Did you know…
Melatonin, also known by most people as “the sleep hormone”, is an important and master hormone in the body. Insomnia is one symptom of melatonin deficiency. The main cause of melatonin deficiency is a faulty circadian clock (CC) or circadian rhythm.
What is the circadian rhythm?
Every organ, cell and gene is part of the CC, but, the cycle itself is run by the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN). This is a collection of 20,000 cells located in the hypothalamus at the center of the base of the brain.
The SCN is indirectly connected to several glands throughout the body, including the pituitary gland, adrenal glands, thyroid gland, the reproductive system and the pineal gland.
The SCN is essential to the health and daily rhythm of the body. ALL cellular activity throughout the body occurs in a circadian rhythm, including energy, metabolism, energy or nutrient sensing, maintenance, repair, division, communication and secretion. In order to have healthy body, and healthy melatonin production, it is necessary to have a healthy circadian clock. As you can see, a healthy SCN is necessary for the healthy functioning of the human body.
The light dark cycle
Light and darkness are at the core of SCN and CC functioning. As daylight penetrates the retina, the SCN signals the pineal gland to stop producing melatonin, speeds breathing, increases the heart rate and raises the body temperature. Upon opening the eyes, the digestive motility increases and the adrenals release cortisol to energize the body and increase alertness.
In the evening, as darkness sets in, the body prepares for sleep by dropping the body temperature and producing and releasing melatonin.
What disrupts the light/dark cycle?
As you can see, the light/dark cycle is essential to a healthy SCN and the proper functioning of the CC. So, what activities disrupt this important cycle?
How to wind your internal clock
If you’re suffering from insomnia, the first thing you need to do is ensure that your SCN/CC is functioning properly. Here are some tips:
When researching the SCN and Circadian Rhythm for my thesis, I came across a wonderful and user friendly book called the Circadian Code by: Satchin Panda. Dr. Panda, is a professor at the Salk Institute and a founding member of the Center for Circadian Biology at the University of California, San Diego (Panda, 2018). Dr. Panda’s first breakthrough was as a member of the team that discovered blue light sensors in the retina, which signal the brain when it is morning or night .
Despite his scientific background, Dr. Satchin does a great job explaining the SCN and CC. His explanations are well presented and easy to understand. If you are having trouble sleeping, with a brief bout of insomnia, or maybe even dealing with chronic insomnia, I highly recommend his book With that said, his book isn’t just for people suffering insomnia. In fact, everyone should read it, knowing how important the SCN/CC is to the very functioning our our entire body.