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Why are circadian rhythms important?

Joan Salge Blake, MS, RD
Nutrition & Dietetics Specialist

Circadian rhythms are not only important for your sleep cycle, but your metabolism as well. Circadian rhythms are physical, mental and behavioral changes in the body that can influence hormone release and other bodily functions. “Metabolism is impacted by the body’s circadian rhythm, the biological process that the body follows over a 24-hour cycle. So the time of day we eat can have a big impact on the way our bodies process food,” says Professor Daniela Jakubowicz, MD, of TAU’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine and the lead researcher of this study. 

Keep your personal "Big Ben" circadian rhythms ticking at a steady tempo and you'll see immediate benefits. You'll keep your appetite in check, stay sharply focused and get a good night's sleep—but that's not all. Discoveries show that an in-sync body clock also has the following surprising benefits:

  • Younger skin: Resetting your circadian rhythms helps skin stem cells keep perfect time, protecting against sun damage by day and replacing damaged skin cells as you sleep. An off-kilter body clock interferes with the ability of skin stem cells to repair damaged skin and protect against tumors, according to an Ohio State University study.
  • Super immunity: There's evidence that daily circadian rhythms control a gene that determines how your immune system reacts to invading bacteria and viruses. Keeping your internal body clock running smoothly rewards you with stronger defenses. Consistently getting enough sleep is the key to avoiding everything from minor head colds to major cancers.
  • Better blood sugar: Insulin (the body's blood-sugar controlling hormone) is normally higher during the day than at night, but messing with your body's clock by skimping on sleep can throw your insulin levels—and your blood sugar levels—out of whack. That puts you at risk for everything from obesity to diabetes and heart disease.
  • More energy: Your muscle cells contain hundreds of tiny power stations, called mitochondria, which keep you energized. A body clock in your brain is the foreman of these energy mini-factories, telling them when to release energy. Go off the timetable and you might find yourself wide awake at 3 a.m. and weary at noon.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.