Circadian rhythm How can it help our immune system?

The circadian rhythm is our internal clock . It is mainly synchronized by the cycle of light and dark, social interactions, food and physical exercise. It regulates the production of various hormones throughout the 24-hour cycle.The hormone melatonin has high values ​​at night, or in the absence of light, and low during the day. This not only has the ability to regulate circadian rhythms, but also inflammatory pathways, as well as helping to eliminate free radicals. Instead, cortisol increases first thing in the day, when we should be more alert and feel less tired. But if our state of health is altered, or we take some medications, such as glucocorticoids, or we live under chronic stress, it can affect the levels of these hormones.

It is not surprising, therefore, that a relationship has been found between the alteration of these circadian rhythms with the activity of our immune system , resulting in inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis.

Lack of sleep is related to lower resistance against infection and higher production of pro-inflammatory cytokines.

Sleeping less than 6 hours is associated with greater vulnerability to viral infection.

Recommendations to achieve a good balance of the circadian rhythm

  • Regular times for sleeping and waking up. Do not use the alarm clock of your mobile, better use a traditional one and avoid spending hours looking at social networks or mail, subtracting hours of sleep. Additionally, the use of screens can reduce melatonin levels from exposure to blue light. There are even some alarm clocks that have a sunrise simulation lamp, gradually increasing the light they emit and with nature sounds, so as not to wake up too alert.
  • Match your biological clock with the environmental one. Better to fall asleep coinciding with the dark phase and expose ourselves to early sunlight.
  • Keep the room ventilated during the day and during hours of less pollution, and sleep at a temperature between 18 and 21 ° C.
  • Use programs that change the light emission spectrum of electronic devices by shifting blue light towards yellow or amber, anticipating bedtime. Some examples are: Blue Light Filter, Blue Light Filter – Night Mode, Twilight, F.Lux, Screen Shader.
  • Sleeping zone is not the same as work zone . Don’t take work to bed, your stress levels can stay elevated for longer. Good health is also synonymous with setting limits and self-care.
  • Adjust meal times. During the day our organs prepare for digestion and the use of energy and nutrients, while at night the digestive process slows down and the body starts cell regeneration. For there to be a good coordination, the biological clock sends the signals to the different tissues and organs, through the endocrine and nervous systems. Sleeping fewer hours can lead to higher food and / or energy intake throughout the day. If we do not eat at the right time, if we do it when we should be sleeping, those compounds that would help better digestion and absorption of nutrients, regulation of glucose and insulin levels, or energy use may be reduced. This can increase the risk of metabolic-type diseases such as diabetes.
  • Melatonin and magnesium supplements . They can be useful in certain cases. They should always be prescribed by a healthcare professional.
  • Avoid substances that disrupt the circadian cycle . They are those exciting or causing drowsiness such as tea, alcohol or foods and beverages that contain caffeine, especially 6 hours before bedtime.
  • Perform regular and adapted exercise. If possible avoiding it near the hours of sleep.
  • Reduce stress levels. Knowing the cause is important to know where we should put the focus. What is the first thing that you could change in your day to day to reduce it? Asking for help from our environment, going to a psychology professional, setting limits, working on flexibility instead of living under rigid decisions… these are actions that can help us to better manage. In addition, incorporating meditation into our lives can not only help us reduce stress and sleep better, but also improve the intensity of pain.
  • Sleep the time necessary for each vital stage. According to the Spanish Sleep Society, the following hours are recommended.
    • Newborns (0-3 months): 14-17 h.
    • Infants (4-11 months): 12-15 h.
    • Young children (1-2 years): 11-14 h.
    • Preschool age (3-5 years): 10-13 h.
    • School age (6-13 years): 9-11 h.
    • Adolescents: (14-17 years): 8-10 h.
    • Adults (18-64 years): 7-9 h.
    • Elderly people (> 65 years): 7-8 h.

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