The Natural Phenomenon that Keeps you Ticking
Have you ever been at work, right after lunch, and felt the need to take a quick nap? You’ve eaten and everything seems to have slowed down a bit. Who would notice if you put your head down for a few minutes…
This is, in fact, a natural experience we all have in common. It’s called our circadian rhythm – or body clock – and just like the time dictates when we start and finish work, the rhythm regulates when we start and end our days.
We’ve all likely heard of the circadian rhythm — the perfect excuse to take a little siesta right after lunch. But there’s more to this rhythm than mere sleepiness in the afternoon. In fact, this rhythm dictates much of your alertness and readiness throughout the day.
In a recent Nobel Prize winning study, scientists presented in-depth findings that reveal a deeper look into our daily rhythms. The rhythm impacts “our mood, our hormone levels, body temperature and metabolism” according to James Gallagher with the BBC. It can even impact when we are at greatest risk for a heart attack in our day.
The scientist’s findings reveal insider information on how we operate on a day-to-day basis. For example, it lays out when we’re at our most alert on average, as well as when many accidents caused by fatigue might occur. Remember that lunch time sleepiness? The studies show that at around 12 pm to 3 pm, our “biological siesta” kicks in.
Due to the increase in gastric activity (that big lunch digesting in the stomach), there tends to be a dip in alertness right after lunch. This dip has been further linked to a higher chance of roadway accidents. If you’ve ever wondered why driving is more dangerous around lunch time, your body clock is why.
Aside from a discussion of alertness, the study also showed the best times to work out, when to call a stop to your work, and when to get ready for bed. There’s even a handy infographic that you can flip through to find out more about each stage throughout the day.
This reveals something that meditation and mindfulness have often talked about – our bodies have voices and we should be listening. We so often want to work as much as we can during our days, even if that means interrupting our body clocks. Energy drinks and other caffeinated beverages are aimed at counter-acting this natural rhythm, but that’s not always necessarily the best thing for your body or mind. You might get more of your work knocked out, but also might find some difficulties with your sleep schedule.
So, the next time you feel that dip at the mid-day point, don’t worry, there’s no need for another coffee. Your body is doing its natural work and alertness will come back. Use that time for a short mental break so that when you’ve digested, you can jump back into your work fully refreshed.