Author: Peter Manley
For as long as people have been interested in biology, scientists and thought leaders have sought to understand the concept of sleep. Most people naturally experience feelings of sleepiness in the evening and alertness throughout much of the day, but have you ever taken a moment to think about why that is?
Well, thanks to scientific pioneers (like Hans Kalmus and Erwin Bünning who first discovered the existence of a circadian rhythm in fruit flies in the early 1900's) and modern science, we now know that sleep, at least as it relates to humans, is regulated by what is referred to as the circadian biological clock, or body clock for short.
Although there is a huge culture shift toward wanting to go without sleep, it’s a bad idea. Getting no sleep is easily one of the worst things you can do for your health. To prevent yourself from plummeting into a negative cycle of constant sleep deprivation, your body is equipped with that awesome “body clock”. Your body clock forces you to crave sleep when you’ve been awake for much too long and helps you feel alert and energetic when it's time to be awake (e.g. in the middle of the day).
If your body clock is something that is foreign to your knowledge, don’t worry – we’re here to help. Let’s take a look at five facts about your body clock you probably didn’t know.
1. Everything That Happens With Your Body Is Connected To Your Body Clock
Just about every aspect of your body, including alertness, metabolism, fertility, hunger, and mood, are all tied to your biological clock. This is why people who don’t sleep enough or stay up late often suffer from health disorders like obesity, depression, and even diabetes. So when the doctor recommends you get more sleep at night, take his/her word seriously – there’s no mistaking that sleep is important.
2. Every Single Organism Has A Biological Clock
If it weren’t for this fact of life, scientists would have a much harder time studying the science of the biological clock. Since clock genes and proteins are pretty similar for all species (such as bacteria and humans), scientists can learn more about human biological clocks by studying fruit flies, for instance.
3. Your Internal Clock Is Regulated By Light
Ever wonder why you wake up in the morning and get sleepy once it gets dark out again? When light floods your brain in the morning, it activates genes in your body to get you alert and awake for the day. At the same time, your brain is ‘told’ to stop making melatonin, which is responsible for making you sleepy. Once nighttime comes back around, your internal clock responds to the darkness by making you sleepy yet again. Pretty cool, right?
4. Your Biological Clock Is Responsible For Jet Lag
You might be planning an international trip and thinking that you’ll have all the energy in the world, but think again – that’s for your biological clock to decide. The thing about your biological body clock is that it loves to stay on a routine of sleeping and waking up at the same time. Once this rhythm is broken, your clock takes some time to readjust and make sense of it all, which leads to random times of energy and tiredness. When you travel from time zone to time zone, your body remains on the same sleep clock, regardless of the hours gained or lost on the clock. Take this into consideration when you plan your travels.
5. Your Phone Is Your Body Clock’s Worst Enemy
Sure it’s fun – relaxing even – to scroll through social media right before bed, but it causes more damage to your sleeping cycle than you think. The thing is, computer screens, TVs, and cell phones emit a certain type of blue light that actually communicate to your brain to stop making melatonin. In turn, you feel less tired, causing you to stay up later and ultimately not sleep as much as you should. If you want to relax at night, a better option is to read a book or at least use a blue light filter. Most phones even have a blue light filter option so that they’re easier on the eyes at night.