Circadian Rhythm

Definition - What does Circadian Rhythm mean?

Circadian rhythm refers to biological processes in your body that run in oscillating cycles of twenty-four hours in response to changes in light and darkness. These processes effect the temperature in the body and hormonal fluctuations, as well as sleep and wakefulness. Changes in scheduling, whether at work or home, can disrupt these processes, resulting in interrupted sleep, a lower quality or non-restorative type of sleep, or an inability to fall sleep. It is directed by the suprachiasmatic nucleus consisting of approximately 20,000 nerve cells located in the hypothalamus in humans.

WorkplaceTesting explains Circadian Rhythm

Circadian rhythm is a biological process in your body that runs in twenty-four hour cycles. It effects a variety of body functions including temperature and hormone regulation, as well as sleep and wakefulness. A biological rhythm is deemed to be circadian if it has an endogneous rhythm, is entrainable and compensates for temperature fluctuations. This means that the rhythm is self-sustained, that it can be altered and that it can maintain when there is a variance in temperature.

When these rhythms are disrupted, sleep patterns become affected, which can result in interrupted sleep, the inability to sleep, or a low-quality, non-restorative sleep. One of the major disruptions to the body's circadian rhythms comes from rotating work schedules in companies that engage in shift work. Changing to a new shift (day to night or night to day) without allowing one's body to adjust prevents the body from adapting to a new sleep schedule. The effects of disrupted circadian rhythms can include sleepiness during work hours, lack of concentration, forgetfulness, impaired coordination, headaches, and difficulty finding motivation to work.

The study of circadian rhythms is called chronobiology. It identifies when a person’s abilities are heightened or reduced and is therefore useful in determining the optimal times for humans to perform certain tasks.

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