Our body has its internal clock that works mainly according to natural light. This internal clock system influences our body’s glucose, insulin systems and total metabolic health. Our body’s clock system, or the rhythm it keeps, is called the circadian rhythm. This cycle of the body occurs roughly across 24 hours and is capable of causing mental and physical changes in the body depending on how well a person follows the rhythm.
Circadian Rhythm: An Introduction
The term circadian is from the Latin words: ‘circa’, which means around, and ‘diēm’ which means day. Therefore, the term circadian itself shows that it is a rhythm pattern that lasts around a day. Also, circadian rhythm is the biological or circadian clock cycle of 24-hour length followed by our body that affects our behaviour, and psychological and molecular changes.
For simplification, the circadian clock is divisible into two parts, the central clock and the peripheral clock. The central clock is in the suprachiasmatic nucleus or SCN, a tiny cluster with around 20,000 nerve cells of the hypothalamus that uses light as the primary stimulus. On the other hand, the peripheral clock is in the various tissues throughout our body, playing a unique role in their respective tissues.
How Does It Work?
From the SCN, the neurons send signals to different parts of the body and help in regulating most psychological processes. These even include releasing certain hormones responsible for keeping us awake in the morning and sleepy at night, maintaining our body temperature, digestive secretions, and glucose metabolism.
Studies have proved that blind people whose SCN can’t detect light also have circadian rhythms, but they last longer than 24 hours. This finding demonstrates that in addition to light, there may be other stimuli like hormones, temperature, nutrients, sleep-wake state, physical activity, etc., that help the human biological clock in various peripheral pathways to help maintain the circadian cycle.
The sleep-wake cycle is the central system that regulates the circadian rhythm. Unfortunately, our body’s rhythm or clock system is getting heavily disrupted nowadays due to the increased activities and decreased sleeping time of human beings and the advent of various technological devices. Therefore, such a deterioration in the sleep-wake cycle can cause a lot of diseases, especially in those who are healthy with no other disease history.
Circadian Rhythm and its Relation to Glucose Metabolism
Human beings require energy to perform almost any function. Our body derives this energy by breaking down the food we eat into glucose, absorbed by the stomach and the small intestine, releasing it into the bloodstream. However, having an improper sleep cycle will affect the glucose and insulin levels and the energy used and produced.
When it comes to glucose metabolism, our circadian rhythm plays a role in maintaining it as a healthy glucose metabolism depending on when we eat our meals, how much light we get exposed to, and when we go to sleep. Recent studies have proved that an irregular circadian rhythm, irregular meal timings and late dinners, late-night light exposure, irregular bedtime patterns, etc., leaves you with high glucose levels and reduced insulin sensitivity.
The Impact of Unregulated Glucose Levels on Your Health
High glucose levels, high blood sugar, or hyperglycemia can cause serious health problems if we do not take enough measures to keep our glucose levels in balance. High glucose levels can negatively affect your body’s health and even cause complications like heart problems, stroke, kidney problems, skin issues, nerve damage and even eye damage. Your doctor can help you find if your glucose levels are high now. HealthifyPro can help track your glucose levels.
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The same food we take for breakfast will provide higher glucose levels when consumed for dinner, making it more evident that the circadian rhythm plays a vital role in glucose metabolism. In addition, a study conducted by Harvard proved that our circadian rhythm has a more significant role in regulating our body’s glucose and insulin levels than our environment or behaviour.
What Does Research Say?
In several studies, the subjects followed a healthy diet and steady sleeping plan during the first half of the research, and in the second half, the subjects reversed their breakfast and dinner by making them stay up at night and sleep during the day. As a result, the study recorded a low glucose tolerance in the evening. It also resulted in a low insulin level than in the morning. Furthermore, the glucose levels seemed to shoot higher than 17 per cent of the normal levels when the subjects followed the latter sleeping and eating patterns.
Other studies have also confirmed that as time passes from morning to evening, the glucose levels in our bodies start peaking. They can get above the recommended glucose level depending on the type of food we consume and when we take our food. If such a system continues regularly, combined with hardly any physical activities or exercise, people can develop hyperglycemia.
