How The Hormone Circuit Dysregulates
Because of all of these connections, and because of how delicate the hormone balance is, changes in the normal functioning of these hormone cascades will affect the functioning of the rest. They will try to compensate, thanks to the bodys need to maintain homeostasis. But if this problem persists, which happens with chronic stress and AFS, systems throughout the body will be at risk of dysregulation.
How this happens when stress is the initiation factor is that, as stress becomes chronic, the adrenals overwork to produce more and more cortisol. After a while, they become exhausted and cortisol output drops. This is what happens in AFS. Symptoms of AFS include fatigue, weight gain, sleep problems, brain fog, anxiety, mild depression, PMS, infertility, estrogen dominance, salt and sugar cravings, unstable blood pressure, and food and drug sensitivities.
The reason the symptoms are so varied is because the Hormone Circuit has an effect on all bodily systems.
But there can be different symptom pictures depending on which component of the Hormone Circuit is more affected. For example, if its the adrenal glands, your main symptoms will be fatigue, irritability, and anxiety. When its the thyroid, youll have more weight issues, depression, and low energy levels. If its the ovaries, the more severe symptoms will be brain fog, estrogen dominance, and PMS.
This two-way connection happens right at the head of the HPA axis: inside the brain.
Sleep/wake Homeostasis And Sleep Drive
Homeostasis describes a state of equilibrium between different elements of an organism or group. . Sleep/wake homeostasis balances our need for sleep, called a sleep drive or sleep pressure, with our need for wakefulness. When weve been awake for a long period of time, our sleep drive tells us that its time to sleep. As we sleep, we regain homeostasis and our sleep drive diminishes. Finally, our need for alertness grows, telling us that its time to wake up.
If sleep/wake homeostasis alone regulated our sleep drive, wed likely find ourselves yo-yoing between sleep and alertness throughout each day. Wed also likely feel most alert in the morning, with that alertness wearing off the longer we were awake. Instead, we can feel just as alert at 4:00 p.m. as we might have felt at 10:00 a.m., even when weve been awake for hours. Thats because sleep/wake homeostasis doesnt work alone in regulating our sleep schedule our circadian rhythm also plays a role.
How Stress Affects Your Biological Clock
AFS is a condition that results when your body is undergoing chronic stress. Chronic stress, from any source, is a major problem in the modern world, and is likely related to a majority of cases of biological clock dysregulation.
Stress triggers your system to try to adapt to it and return to a state of homeostasis, or equilibrium. The mechanism by which it does that is called the NeuroEndoMetabolic Stress Response, your body’s global response to stress. This stress response has six circuits, composed of three closely related organs and systems each, which highlight how stress in one area can cause symptoms in another. The adrenal glands are part of the NEMs Hormone Circuit.
And although your biological clock affects and is affected by all six circuits, the first and most involved circuit is the Hormone circuit. The Hormone Circuitis composed of the adrenals, the thyroid, and the reproductive organs. The adrenals are activated via the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, which acts as a hormone cascade from the brain to the body.
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What Happens When Your Circadian Rhythm Is Disrupted
A circadian rhythm that falls out of alignment with a persons desired sleep-wake schedule can cause daytime sleepiness and trouble sleeping at night, which may lead to reduced sleep overall. In the long term, disrupted circadian rhythms are directly and indirectly linked to a variety of physical and mental health problems, including:
- Some forms of cancer
- Seasonal affective disorder and depression
- Increased stress
- Poor work or academic performance
- Increased risk of injuries and accidents
- Attention and memory problems
- Sleep problems
Disruptions to the sleep-wake cycle may contribute to a circadian rhythm disorder. For example, people with blindness may lack neural pathways that interpret light cues and often develop non-24-hour sleep-wake rhythm disorder, in which the circadian rhythm does not match the typical 24-hour cycle.
Other circadian rhythm disorders include advanced sleep-wake phase disorder, delayed sleep-wake phase disorder, shift work disorder, jet lag disorder, and irregular sleep-wake rhythm disorder. These affect a persons ability to sleep or be alert when needed.
The Trick Is To Work With Your Biological Clock
Running on a full energy tank isnât about downing energy bars or drinking coffee all day long. Instead, itâs about working with your biological clock and circadian rhythm to get the sleep you need and to do the things you need to do at the right times.
The reality is, your body is already timed to an optimal schedule for healthy sleep and better energy you just need to listen to your internal clock. Of course, a tool like RISE makes it much easier to know when your energy peaks and dips will be, right down to the exact minute. Use the RISE app to help you feel and function at your best every single day.
Keep A Consistent Sleep Schedule
One way to keep your biological clock on track is to maintain a consistent sleep schedule. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every dayeven on the weekends. You want your body to get used to a routine. When you do this, you support a healthy circadian clock. Your bedtime and wake time should deviate by no more than half an hour earlier or later every day. Do this to support a healthy sleep-wake cycle.
