Circadian Rhythms: The Nobel Goes to Sleep Cycle Research
This week, the Nobel Prize selection committee recognized the importance of Circadian Rhythms by awarding the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine to the scientists who discovered the circadian rhythm’s molecular mechanism.
The Science of Sleep
Dr. Jeffrey C. Hall and Dr. Michael Rosbash first published on the period gene of Drosophila melanogaster (the common fruit fly) in 1990. They linked the gene to the circadian rhythm Dr. Michael Young discovered the timeless gene, also critical in regulating the circadian rhythm.
Quite simply, their work combined helped scientists learn more about our biological clock. Our bodies know well what time of day it is, and for that reason, the circadian rhythm is critically important to overall body function.
We at Rthm know that the biological clock is critical to daily functioning – but it also regulates our metabolism, our feelings of motivation and happiness, and other far-reaching biological effects. The daily biological clock regulates behaviour and hormone levels, and even body temperature.
The Importance of Your Daily Rhythm
From the research of these Nobel-winning scientists, we can see that maintaining a good circadian rhythm is extremely important. Below we list 4 good ways to keep your Rthm in check.
1. Maintain Good “Sleep Hygiene”
Sleep hygiene is the collection of practices necessary for good night sleep, so that you’re awake and alert the next day.
Some good ways to ensure that you’re tired when you need to be include exercising to promote high quality sleep. As well, it has been shown that the blue light of our computer and phone screens inhibit melatonin, the natural hormone that makes us sleepy.
For that reason, it’s best to switch to a book before bed. If you can squeeze a workout in before dinner, you should also be able to improve on the quality of your sleep later that night.
2. Clock in, Clock Out
Sleeping and waking up at regular hours each day helps regulate your circadian rhythm, and helps you get the high-quality sleep you need to tackle the next day. Simply, by having regular wake and sleep times, you’ll be able to monitor your energy levels throughout the day and be ready for bed when you need to be.
The difficulty in this easy suggestion lies in waking up without snoozing! Research shows that the sleep we receive after our first alarm is not as high quality as the sleep before.
Controlled by the genes studied by this year’s Nobel Prize winners, hormones like cortisol and adrenaline begin to wake you up and moves you into lighter sleep before you wake up. By snoozing, you continue to sleep, but at a lighter level, making you groggy – and late for work.
3. Sleepy Foods
“Carbohydrate” is a bad word to a lot of fitness-conscious people. But it has its place in your diet – and day – if necessary. Have you ever wondered why you’re so tired after Thanksgiving dinner? It’s not just because your Uncle Ned told that story about his fishing trip again.
The carbohydrates in your food have helped your body absorb tryptophan, an amino acid, making you tired. Amino acids like tryptophan, are the basis of all protein in your food.
Carbohydrates increase the absorption of amino acids, including tryptophan, which can make you sleepy. So for that reason, a good pre-bed snack of a small carbohydrate and some protein makes for a good way to get yourself sleepy and ready for bed. Good, healthy recommendations include cereal with milk, and peanut butter with toast.
As well, avoid drinks and beverages that can interfere with sleep. Caffeine will keep you wired and prevent you from sleeping well. Alcohol, while it seems to make you sleepy, will interfere with the REM cycles of your sleep – preventing you from getting good, high quality sleep. Try to enjoy these drinks well in advance of your sleeping time.
We incorporated all of the above research, and more, when building the Body Clock. Therefore, we are indebted to all of the above scientists, and the countless students, laboratory technicians, and others, who made their research, and the rthm app, possible.