Know and Respect Your Body Clock
1. The Body Is Nature’s Machine – Perfected Over A Million Years
If we think about it, it’ll quickly dawn upon us that the human body is Nature’s finest creation. What began as a single cell has evolved today into a walking, talking organism over a period of hundreds of thousands of years. This marvel of nature is a human being’s most valuable asset, capable of achieving unimaginable feats.
Mother Nature is the ultimate unifies – Balance is at her core. Fire and water, earth and wind, yin and yang – all opposing elements of nature exist together in perfect harmony. And the human body is no different; we are her greatest construction after all. Our body is like a disciplined Nature’s machine that always seeks to foster a perfect balance in its heart.
2. But The “Mind” Of This Body – Is A Disruptive Force
The body has a brain that keeps it functioning. It commands it to carry out hundreds of life essential processes every day. This is the unconscious part of our brain that is focused on our daily bodily sustenance.
Then we have the conscious part of the brain we call the “mind”. With this mind comes free will, and with it, an ability to make conscious decisions about keeping habits that make or break our health.
When our mind is attuned to our body – when it is the master of our primal bodily urges and not its slave – we are truly balanced physically, mentally and emotionally.
But sadly, more often than not the case is the opposite. We function in an auto-pilot mode heading slowly but steadily towards a crash. We let our mind freely give in to our urges. We have little discipline and follow no schedule.
Our mind is a powerful disruptive force that goes against nature’s design and causes great imbalance. An imbalanced force cannot survive for a long time, which is why it is so essential to recognize and respect our natural body clock.
3. Respecting The Body Clock – Importance And Advantages
Our Circadian Rhythm, or Body Clock, is the sleep-wake cycle that governs our lives. By nature, we are diurnal creatures, which means our body clock is synced to the clock of the sun. We rise up in the morning (hence the phrase “Good morning, sunshine”) when we feel wakeful and go to bed in the night when we start to feel sleepy as the sun sets. It is the most important cycle of a human body which dictates how well we function every day.
Research has found that the body’s clock is responsible for more than just sleep and wakefulness. Our hunger, alertness, mood, organ functions and immunity operate in tandem with this daily rhythm too. The importance of this biological clock becomes perceptibly clearer when we disrupt it: jet lag and night shifts disharmonise our normal patterns and take a direct toll on our mental and physical health.
Studies have also found that sleep-deprived individuals are much more prone to encounter traffic accidents and workplace injuries. Not only this, but we are also discovering important connections between a disrupted clock and chronic health issues such as diabetes and heart diseases.
To keep our body, and hence our mind, in prime health it is imperative that we firstly and foremostly set up a consistent body clock for ourselves. If we fix our sleep-wake cycle to best fit our lifestyle, we will readily see drastic improvements in our daily activities.
Here are some direct advantages you get for keeping good sleep hygiene:
Younger Skin – A good circadian rhythm gives your skin cells plenty of time to recover and replenish as you sleep. They protect you against the sun better and even decrease the risks of getting skin tumours and skin cancer.
Boosted Immunity – Studies have found that our body clock controls a gene responsible for activating our immune system when our body is invaded with foreign viruses and bacteria. Having a stable body clock has a direct effect on strengthening our body defences.
Better Blood Sugar – An inconsistent sleep-wake cycle and sleep deprivation can spike our insulin, the hormone that controls our blood sugar levels. That puts us at a higher risk to life-threatening problems such as obesity, diabetes and heart diseases.
More Energy – We are powered by hundreds of tiny power stations called mitochondria that help us keep energised. Our body clock functions as the foreman of these energy mini-factories, commanding them when to release energy. If we go off the timetable, we might find ourselves wide awake at 3 a.m. and weary at noon.
Better Metabolism – A consistent circadian rhythm means we feel hungry at the same time every day. A regular eating schedule is key to having a healthy and wholesome digestion. We tend to eat at recommended times and give our body plenty of time to break down and utilise essential nutrients most efficiently.
Elevated Mood – Better blood sugar levels and more energy throughout the day means your body and brain function optimally and don’t get stressed often. A good body clock ensures that you get plenty of sleep so you wake up fresh, have a good diet and healthy digestion so you don’t suffer from mood disorders related to food, the boosted immunity also means that you get sick less often. All these factors together play an important role in keeping your mood on happy levels throughout the day.