Setting The Clocks By The Light Of The Sun
Just like an old clock, biological clocks must be adjusted to the correct time every day. Light is detected by cells at the back of our eyes, called photoreceptors. Most photoreceptors detect light so that we can see the world around us. But, in 2002, a new type of photoreceptor was discovered that sends signals directly to the SCN . These special photoreceptors are called intrinsic photosensitive retinal ganglion cells, or ipRGCs. If the ipRGCs are working, even blind people can keep their rhythms aligned with the sunlight .
Using sunlight, the SCN can adjust the circadian rhythm to gradual changes in daylight hours as we progress through the seasons. But sudden changes in the light-dark cycle can leave us feeling totally out of whack. You may have experienced this yourself: it is called jet lag. Since the invention of airplanes, humans have been able to cross time zones in a matter of hours. An airplane can dump us in bright daylight when our biological clocks are preparing us for sleep. This can leave us feeling drowsy, dizzy and even queasy. Symptoms of jet lag can last for several days, because the SCN takes time to align itself with the new time zone. Now that you know that the SCN uses light to adjust to the time of day, you would not be surprised to hear of the best curespend some time in the sun!
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Working With Your Natural Energy Fluctuations
If youâre wondering how to take advantage of your sleep-wake cycle to feel and function at your best, RISE can help.
First, the app is purpose-built to tell you the ideal times for sleeping and waking to ensure youâre meeting your sleep need and minimizing sleep debt. Secondly, it shows you how to structure your day according to your energy peaks and dips . The exact times of these peaks and dips can be found on the âEnergy Scheduleâ in the app.
Although these timings may vary from person to person, the general pattern is largely the same. Here are the energy fluctuations you can expect to experience each day and how you can use them to your advantage.
The Terms On Which The Biological Clock Depends
Sunlight and the temperature are the external cues, on which the biological clock partly depends. On the whole, biological clock are defined by three criteria:
- The clock persists in constant conditions with a period of about 24 hours
- The clock period can be reset by exposure to a light or dark pulse
- The clock is temperature compensated, meaning that it proceeds at the same rate within a range of temperatures
Brain Chemicals And Sleep
Chemicals called neurotransmitters send messages to different nerve cells in the brain. Nerve cells in the brainstem release neurotransmitters. These include norepinephrine, histamine, and serotonin. Neurotransmitters act on parts of the brain to keep it alert and working well while you are awake.
Other nerve cells stop the messages that tell you to stay awake. This causes you to feel sleepy. One chemical involved in that process is called adenosine. Caffeine promotes wakefulness by blocking the receptors to adenosine. Adenosine seems to work by slowly building up in your blood when you are awake. This makes you drowsy. While you sleep, the chemical slowly dissipates.
In A Special Laboratory About 25 Volunteers Have Each Spent A Month In A Windowless Soundproof Space Free From External Time Cues
Theyve lived on 28-hour cycles at Brigham and Womens Hospital , with their eating and sleeping shifted four hours later every day, while researchers test their glucose, insulin, and other blood levels after controlled meals.
The scientists conducting this multiyear study want to know how prolonged changes to circadian rhythmsthe internal processes that follow a roughly 24-hour cyclemay affect metabolism and body weight in people who keep unconventional sleep-wake schedules, such as nurses, security guards, and pilots. We know night shift workers are much more prone to gain weight and develop disorders like diabetes, says study co-leader and BWH neuroscientist Jeanne Duffy, MBA, PhD, associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.
In a nearby lab at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Clifford Saper, MD, PhD, James Jackson Putnam Professor of Neurology and Neuroscience at Harvard Medical School, is leading a related metabolism experiment to observe how mice adapt to a 20-hour schedule of light and darknessfour hours shorter than a normal day. Saper and Duffy are among some 60 faculty in the HMS Division of Sleep Medicinecontributing to the growing body of knowledge about sleep, circadian rhythms, and health.
Along with metabolism and sleep patterns, the circadian system influences many important functions, including heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature, hormone levels, and urine production. Circadian disruptions and lack
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What Happens If Your Sleep Drive Is Off
When your sleep drive is off, you may feel tired during the day and wired at night. Insomnia and daytime sleepiness can result from a change in daylight exposure, such as that experienced during Daylight Saving Time and jet lag. When you travel to a new time zone, the time and light cues your circadian rhythm relies on are suddenly different, forcing your brain and body to adjust. As your sleep drive adapts to this circadian disruption, you might feel tired or unwell and have difficulty focusing.
A thrown-off circadian rhythm can also occur if you work irregular hours or overnight shifts. Shift work disorder can cause insomnia, excessive daytime sleepiness, mood problems, and an increased risk of on-the-job accidents or injury. Shift workers can also have hormonal imbalances associated with cortisol, testosterone, and melatonin levels.
Its difficult to change your circadian rhythm. However, you can adjust your sleep drive by following regular sleep and wake times, allowing yourself 7 or more hours of sleep each night, and adjusting your meal times and caffeine intake. Night shift workers might also consider bright light therapy. If you make lifestyle changes to promote a healthy sleep schedule and sleep issues persist, consult a doctor.
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Rewarding Activities Affect The Body Clock
The new study may help to explain why it seems particularly difficult to go to bed early when we are watching our favorite TV show. As Prof. Güler explains:
This shows that when we engage in rewarding activities like eating, we are inadvertently affecting our biological rhythms . We may have found the missing link to how pleasurable things and the circadian system influence one another.
