Ever feel like your body is moving in a natural cycle with the sun and the moon? Like it maybe controls when you sleep or eat, feel hungry? For example, the sun might give you more energy in the summer when it sets a lot later than usual. Then in the winter, you feel sleepier a lot earlier because it gets dark around 4 or 5 pm, especially in the Northeast. There’s actual science to this, and it’s called chronobiology. Chronobiology is the science of our body’s natural cycles (mental, physical, and emotional). We explore what it means to study this science, and how understanding it may lead to healthier, stress-free, and longer lives. Keep reading for more.
What is Chronobiology?
Chronobiology is a young science from Europe that has gained popularity over the past 30 years. It exists in many forms you may know of today, like fasting for example. Our body has a natural Circadian rhythm, a 24-hour-cycle that dictates when and where we do things that are vital to human life. But we really know very little about this process. Chronobiology looks at the day and night cycle that affects the human organism when the Earth rotates. Since the beginning of mankind, we’ve been molded by light and darkness. Knowing more about this cycle is important for the prevention and treatment of diseases, as well as the healing process.
These practices date back to the 18th century. From Charles Darwin to Carl von Linné, circadian rhythm has always been present in life forms that are on Earth, like the mimosa. Inherently, they tell us when to sleep, eat, move, and more. In plants, one would assume it would tell them when to grow, get sunlight, and move.
The Three Basic Cycles of Chronobiology
These rhythms last more than 24 hours. They are repeated only every few days, weeks, months, or maybe even once a year. They are seasonal rhythms like bird migrations, the way the moon changes, the tide, and maybe the menstrual cycle even.
These rhythms are the ones that last shorter than 24 hours, like eating, sleeping, breathing, and circulation. They are natural functions of the body and have evolved over millions of years.
The circadian rhythms are one that is always approximately 24-hours, like the human sleep and wake cycle or the leaf movements of plants. They mostly and directly affect humans so they are the most researched.