Both the central clock or the SCN and the peripheral clocks in the tissues regulate the glucose metabolism in the body; so, when we have an erratic schedule, we disturb their pattern by getting out of sync. This negatively impacts our metabolic health. Several studies point out that when a circadian misalignment happens, our body’s glucose tolerance decreases and if this continues for a long time, our body will have insulin resistance. As a result, this will increase the risk of certain metabolic disorders like Type 2 diabetes or cardiovascular disease.
So, if you have had difficulty supporting your body’s circadian rhythm, having a good sleep cycle and food cycle, or not eating healthy, you may have to get your glucose levels checked and take measures to bring back its balance. HealthifyMe, one of India’s top digital health and wellness platforms, has come up with an easy solution for the same, allowing its users to measure and fix their glucose levels and metabolic health in the comfort of their homes itself.
The Importance of CGM (Continuous Glucose Monitoring)
A continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) tracking system called BIOS is a device that can be attached to your arm to measure your body’s glucose levels in real-time.
In addition, when you sign up for the same program, the interface allows the coaches to know about glucose fluctuations due to wrong dietary choices. For example, you may stay within a permissible calorie level, but a carb-dense diet that lacks the required amount of protein or fibre may shoot up glucose levels.
On the basis of your inputs, you will receive real-time advice, which is an enabler. For example, the coach may ask you to go for a 15 minutes walk after a biryani meal and curd to bring your glucose levels back to normal. Such real-time interventions help us understand our body types, which food combinations work for us, and as a result, we form healthier habits.
How not following the Circadian Rhythm Can Affect your Metabolic Health?
Studies have found certain disrupting factors that affect the quality of our circadian rhythm, which are:
- Light exposure, getting too much light during the night and not enough during the day.
- Irregular sleep schedule due to work shift, jet lags etc.
- Eating late night
Such a lifestyle is followed by more and more people these days as many work indoors nowadays with late-night shifts, which may be followed by sleeping in the morning, further leading to much less exposure to sunlight. However, going off the natural clock once or twice may not affect metabolic health. But if we make it a practice not to follow the circadian rhythm, it can lead to several medical complications. There is a clear relationship between circadian disruptions, which is the crucial reason contributing to people getting Type 2 diabetes.
What Does Research Say?
A study found that out of 10,000 women, those with less light exposure had a higher BMI, waist to hip ratio and waist circumference. Also, little exposure to light can increase insulin in glucose
levels, and a study notes that it can lead to a 51% increase in diabetes, especially in older adults. Similarly, sleeping for less than 6 hours, sleeping late, working during the night, and waking up late can also have adverse effects on your blood sugar, which will lead to metabolic dysfunction. Late-night eating is also not much different from the other two disruptions, as it is related to high blood sugar levels and insulin resistance.
So, anything that disrupts the circadian rhythm can negatively affect your metabolic health, further causing you health issues that may even be severe. Therefore, it is essential to be motivated to maintain an excellent lifestyle to build good metabolic health.
Behaviour change management is at the centre of HealthifyMe solutions. HealthifyPro incorporates an innovative element called the Metabolic Panel. For the first time, your metabolic health gets assessed through 80 parameters. You get to understand your internal health and how it results in obesity, blood pressure, PCOS and several lifestyle diseases.
The inside-out approach helps regulate glucose levels which ultimately improves metabolic health. Weight loss or improvement in the parameters is a natural fallout when we understand our bodies better.
We follow the 24-hour clock to plan out our work, complete goals, plan free time, etc. But most of us forget that our body also follows a clock pattern called the circadian rhythm. Our failure to help our body follow the pattern well confuses it, adversely affecting our metabolic health. Therefore, we must also understand the importance of regulating our lifestyle to keep us healthy.
We can incorporate simple changes like sleeping between 10-11 pm, waking up by 6-7 am and following the famous adage of eating like a king, queen and pauper, as the day progresses, the meal portions become smaller. (as the day progresses, the meal portions become smaller). These are essential steps towards bringing yourself in sync with the rhythm. So, please take small steps to form habits, take care of your metabolic health and keep your glucose levels in balance to modify your lifestyle and stay healthy on a long term basis.