Interruptions to Your Circadian Rhythm Affect Your Health
Your circadian rhythm is an internal process that regulates your cycle of being awake and asleep. It repeats every twenty-four hours, ensuring that you get the sleep you need. However, recent research has shown that even a minor disruption can cause adverse effects on your metabolism.
In a small study of only 20 people, Dr. Phyllis Zee, director of the Center for Circadian and Sleep Medicine at Northwestern University, monitored sleepers in two groups. For the first night, each group slept in a dark room. The next night, one group was exposed to 100 lux of artificial light. This is just enough light to see in the dark but not enough to read. Dr. Zee performed tests on the participants while they slept. She monitored their heart rates and brainwaves and took blood tests every few hours. When the participants woke, they were each given sugar and had their body’s responses recorded. In the morning, those who slept in the lighted room had elevated heart rates throughout the night and insulin resistance (blood sugar failed to return to normal levels).
Participants Reported Feeling Well Rested
When asked how they slept, the participants in the lighted room reported that they were well-rested despite the differences in their heart rates and blood sugar failing to spike. After further scrutiny of other measurements, researchers discovered that even a small amount of light put the body’s automatic nervous system into an alert state, explaining their collected data. Even if your eyes are closed, your body has evolved to know what’s happening around you. When there is light, our body’s systems don’t get the rest they need.