All living creatures usually experience certain rhythmic changes which in most cases coincide with the changes in the environment on daily or seasonal basis. Such rhythmic changes are referred to as biological rhythms and entail the circadian, infradian and the ultradian rhythms (Rodrigo et al, 2007, p. 234). Circadian rhythms are best described as the regular flow in which activities undergo in a day. It is approximately the 24-hour physiological processes that occur in living things.
These processes are normally controlled by the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) normally referred to as the ‘biological clock’ which is located in the hypothalamus of the brain just above the cross section of optic nerves (Quraishi, 2007, p. 1). It functions in such a way that when light enters the eye into the retina, the optic nerves send signals to the SCN and then to the brain and the person is active.
On the contrast, at night when there is darkness and only minimal light reaches the retina, the pineal grand is activated by electrical stimulants to manufacture excess melatonin which in turn makes people drowsy thus sleeping at night. Therefore, a perfect example of the circadian rhythm is the sleep and wake up cycle (Quraishi, 2007, p.1). This cycle comes with many changes occurring in the active and dormant periods for example urine production is normally dormant in the night while being active during the day.
As a matter of fact, circadian rhythms is the answer as to why people will automatically fall asleep in the fall of darkness and wake in the ,morning when light falls (Quraishi, 2007, p.1). This paper is therefore an in-depth analysis of the Circadian Rhythms to find out their importance in psychology and how they affect human beings. Circadian Rhythm disorders will also be discussed.
Circadian Rhythms are expected to be persisting in the living organism such that they become endogenous to the living organism. Nevertheless, external factors play a big role in affecting circadian rhythms. Some of these factors include; light, travelling, drugs, noise and alcohol intake just to mention but a few.
Depending on the time it comes, light is known to reset the biological clock such that it either causes a delay or advance in the circadian rhythm. This is most common in areas that have longer days than nights and vice versa. Secondly, people travelling long distances in different regions for instance pilots may be forced to stay awake for longer periods than stipulated thus affecting the Circadian rhythm.
On the other hand, drugs such as caffeine, Khat and marijuana affect the circadian rhythm to keep the individual wake for long hours. In new-born babies, the baby colic cause turn trams which disrupt the circadian rhythms making them baby stay awake the better part of the night and end up sleeping during the day.
The Circadian rhythms are of great essentiality especially in human beings because of the way they regulate activities and physiological processes. “The impact of Circadian rhythms is viewed in the pattern of activities such as sleeping, eating, brain activity, temperature and hormone production as well as cell regeneration” (Sharma, 2003, p. 901).
Without control, the body would be mayhem of activities and processes that are not coordinated. For instance, people would be forced have the same meals of the day during the night, or urinating at night at intervals equal to those of the day. The Circadian rhythms therefore help a great deal in the organization of the body processes.
It should be noted that not all people have normal circadian rhythm hence leading to the circadian rhythm disorders. Such disorders include; sleep disorders and bipolar disorder which come as a result of irregular functioning of the circadian rhythm (Rodrigo et al, 2007, p. 250). In most cases, these disorders are normally inherited.
People with this kind of disorder sleep and wake up when their body clock dictates thus making them unable to perform their duties at the required time. Others like insomnia, fatigue, disorientation, delayed sleep phase syndrome (DSPS) and disorientation are due to the disturbances in the circadian rhythm (Rodrigo et al, 2007, p. 250). The good thing is that most of these disorders can be controlled if not treated.
Behavior therapy is one of the treatment methods whereby the patient is advised on ways of re-installing their circadian rhythm. They are advised to avoid naps and stimulants such as caffeine. Medications including melatonin and tasimelteon have proved to be successful treatments. In other cases, the patient undergoes a sleep phase chronotherapy to regulate the sleep time.
It can thus be concluded that the circadian rhythm is primarily determined by the biological clock that is located in the brain. The wake and sleep cycle is important given the fact that the brain requires time to rest as well as the body to ensure good productivity.
Quraishi, S. (2007). Circadian Rhythms and Sleep. Retrieved July 27, 2011. From, http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/exchange/node/1926
Rodrigo G, Carrera J. and Jaramillo A. (2007). Evolutionary mechanisms of circadian clocks. Central European Journal of Biology 2 (2): 233–253
Sharma, V. (2003). Adaptive significance of circadian clocks. Chronobiology International