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Did you know that the circadian rhythm and our health are closely connected? We don’t realize it, but our eating and sleeping habits seriously impact our health.
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Dr. Satchin Panda, author of The Circadian Code (an expert in Circadian Rhythm and health, shared his revolutionary ideas in a Ted Talk). He states that “When it comes to achieving optimal health, what you do is just as important as when you do it.”
Our body has adapted to the 24-hour cycles of day and night on Earth, which would be difficult to do on a different planet. All because our body has an internal clock called the circadian rhythm. This circadian rhythm is how we wake up at a fixed time every morning and feel sleepy at night.
Circadian Rhythm Keeps Us Active, Or Sleepy, Here’s How
Firstly, when we wake up early in the morning, our melatonin level drops after the night’s sleep. Activating the stress hormone cortisol as we begin the day. Close to noon, we reach our peak performance, and by evening, we get our peak athletic performance. Our body produces melatonin throughout the day. It has been collected in large amounts in our brains to make us feel sleepy at night. This cycle continues every night.
In addition, the circadian rhythm is a part of our DNA and connects to every hormone and chemical produced. Even our organs have their circadian rhythm, a time when they are at their peak performance and when they need rest and recovery. They assimilate together while our whole body runs on this internal clock. All this connects to our health, and when we stay up completing a school project or do some late-night reading, our internal clock is affected. As we continue to abuse our body with irregular sleep habits, we jeopardize our health and risk chronic conditions like obesity, arthritis, diabetes, etc.
Circadian Rhythm, light, sleep, and a healthy life
For instance, the sunlight filtered through our eyes each morning can set our body’s circadian rhythm. It’s how our body’s clock adjusts itself to different time zones and maintains its routine.
Dr. Satchin Panda explained that scientists discovered a blue light-sensing protein called melanopsin in our bodies a few years ago. This protein is sensitive to blue light but not to candlelight or orange light. Exposure to sunlight during the day that contains blue light activates melanopsin. Our brain receives a signal to increase alertness and reduce melatonin production (the protein that induces sleepiness).
Blue light from devices affects our circadian rhythm when used after sunset. Watching screens at night increases melanopsin production and sends confusing signals to the brain. As a result, we have trouble sleeping, and these long habits can cause us to develop other sleep-related illnesses.
Above all, children are particularly at risk of diseases like ADHD, Depression, Dementia, Anxiety, and Bipolar disorder due to disruptions of their circadian rhythm. Blue Light during the day helps keep us alert, but it can seriously harm our health during the night.
We can use technology in our devices that dim blue light during the dark, so our sleep pattern is less affected. We can even begin limiting our screen time at night to help us fall asleep faster.
Do you know that even food habits can influence our circadian rhythm?
Circadian rhythm, food, and healthy life
In the morning, our stomach enzymes and gut microbes are ready for digestion. From the time we eat our first meal in the morning till our last meal before dark, our body burns the carbohydrates and stores fat. After our final meal throughout the night, it burns the fat and cholesterol. Our body also repairs damage to our DNA and other cells, allowing us to rest, recoup, and rejuvenate to begin the same process the next day.
If we delay our meal a little late into the night, our body gets less time to burn stored fat. Over time it collects and leads to weight gain and other health-related problems.
Dr. Satchin Panda explains how he and his team theorized that when we eat within 10 hours, our body has a better circadian rhythm. However, when we eat for 15 hours a day, it disrupts our circadian rhythm.
They took two healthy mice born from the same parents with no previous conditions to test their theory. One mouse was allowed to eat whenever it liked. The other could only eat within 10 hours. Over six weeks, they noticed that the first mouse allowed to eat unrestricted became overweight and developed other health conditions. The other mouse was healthy. When allowed to eat within 10 hours, the same unhealthy mouse began to lose its excess weight and become healthy again.
The experiment was a groundbreaking discovery because now we know eating healthy is not enough; it is just as important when and what we eat.
Circadian Rhythm, Food, And Health – The Test
Consequently, Dr. Satchin Panda and his team invited people to study to test this further.
They submitted pictures of their food and logged in when they had each meal, even quick snacks.
The data collected showed that people were eating throughout the day and even late into the night. It was irregular.
A few volunteered to try eating their meals within 10 hours, and the results at the end of 6 weeks were excellent.
People who ate all their meals within 10 hours for 16 weeks saw a reduction in their weight. But that’s not what was exciting.
They continued the habit for over a year and reported sleeping better, feeling more energetic, and reduced joint pains. They could go for a walk or run in the evenings. Our eating habits are just as important as what we eat.
Our eating habits are just as important as what we eat.
Dr. Satchin Panda recommends that we eat early between 6 am, or 8 am to 6 pm. Our body absorbs nutrients best first in the day as our stomach juices are ready for digestion.
Therefore, longer hours of not eating may not necessarily help you burn fat. Remember, it is about our body’s natural rhythm. Combining a healthy diet with eating within 10 hours and exercise is sure to benefit your overall physical and mental health.
When I read this, I felt like I discovered something unique. Our ancestors followed this routine, and we can, too, with some changes to our lifestyle.
I have started eating my meals between 8 am and 6 pm to test how it helps me. Six weeks from now, I will leave you an update about its effect on my life.
Let us know what you think about this in the comments below. If you try these simple lifestyle changes, keep us updated about how you benefited. We would love to hear about it.
Edit – it’s been a year, and I have started to feel a difference. My body has just maintained itself. I didn’t put on weight or lose any. I haven’t been able to exercise regularly, and so far, it’s working well.
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