One of the most common rites of passage among young people is their newfound freedom to ignore a “normal” bedtime. As a result, their activity and sleep habits get out of alignment with the natural day-night cycle. We learn to disobey the clock that was programmed into our systems by the Creator to help us anticipate the rising and setting of the sun.
We now know that the Circadian synchronizations between our cycles of sleep and the cycles of day and night provide significant health benefits. There is a strong connection between circadian disruption and things such as carbohydrate metabolism and sympathetic nervous system stimulation from elevated cortisol levels.
This internal clock especially helps our bodies regulate eating and body weight, glucose and lipid metabolism, hypertension and cardiovascular risk.
These daily patterns of behavior and physiology are controlled by master pacemaker neurons located in the brain, in an area called the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), and also in nearly all the surrounding tissues. The sleep/wake, fasting/feeding, and metabolic cycles are normally aligned with the cycle of day and night. When our bodies get out of sync with the circadian rhythms, our desynchronized cycles can cause adverse consequences in our metabolism.
Society today frequently overlooks how important timing is in the cycles of sleeping, feeding, and activity. Patterns of sleep deprivation, shift work, and 24/7 activity can all lead to weakened metabolic health and the onset of diseases. Ellen White, a health reformer in the 1800s, wrote “If the youth would form habits of regularity and order, they would improve in health, in spirits, in memory, and in disposition.” (My Life Today, 143)
Today, science is catching up to those words of wisdom! And evidence suggests that these principles apply to humans of all ages, not just young people. “For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1)