Have you ever gotten up in the morning and just felt like your body was not waking up properly? Or have you experienced a crash in energy during the day that made you want to suddenly take a nap? These experiences are both part of your body’s circadian rhythm – the natural and internal clock that we all have. Unfortunately, most of us operate on a schedule that does not align with our circadian rhythm, which can cause us to not function as well as we should.
What is the Circadian Rhythm?
The circadian rhythm is your body’s internal clock that runs inside your brain. This rhythm or cycle is your body’s natural way of cycling between sleepiness and alertness. The circadian rhythm is controlled by the hypothalamus, and can be impacted by factors like light and dark, television, jet lag, and more.
According to the National Safety Council, most adults have a natural circadian rhythm similar to the following:
· 6:00 a.m. – Body is still in sleep mode
· 7:00 a.m. – Body is waking up
· 10:00 a.m. – Most alert time of the day
· 12:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. – Mid-afternoon crash
· 6:30 p.m. – Peak energy
· 10:00 p.m. – Body is ready for sleep
· 2:00 a.m. – Point of deepest sleep
While this rhythm seems like a good idea, most of us struggle to maintain a stable schedule. In fact, around 28 percent of Americans operate outside of a conventional schedule.
How Can Disturbing the Circadian Rhythm Adversely Impact Work?
Disturbing your body’s natural circadian rhythm can have an adverse impact on your health and your lifestyle. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), routine shifts in the rhythm can disturb healthy levels of cortisol, melatonin, blood pressure, hormones, metabolism and proteins. These disturbances can lead to a host of health problems, and can cause chronic fatigue.
Workers who are most susceptible to adverse effects from a disturbed circadian rhythm are those who work night shift or swing shifts. Disturbances in the body can cause performance and efficiency to drop. Fatigue and inattention also creates safety concerns, which puts workers and their environments at risk.