Sleep is one of the most important components for health and wellness. Sleep impacts our weight, nutrition, ability to handle and manage stress. Sleep directly impacts our energy level, fatigue ability to focus and concentrate. Sleep improves our immune function and can quicken our ability bounce back from an illness and so much more.
Circadian rhythms are cycles that directly impact our quality of and ability to sleep. Circadian rhythms are also known as our “internal body clock”. Circadian rhythm is responsible for our sleep and wake time. It is regulated by several hormones the most notable are melatonin, serotonin, adrenalin and cortisol. Melatonin is produced by a small gland in the brain called the pineal gland. Small amounts are also produced in the digestive system and the bone. Serotonin is also produced in the brain and the digestive system. Adrenalin and cortisol are both produced in the adrenal glands.
Lets learn about how these hormones work to create the normal sleep wake cycle. The darkness or the absence of light cause the production and secretion of melatonin. Melatonin levels rise in the evening and are high during the night and then drop in the early morning. Serotonin can also be converted into melatonin. Melatonin causes drowsiness and lower body temperature creating a conductive to sleep. As the levels of melatonin decrease in the early morning, serotonin, adrenalin and cortisol begin to rise. Cortisol is lowest in the late evening around 10:30 pm and slowly begins to rise during the night and into the early morning . Serotonin help with cerebral activity and adrenalin helps with movement and increasing energy but it is cortisol that is required to wake us out of sleep. These hormones impacts are temperature, metabolism and appetite which are clear signals of alertness and become more prominent as the we start into the day. The cortisol level drops throughout the day. And the cycle starts again the next night.
When the hormones that regulate our circadian rhythms are in balance we have good quality sleep. When one or more of our circadian hormones are out of balance we experience difficulty sleeping or insomnia.