (preferably sunlight) in the morning, even if this means stepping out on the porch to face East and take a few deep breaths.
  3. Low-dose melatonin (3mg) between 9 p.m. and bedtime may help sleep and boost levels of this important hormone (which declines with age).
  4. No lights in the bedroom. If you need a nightlight, keep a flashlight near the bed. Try to sleep in darkness.
  5. Daytime napping does NOT interfere with Circadian rhythms as long as bedtimes are held constant.

 

References

Dallaspezia S, Benedetti F. Chronobiological therapy for mood disorders. Expert Rev Neurother. 2011 Jul;11(7):961-70.

Esposito E, Cuzzocrea S. Antiinflammatory activity of melatonin in central nervous system. Curr Neuropharmacol. 2010 Sep;8(3):228-42.

Heiler S, Legenbauer T, Bogen T, Jensch T, Holtmann M. Severe mood dysregulation: In the “light” of circadian functioning. Med Hypotheses. 2011 Aug 9. [Epub ahead of print]

Lemmer B. Importance of circadian rhythms for regulation of the cardiovascular system–studies in animal and man. Conf Proc IEEE Eng Med Biol Soc. 2006;1:168-70.

Lewy AJ. Circadian misalignment in mood disturbances. Curr Psychiatry Rep. 2009 Dec;11(6):459-65.

Lewy AJ, Emens JS, Songer JB, Sims N, Laurie AL, Fiala SC, Buti AL. Winter Depression: Integrating mood, circadian rhythms, and the sleep/wake and light/dark cycles into a bio-psycho-social-environmental model. Sleep Med Clin. 2009 Jun 1;4(2):285-299.

Portaluppi F, Tiseo R, Smolensky MH, Hermida RC, Ayala DE, Fabbian F. Circadian rhythms and cardiovascular health. Sleep Med Rev. 2011 Jun 3. [Epub ahead of print]

Takeda N, Maemura K. Circadian clock and cardiovascular disease. J Cardiol. 2011 May;57(3):249-56. Epub 2011 Mar 26.

Willis GL. Parkinson’s disease as a neuroendocrine disorder of circadian function: dopamine-melatonin imbalance and the visual system in the genesis and progression of the degenerative process. Rev Neurosci. 2008;19(4-5):245-316.

Willis GL, Kelly AM, Kennedy GA. Compromised circadian function in Parkinson’s disease: enucleation augments disease severity in the unilateral model. Behav Brain Res. 2008 Nov 3;193(1):37-47. Epub 2008 Apr 26.

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