If you detest following a daily schedule, think again. Recently, scientists have found that keeping a routine, especially a healthy one, will definitely improve your health and mood.
Our bodies follow a 24-hour cycle where physical, mental, and behavioral changes happen. This process is called the circadian rhythm, and researchers are discovering that it has a major role for us to function. It drives our body systems like circulation, cognition, and metabolism. And it’s helping us determine when we are most susceptible to disease: heart attacks often happen in the morning; asthma attacks become deadly between 11 p.m. and 3 a.m.
Our circadian rhythm seems to be affected by light. The body’s master time keeper is a group of neurons behind our eyes. They’re called the SCN. In the dark, the SCN signals the release of melatonin, the hormone that facilitates sleep. That could be why our eyes feel heavy so we feel sleepy. Chemical changes also happen in our bodies: body temperature lowers, and so do blood pressure and heart rate. (They’re the lowest in the middle of the night.)
But other systems are very active at night. Production of stomach acid peaks between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. (aka your dinner is digested). This doesn’t mean we should indulge in midnight snacks, though. Even if what we ate would be digested, the genes that regulate our metabolism aren’t completely active when we aren’t either. We’d be more prone to weight gain, high cholesterol and blood sugar, and liver damage.
In the morning, light signals the SCN to shut off melatonin production. The cortisol, a stress hormone, rises instead to prepare us for the daily grind. Blood pressure and heart rate build up again.
If we work when our bodies feel tired or sleepy, and sleep when our bodies feels pumped, we have a higher rate of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, stroke, and other disorders.
So go to bed, get up, and eat meals at the same and right time every day.
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