Most people tend to notice that they experience, on a natural basis, varying levels of sleepiness and alertness through the day, but what exactly leads up to these patterns? Its none other than your body clock. Master your body clock to eat, sleep and work more effectively.
What is a body clock?
Many of us might be aware of the term body clock. It is what manages our hormone releases, sleep pattern, body temperature and much more. It has been perceived that every cell of the body has a clock which is managed by the central clock present in the brain. The body clock is controlled by genes, which personifies the different types of body clocks.
Types of Body Clocks
Biological rhythms are a system in the body that control the occurrence of natural processes, such as waking, sleeping, and aging. Majority of us have a balanced body clock, however, some of them are the early risers (the LARKS) or else, night setters (the OWLS). Larks are those who get up early at dawn, being most active in the morning as against Owls, who are late sleepers and are more active through the evening. Balanced are those who are in between. However, the body clock changes through different stages of life, where children are often larks, teenagers turn into owls and adults become more like larks.
Coming back to biological rhythms, they are mainly divided into four categories:
Circadian rhythms are defined as a pattern that cycles on a daily basis (approximately 24 hours) under normal circumstances. More specifically these physiological and behavioural rhythms control the waking/sleep cycle, body temperature, blood pressure, reaction time, levels of alertness, patterns of hormone secretion, and digestive functions in the body.
A pattern of activity based upon a 24-hour cycle, in which there are regular light and dark periods. For example, working in the day and sleeping at night is an example of following the diurnal rhythm.
Ultradian rhythms are defined as a pattern that occurs on a shorter time scale than circadian rhythms, or even ultradian rhythms. For example, eating three times a day.
Infradian rhythms are defined as a pattern that has a cycle longer than circadian rhythms, i.e. more than 24 hours per cycle. Due to the longer time frame for each cycle, its frequency of occurrence is lower than that of the circadian rhythms. The female menstrual cycle is one example of an infradian rhythm.
Maintaining a healthy body clock
People working in different shifts find it difficult to maintain a regular way of eating, sleeping, and exercising. Eventually, when they are not able to cope up with irregular timings, they give up and succumb to unhealthy choices of eating, which lead to heartburn, acidity, bloating, excess fat deposition, weight gain, sleeping disorder, depression and heart diseases. It is very important for the health and safety of the worker and the productivity of the industry that the basic principles are followed to set a pattern in the altered body clock of the worker.
Most often with the work pressure, you tend to overlook what you are eating. This leads to excessive intake and thus weight gain. Chew well and eat a food option containing fiber, complex carbohydrate, and protein. The longer you chew, the more time it will take you to finish a meal, and research shows that eating slowly can help you eat less and, ultimately, avoid weight gain/loss. For example, chewing your food twice as usual will immediately help you control your portion sizes, and quite naturally, decrease your calorie intake. It takes generally about 20 minutes for your brain to signal your stomach that you’re full, and this may explain why one study found that people reported feeling fuller when they ate slowly. These people also ended up taking in about 10 percent fewer calories when they ate at a slow pace, and chewed slower, as opposed to when they were rushing with their food.
Foods you should eat for a good body clock
For maintaining a balanced body clock, it is necessary that you have small frequent meals rather than three big meals. This helps in regulating the weight and also helps in reducing the problem of acidity and heartburn. It is always better to go for hydrating drinks like water, fresh fruit juice, tender coconut water, buttermilk, green tea, etc. instead of drinking large mugs of coffee. This way, you feel refreshed and avoid caffeine (which hampers sleeping patterns). Food items like Chapatti rolls, egg rolls, whole fruits, boiled sweet corn, boiled eggs, vegetable salad, sandwiches, idli, dosa, sprouts salad, parantha etc. should take preference over snacks like chips, fries, chocolates and other calorie-laden food.
For people who work night shifts, it is imperative that they consider the meal just before commencing their shift as the breakfast, even if it is dinner time for others. The emphasis is to have a good meal consisting of food items from all the food groups, which gives them the energy to kick start their ‘day’. Taking excessive sugar-laden food might just give a sudden burst of energy at the beginning but later one feels a sharp drop in energy level. Therefore, it is better to count on complex carbohydrates and choose food items as explained earlier.
What fitness regime should you follow for a good body clock balance?
When your body clock timings get altered, the first thing to get effected is sleep. People who sleep the recommended seven to nine hours each day are healthier, fitter, and less likely to suffer from obesity or other health issues than those who don’t sleep well. Remember that you can space out sleep with naps if a single period of rest isn’t possible with your schedule.
Try to create some space for exercise as it is very important to maintain a healthy weight to prevent lifestyle diseases. Try to take walks, walk up and down stairs, or stretch before or after your shift or during your breaks. People who exercise not only burn more calories during the day but they sleep better as well.
What are the problems generally faced with a disrupted body clock?
Today’s lifestyle has led to the disruption of the body clock, and hence led to major health problems like diabetes, heart diseases, obesity and cancers. Lack of sleep, irregular sleeping and eating habits, sedentary lifestyle, and stress has led to an increase in these health issues.
The inability to adapt to changes in the body clock may lead to:
- Altered appetite;
- Trouble falling asleep or getting a good night’s sleep
- Weight loss or weight gain
- Constipation, diarrhea, gas
- Indigestion, heartburn or stomach ulcers; and
- High blood pressure.
Tips to reset your body clock
In case you are experiencing a disruption in your body clock and wish to reset it, you can do so by trying to maintain a balanced body clock. Here are some simple steps that you would need to follow in order to achieve this balance
Have regular sleep pattern (sleep hygiene)
- Avoid heavy eating or exercising close to bedtime
- Avoid watching TV or mobile before bedtime
- Switch off all lights before sleeping
- Have a nice bath and warm drink before going to bed
- Read a book or listen to soothing music
Sleep for at least 7 hours daily
Sleeping for a minimum of 7 hours helps your body get the rest it needs, ensuring that you wake up feeling refreshed and rejuvenated in the morning.
Eat healthy and on time
There have been numerous times where our mothers have gone to the extent of forcing food down our throats, just so that we eat healthily and that too, on time. Eating good food is a necessity for your body as the majority of your body’s energy comes from food.
Exercise regularly, have a routine
However much we hate going to the gym, having an exercise routine is a must to keep the body fit and the body’s biological clock working in perfect condition.
Seek medical help if these are not helping
If all the above-mentioned tips do not seem to be working for you, seek the help of a professional dietician and get the help that you need in order to restore your biological clock to its perfect working condition.
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