Why is it so hard for the world to catch up to circadian rhythms?

06 Mar 2019

Type ‘circadian rhythms’ in the Google search bar and in a matter of seconds the page will fill with headline articles from media platforms such as The Guardian, The New York Time, Scientific American and MIT Technology Review. Point being is that circadian rhythms are not some underground, niche topic discussed in the lounges of avid light and well-being advocates. It is becoming widely discussed, and it is all around us; how this natural clock affects our well-being, our metabolism, our balance and psychological stability.

So why is it still so difficult for the world to catch on to the discourse around circadian rhythms and truly bring it into the mainstream?

If you’re more inclined to scientific reasoning, there are currently a host of studies taking place to measure and shed insight on how circadian rhythms are influencing a host of things, such as surgery timings, when we should drive, the ability to perform during exams, and the quality of our sleep.

Yet when approaching the subject of circadian rhythms and their role in maintaining our body’s well-being, it seems that there is a fair bit of demystification that needs to take place; as though in introducing the subject one has dodge the spiritual, the natural and the crystal balls aspect of all it.

So let’s put things straight: there is no spirituality or mysticism to circadian rhythms. In fact, they are deeply rooted in chronobiological research and studies. The reason our bodies respond to a certain daily pattern is largely reliant on these circadian rhythms. Waking up just before your alarm clock is wholeheartedly anchored in your specific rhythm. Being able to get up easily in the morning means your personal circadian rhythms make you a morning person. And at the same time, having trouble going to bed early is because of the same reason.

Furthermore, the rise and fall of energy levels and the ability to concentrate are rooted in your body’s natural circadian rhythm – with the type of light that you are exposed to helping to boost this. For example, if you are naturally a morning person, then the type of light you are exposed to throughout the morning hours will help dictate the energy levels available to you. In equal part, if your energy levels are at their best in the late night hours, light in your surrounding will help you keep your concentration at its peak.

The problem is, that not many of us are aware of the importance of our circadian rhythm, especially for our day-to-day activities and in order to maintain whatever rhythm is unique to us. This could be attributed to the lack of general information circulating in the media, in schools and even in the workplace.

So what can we do? The first step is without a doubt raising awareness of circadian rhythms and what role they play in our body’s natural rhythm and in maintaining a healthy urban lifestyle — and that includes removing it from the genre of holistic healing and crystal balls. What should then follow is a reawakening era where we begin to re-learn this crucial part of our biorhythm. Apps, wearables and data-driven technology play a huge part in this educational phase. Creating actionable feedback and insightful information around this will help each individual understand their own circadian rhythms and how light intake throughout the day impacts them personally.

Are you having trouble falling asleep? Insight into your light intake can help you understand what changes to your routine could help reduce this. Not enough energy in the morning? Seeing that you are repeatedly exposed to dim light during the day could encourage you to change your desk location, open the blinds in the morning or even shake up your commute if possible.

Awareness around well-being in urban dwellers is everywhere we look. From personalised vitamins, meals and exercise routines to apps that nudge and guide us to make small yet powerful changes. Circadian rhythms simply need to be introduced into the discussion. After all, this is all just a matter of learning again some basic aspects of healthy living.