I think it’s fair to say that we all have some sort of idea about what our body clock is. You talk about it in terms of jet lag on holiday, or staying up late for a few nights in a row and getting out of routine, but do you know much about it other than exactly how to reference it in conversation? The whole concept is actually much more interesting than you might think! Here are twelve cool facts about your body clock.
Your body clock is classed as something called a circadian rhythm, and they have been around for as long as the very first cells on the earth! It is believed that these first cells were damaged by the sun’s UV rays, and adapted to repairing themselves at night.
It’s not just humans that have a body clock, they have been detected in things like mimosa leaves that open and close in the dark, following their own rhythm.
Circadian rhythms are what enable us and other organisms to anticipate things like day and night, and winter and summer, so they enable us to better prepare for different circumstances.
Your brain has a master clock in the hypothalamus and acts as a conductor, sending different day and night time signals to the rest of your body.
You also have what are called peripheral clocks, which are found in all of the organs in your body and they synchronize to the master clock.
In fact, you effectively have a clock in every single cell in your body, with the ability to generate a 24-hour oscillation.
As the night gets longer and your hours of sleep lengthen, your brain releases more melatonin to help adjust to this change. In animals, this is shown in a more extreme way, as in hibernation.
It is actually daylight that helps to regulate your body clock. If you lived in total darkness all the time, your rhythm would get completely out of step.
You might wake up feeling fresh as a daisy, but from the moment you open your eyes, your body starts to build sleep pressure that you need to release later in the day.
You experience jet lag when the master clock in your brain is operating on one time, but the synchronizing clocks in your organs are on a different time thanks to time zones.
If you are someone who works night shifts, for example, you don’t experience jet lag per se, but rather social jet lag, because your body clocks are synced up, but just to a different rhythm than most people.
Surging hormones can sometimes delay a body clock by up to two hours at a time, so don’t be down on the teenagers in your life for needing those precious lay ins! For a teen, getting up at 7am can feel like an adult getting up at 5am!
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