4. Pro Tips To Fix Your Body Clock
1. Sleep at the same time every day – Finish all your chores and be sure to hit the bed at the same time every day. It might be hard at the start but in a few weeks your body is bound to adjust and you’ll find yourself going to sleep in no time. Make use of free online tools such as ASMR audios, sleep-inducing music and sounds to help ease you into a comfortable sleep. Sleeping at the same hour daily is also the first step to ensuring that you wake-up at the same time in the morning.
2. Have up to 8 hours of sound sleep – At least 7 and up to 8 hours of good sleep have been recorded to be the most optimal amount of sleep you need every day. Any less or any more, and you may find yourself feeling drained quickly during the day. If your daily schedule doesn’t allow you to have this luxury, you must explore and devise methods that help you save time. You’ll be surprised to discover how much of it we spend each day in idleness.
3. Wake up at a specific time every day – It is easier to sleep at a consistent time daily than it is to wake up at one. When our eyes open in the morning, the first thing our brain signals is to continue in our luxuriously dreamy state and to go back to sleep. We lose the battle the moment we give in to this feeling and hit the snooze button. Experts recommend that you make use of external constraints such as a physical alarm that you have to physically walk towards to turn off, a puzzle you have to solve before switching off your alarm, and other such innovative ways to jolt yourself into wakefulness.
4. Drink a full glass of water immediately after waking up, and throughout the day – This is another technique that will not only help wake you up, but is very beneficial for your health too. Be mindful to drink 3 to 4 litres of water each day. Chugging a glass of water is the best method to avoid eating unnecessary foods at odd hours. This works so well because often our mind confuses thirst with hunger. This practice is a very organic method to speed up weight loss, while forever keeping dehydration at bay.
5. Eat only when you are truly hungry – This one might be a tough one for all the foodies out there, but as they say – practice makes perfect. Many of us feel hungry more than 3 times a day. We reach out to the nearest snack to satisfy our hunger pangs, often at odd hours. The more we are prone to doing this, the hungrier we feel during the day, even when your body has more than fulfilled its day’s requirement. The antidote? Consume food only when you are “truly” hungry. That doesn’t mean you must consume food only when you are starving to death, it implies that you should stick to having meals a set number of times a day. You can satisfy your noon noshing during lunch, and evening expectations during dinner. Self-restraint is the name of the game.
6. Stop eating before you’re “stuffed” – Craving to binge on food is as real as any other drug addiction out there. Stuffing yourself much after you’ve had your fill is a recipe for numerous health problems and bodily discomforts. It takes about 7 seconds for the food you chew to reach your stomach and much more than that for your stomach to signal “fulfillment’ to your brain. During this duration, we continue to fuel our obsession to “finish what’s on your plate” and overindulge. We overeat, and all of a sudden, we find ourselves feeling bloated. Harassing your stomach with an overload of work does nobody any favours. So, the next time you eat, try to finish much before you feel “stuffed”. You’ll be pleasantly surprised to find the impulsive “more, more, more” pangs disappear automatically after a few minutes.
7. Avoid eating anything after 7 pm – A very effective weight management and circadian rhythm regulation strategy is to set a “cut-off” time after which you don’t consume any food. It limits your calorie intake for the day and helps aid good digestion and unperturbed sleep. Moreover, if after a long day you are feeling ravenous, you have a high tendency to binge on food that you don’t need to eat, and one which provides nutritional value. The wise and healthy thing to do is to have a light meal instead, going to bed early and having a proper breakfast first thing in the morning.
8. Give yourself at least two hours between dinner and going to bed – The duration between the last meal you have before you hit the sheets has a direct correlation with your quality of sleep. Studies show that people have a much higher tendency to eat heavier, calorie-rich meals in the night. Moreover, a heavy dinner means little hunger in the morning. This starts off a vicious cycle as you eat little breakfast, which you overcompensate by noon snacking or overeating during lunch or again, during dinner. When you sleep just after a meal, your body is busy expending energy digesting it. This can cause interference with your sleep hygiene, which is why so many people report having nightmares after having a snack just before sleeping. The slower metabolic rate during sleep can also hinder the quality of your shut-eye time.