Tick tock. Tick tock. Can you hear your biological clock ticking away? I am pretty sure that I can.
I am certainly not looking at having anymore children! In fact, two is all that I ever wanted and it turns out, that was a good decision, as I don’t think that I could handle raising any more than that.
Our biological clock does so much more than tell us the perfect time to get pregnant. In fact, both men and women and the young and old are subject to the influence of the biological clocks that we all have.
For example, have you ever stayed awake for an all-nighter and felt off for many days afterwards or flown from one time zone to another and felt the affects of jet lag? The impact is due to a disruption to our internal clock.
Circadian rhythms are controlled by “clock genes” that carry the genetic instructions to produce proteins. These instructions control everything from when we sleep and rest, body temperature, heart activity, hormone secretion, blood pressure, oxygen consumption, and metabolism. They may even influence our mood, particularly in the form of wintertime depression known as seasonal affective disorder.
Our biological clock has three parts: a way to receive light, temperature or other input from the environment to set the clock, the clock itself, and genes that help the clock control the activity of other genes.
The human Circadian Rhythm is actually 10 to 20 minutes longer than 24 hours. The biological clock keeps working even when the we are removed from natural light. Without daylight, the biological clock will eventually start running on its own natural cycle. But as soon as morning light hits our eyes, our clock will reset to match the earth’s 24-hour day.
Sleep is essential to our mental and physical health. Clock genes normally keep us awake during the day and asleep at night. But when a clock gene mutates, it can disrupt the normal sleep cycle. Sunlight, air travel and even the seasons can disrupt our Circadian Rhythms and the quality and quantity of sleep that we get.
What are the health implications of clock genes?
Understanding exactly how clock genes work may help scientists develop new medicines that adjust or reset the human biological clock to treat the ill effects of jet lag, night shift work or wintertime depression. Clock genes may also offer clues to sleep disorders such as narcolepsy, which makes people feel sleepy during the day.
Our internal clock controls hormone levels, which can effect the way our bodies respond to certain medications. Better knowledge of circadian rhythms may improve the effectiveness of medications by revealing the best times to take them.
Clock genes may some day help scientists treat cancer. At least eight clock genes are known to coordinate normal functions such as cell proliferation (which is uncontrolled in cancer) and cell suicide (which fails to occur in tumor cells).
Simple blood tests may one day help predict the age at which a woman will begin menopause. If the accuracy of the test is confirmed, women could take the test early on in their reproductive life to find out their expected age at menopause and their optimal pregnancy window.
Beverly’s Hot Tips To Celebrate Biological Clock Day:
- Celebrate – whatever age you are, or whatever life stage you are in.
- Determine your ‘real’ age vs your actual age and see how you are doing. On one site my actual age is 45, my virtual age is 30 and my life expectancy is to 89 years old. Not bad! Check out http://www.sonnyradio.com/realage.html
- Schedule a doctor visit especially if your sleep difficulties are interfering with job and other responsibilities.
Maintain a healthy sleep-wake program by:
- Not napping if you find that it throws you off in the evening.
- Getting up at the same time every day.
- Being strict about your sleep schedule and creating a relaxing bedtime routine.
- Trying light therapy. This should only be done under a doctor’s care to ensure that you are not creating additional issues.
- Avoiding night light. When possible, avoid bright and outdoor light close to bedtime and keep your surroundings as dark as possible at night. Cover the lights of your alarm clock, so that you are not tempted to look at it or have its glow disrupt your sleep.
- Avoid eating or exercising too close to bedtime. Also watch out for caffeine and nicotine, both of which are stimulants.
- When traveling to different time zones – look for natural ways to align your new sleep-wake schedule with the time zone that you are in. Some strategies require you to start several days before you take off the ground, so plan ahead.
Something to leave you smiling….
A class consisted of a particularly well-motivated group of students. They were encouraged to ask their teacher any questions on any subject that concerned them. One afternoon a girl raised her hand and asked the teacher to explain a woman’s “biological clock.”
After she had finished, there was a moment of silence and then another hand shot up. “Teacher,” a student asked, “is your clock still ticking or has the alarm gone off?”
If you have some strategies to share – comment on this posting!