Your Circadian Rhythm Might Be Thrown Off By the Time of Day You Eat

 

 

This topic is inspired by an excellent article by Anahad O’Connor, published in the New York Times, July 24th 2018

Summary

More research is coming out with the surprising finding that the time of day we eat has serious implications for our circadian rhythms. Eating at the wrong times of the day–read all day or in the evening–gets in the way of your body’s innate circadian rhythm. This throws off various cycles that help you fall asleep and stay healthy.

What Kind of Schedules Does the Body Have?

As this article points out, the single greatest consistency for all human life on Earth is that the sun rises in the morning and sets at night. Because of this, our bodies have expectations for when we’re going to be doing things. It expects us to be active and burning calories in the morning, and as night approaches, the reduction in light prompts our brain to start releasing Melatonin, a chemical that helps us sleep. The pancreas releases more insulin during the day, but eases up just before and during sleep. Even the genes in your DNA operate on a 24 hour cycle.

What Happens When We Interrupt Them?

The detrimental effects range from the obvious, trouble sleeping, to surprising things like increased weight gain and reduced insulin sensitivity. When you eat when your body is beginning to prepare for sleep, it spurs specific organs back into action, throwing the body out of sync. It’s comparable to your body experiencing jet-lag.  This even applies to non-humans. An experiment on mice showed they got more sick when they didn’t operate on a proper schedule. When you consider that nighttime shift work is connected to obesity, diabetes, and cancer, it adds up that their misaligned Circadian Rhythm could be a significant contributor.

How Can I Maintain My Circadian Rhythm?

One option is try reducing the window of time where you eat to one more in tune with what your body expects. Typically, we eat throughout the day when the urge strikes us, across a large window of 12 to 16 hours. To be more in sync with your Circadian Rhythm, you could try to reduce the window in which you eat to 6 to 10 hours. Try setting a specific hour of the day before you want to go to bed as the cut off point where you won’t eat anything afterwards. Traditional wisdom is that breakfast really is the most important meal of the day. Eating most of your food early in the morning could increase your satiety, reducing your desire for food later in the day.

Read more in the original article in the The New York Times.