Can we change our ‘circadian rhythm’?

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Can we change our sleep’s ‘circadian rhythm’?

10 July 2018 BEAUTY

By Dinika Naidoo

I’ve always struggled with the idea of having a ‘good night’s sleep’. Blame it on being a creative thinker at night, whilst forcing productivity come morning.
Being a journalist, one adapts to the knack of changing sleep patterns in accordance to one’s shift. No doubt, working at 4 AM is a shock to the body clock, but so too is the overnight shift, as I’ve experienced in the early years of my career. My sleep pattern has never been routine, nor fulfilling.  From sleeping pills to meditating to wine trips to the kitchen, being a light sleeper isn’t for the faint at heart…

One of the concrete elements of life is our 9-5 workday or the idea of how long one ‘should’ work in order to prove worthy. This concept was established in the 18th century, an age where production and delivery seemed much more mechanic than the one I find myself in today.
Has our sleep been ‘captured’ by the workings of capitalism, and its 40-hour work week? How do I recover from a 2-minute nap in a meeting, as a result of just not being sleepy at night?
Coffee and sugar cravings at unearthly hours of the day seem to have become a direct result of poor, or rather irregular sleep patterns. How does one sustain energy when fuelled by a mere 4 hours of sleep? I wonder. I’ve never had the stamina. Not until I learned the importance of understanding one’s ‘circadian rhythm’.
Sleep Therapist, Dr. Alison Bentley, who recently shed light on sleep patterns on Uncaptured, explained that “we tend to sacrifice sleep as the easiest thing to give up when we shouldn’t. Eight hours is not necessarily the normal amount of sleep we should have, but the average.”

Derived from the Latin word meaning ‘a day’ or ‘around’, circadian alludes to the 24-hour biological cycle of all living organisms. It almost serves as our body’s natural time-keeping system… anything from regulating our hormones to controlling our body temperature. Does this knowledge then prove that we control our own sleep pattern, and can, therefore, manipulate it, to serve our needs of functioning in our jobs, or to drive in the dismal Johannesburg traffic daily?

Dr. Bentley concluded by saying that “the risks of not allowing your body solid sleep, puts you in a pattern called ‘sleep debt’, and can only be paid off by sleeping, no other way”.
The question remains, do I challenge the system, and change my sleep patterns to suit the natural order of my body clock… which would mean recreating a work life of my choice; or
Do I accept my reality of caffeine-filled days and mind power, tricking my brain to fall asleep?
The real test is now, as I long for an afternoon siesta!



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