You might not think about your circadian rhythm very much, but it has a huge impact on your life. It’s the cycle that balances your sleep and awake time. When it gets disrupted, you know it — jet lag is a perfect example.
Research is now finding that having a proper circadian rhythm has a powerful impact on our ability to fight off disease. You can change your approach to sleep to help your body stay resilient and healthy.
Circadian Disruptions and Illness
Sleep doctors know that chronic interruptions in your sleep patterns can cause illness over time. People face an increased risk of everything from heart disease to cancer. Professionals think that the circadian rhythm is linked to inflammation, which is connected to these illnesses.
Almost every organism on earth has some form of circadian rhythm that helps them stay in sync with the planet’s rotation. Even plants open leaves during the day and close them at night.
These rhythms impact our immune system and other parts of the body, which is why chronic disruption leads to health problems.
Recent studies have shown a surprising link between macrophages, which are white blood cells active in the immune system, and sleep. Macrophages change their response to pathogens and stress using the circadian system, meaning circadian rhythms have a deeper role in the body than previously thought.
Using Sleep to Fight Disease
Understanding these connections means that we have more control over our body’s response to illness than we thought.
To practice good sleep hygiene, take these steps:
- Get 8 hours of sleep
- Avoid bright lights at night
- Keep a regular sleep schedule so you don’t need an alarm clock
The single step that means the most? Avoiding bright lights at night. This can really impact your circadian rhythm, so be sure you put your smartphone, tablet, and computer away an hour before bed.
When you take this one step, you can improve your circadian rhythm and your body’s response to illness.