Sleep, Food & Your Body Clock

January 11th, 2021
Your body clock affects every aspect of your daily life, from the moment you wake in the morning to your performance at work and quality of your sleep. Also known as your circadian rhythm, this "clock" is built into every cell in your body. While your body clock does not keep perfect linear time or follow an exact 24-hour cycle, it is very much a defining factor in how you live your life. In order to have a healthy, happy, and productive time on planet Earth, it's important to be aware of your body clock and understand the intricate links between sleep, food, physical activity, and time itself.

Whether you're a baby, a teenager, or an elder, your body has a "master clock" deep inside your brain which keeps you in step with the world around you. Even in this day and age of electric lights and endless screen time, the natural day-night cycle defined by the rising sun affects every aspect of your health and well-being. Morning light triggers hormones in your body, with the natural blue part of the spectrum telling your body it's time to wake up and start doing things. As the day goes on, the spectrum slowly changes and our bodies adjust as a result.

Before electricity and computers were invented, people were much more likely to be aligned with the the natural cycles of the sun and moon. This has changed rather quickly, however, as humans spend more time awake at night and soak up more artificial blue light from their screens. According to Morag Young, an expert in cardiovascular endocrinology at the Baker Institute, too much blue light later in the day can adversely affect our sleeping patterns and overall health: "Trying to avoid exposure to this blue light, which we get from our computer screens and television screens at the biological night is important."

Staying up longer at night and having limitless information at our fingertips obviously has benefits for the human race. However, stepping out of sync with our natural rhythms has also been linked to a range of physiological and psychological conditions. From insomniacs who can't sleep to shift workers who are forced to adjust their natural cycles, disruptions to daily rhythm patterns have been linked with depression, anxiety, and obesity among other conditions. If you're a shift worker or natural night owl, maintaining consistent sleeping patterns can help you to avoid some of these dangers.

Food also plays an important role in helping to regulate your body clock, with rest and fuel the two basic processes needed for cell growth and repair. According to Gary Wittert, an endocrinologist and professor of medicine at the University of Adelaide, "Cells need to take up nutrients and process them for energy to fuel the work that the cell needs to do. And then the other half of the day, which is night for us, is for growth and repair." Eating at roughly the same time of day helps to regulate the body clock, as does regular exercise, consistent sleeping habits, and healthy lifestyle routines.