Prof. Ali Deniz Güler
Prof. Güler further comments on the significance of the findings, saying:
Scientists have been working for decades to help the bodys circadian system readily re-synchronize to variable work and eating schedules and flights across multiple time zones.
Although it has been thought that the circadian system and the dopaminergic system , the nature of this interaction has been quite elusive until our discovery, Prof. Güler told MNT.
Finding this connection between dopamine-producing neurons and the circadian center allows us to target these neurons with therapies that could potentially provide relief of symptoms for travelers and shift workers particularly, and possibly people with insomnia, he says.
Prof. Güler is not only hopeful that the findings will lead to new drugs for these pathologies, but he also thinks the findings provide insights into a whole other range of conditions.
Phase Six The Sleep Onset Rhythm
This phase is one of the most impactful on your biological clock. If you follow the recommendations here, you can reset your Hormone Circuits balance and recover much faster:
- Eat a small snack of healthy fats, like nuts and seeds. This will keep you from having a hypoglycemic episode at night, which then raises your stress hormone levels and disrupts your sleep.
- Keep your room cool and dark.
- Remove any possible distractions, like phones, from your bedroom.
- Use a nightlight in the bathroom instead of turning on the big light.
- Phase Six supplements include melatonin, milk peptides, niacin, phosphatidylserine, valerian root, and progesterone.
Morning Larks And Night Owls
So-called ‘morning people’ prefer to get up with the sun and accomplish a great deal in the early hours of the day. ‘Night people,’ on the other hand, prefer to sleep in and consider themselves most productive during the evening hours.
Still, night owls often find themselves forced to become early risers due to work, school, and caretaking obligations, and it turns out that might be a good thing for a number of reasons. Research has shown that people who get up earlier than their late-sleeping peers are not only happier, but healthier.
One study found that people who stayed up later tended to have worse cardiac functioning including heart rate and blood pressure. Not only that, but they also suffered from poorer sleep and were less likely to be physically active.
While individual differences in your biological clock may influence whether you are a morning lark or a night owl, there are a few things you can do to shift your internal clock and start greeting the day a bit earlier.
A few things you can try include:
It can take a while to establish a new waking/sleeping routine. Stick to it, however, and you may soon reap the benefits of being a morning person.
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Are We Confusing Our Clocks
For over four billion years, the sun was the sole source of light on planet Earth. Only 150 years ago, Thomas Edison invented the light bulb. Since then, our planet has been awash with light. We take our access to light for grantedit is as easy as the flick of a switch. However, should we flick the switch more cautiously? Research suggests that artificial light interferes with our circadian rhythms.
How Your Biological Clock Influences Your Sleep
Now that you have a good idea of what the biological clock is and how the internal clock network regulates your biological rhythms to influence your daily activities, letâs zero in on the sleep-wake cycle.
Your sleep-wake cycle is governed by the two laws of sleep: sleep homeostasis and circadian rhythm. These two laws operate independently but also interact with each other to determine when you go to bed and wake up, as well as your daily energy fluctuations.
To understand sleep homeostasis, we first need to look at how your bodyâs adenosine levels change relative to the sleep-wake cycle. During wakefulness, adenosine builds up in your brain, leading to rising sleep pressure. Consequently, you fall asleep at night, and your body purges the accumulated adenosine during slumber, resetting the sleep homeostat to zero the next morning.
Listening to your biological clock to go to bed and wake up at the ideal times for you will help keep the sleep homeostat balanced. Youâre more likely to meet your sleep need and keep sleep debt low .
Meanwhile, your master biological clock regulates your circadian cycle through various clock genes. That said, the circadian rhythm is also influenced by external factors, of which light exposure is the most important of all. Both natural and artificial light can maintain or upset your circadian cycles â the latter incites circadian misalignment that often presents itself in situations like:
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The Downward Spiral Of Sleeplessness And Fatigue
As your biological clock dysregulates further, your HPT axis might follow suit, affecting metabolism. The thyroid is responsible for your basal metabolic rate, body temperature, blood pressure, and even heart rate. If it dysregulates, it will affect all of these functions. The result is hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism, both of which can have massive consequences for your health.
The more common of the two, especially if youre dealing with adrenal fatigue, is an underactive thyroid. That means your metabolism will slow down, youll have lower body temperature, and your body wont be converting glucose into energy properly.
The HPG and OAT axes are also vulnerable to dysregulation. High levels of cortisol production will start to decrease progesterone production. This leads to estrogen dominance, which is the relative dominance of estrogen over progesterone. Just like how cortisol and melatonin oppose each other, so too do estrogen and progesterone.
Each hormone is responsible for different aspects of a womans fertility cycle and biological clock. Too much estrogen can throw off those cycles and lead to health issues. These can include PMS, weight gain, fibroids, infertility, pre-menopausal syndrome, endometriosis, endometrial cancer, bone loss, fibrocystic breast disease, and breast cancer.
Men, likewise, can experience an imbalance of estrogen and testosterone, with its own set of problems.