30 April 2020

Circadian Rhythm: The Master of Sleep

Sleep discipline is directly proportional to health, wealth and success!   –  Dr Sharad Kulkarni


In my early fifteen, I happened to be excited and amazed about hypnosis/hypnotherapy and was passionate to visualize it. During this time, I met a chemistry professor Dr. Arvind,  who had mastered hypnotherapy as well. He helped people deal with negativity, suicidal thoughts, sleeplessness, anxiety and depression to calm down by teaching them the art of self-hypnosis. His every session would be of 40 minutes in which he used to verbally help the person by commanding to enter the state of subconscious sleep. Then, he used to feed the patient’s mind with a particular positive continuously.

One day, with due permission he allowed me to be present in one of his sessions for a young gentleman who had a fear of heights (alto phobia). The patient was made to lie down on a couch in a relaxed position with the eyes closed. After relaxing the patient, gradually, he was told to concentrate on a pointed red light with continuous commands to make him induce subconscious sleep. After this, he was told to feed his mind with this statement for 20 minutes. ‘I am no more alto phobic’. Later the patient would be allowed to relax for a while before opening the eyes. After such 6 sessions in a span of 2 months, one day the gentleman was allowed to experiment his fear for the heights for which he was allowed to climb a terrace. Upon reaching the terrace, he was asked to look at the streets, cars and parks. The patient found himself almost free from the fear of heights that had rather become his worst nightmare.

Dr. Arvind also told me that such 3-4 more sessions would completely relieve him of that fear. Also, he told that this kind of therapy can be used to overcome any negativity or fear or weakness. This can be for insomnia also. Insomnia and circadian rhythm work on cause and effect theory. So by all means insomnia is to be dealt with.    

A human being roughly spends one-third of its lifespan being asleep. To the super productive people among us it may seem ludicrous. No kidding, there are people who often comment on how sleeping is a wastage of time and one can make better use of that extra time we spend on sleeping and so on and on. Well, we don’t know about them but according to experts, sleep is an indispensable aspect of human existence. Ayurveda, the great Indian medical system  considers sleep as a essential pillar responsible for life and death. Life cannot survive without sleep. It helps to process information into memories, promotes better metabolism, provides relaxation to muscles and internal organ and what not – without sleep there is no survival. But why do we fall asleep and then wake up at a particular time every day. An (snoozed) alarm clock might be required to get up on time. But surely there is no alarm clock to tell us when we need to fall asleep. Turns out, there actually is an alarm clock deep inside that brain that keeps track of habits and help us function according to our daily routine.

Circadian rhythm is the biological clock that help us function in a regular, organised manner. We typically sleep eat and defecate almost at a particular time every day. Circadian rhythm is to be thanked for this phenomenon as it signals the body to carry out such tasks around a particular time every day. A single cycle of this rhythm is completed in 24 hours. Thereby synchronising our activities with that of the day. Commonly it is termed as the biological clock of each and every human being. The act of falling asleep at a particular time every day is a product of this circadian rhythm that signals the brain to release hormones and enzymes that promote exhaustion and thus prepares the body for sleep. However, circadian rhythm is not an isolated entity that functions on its own. It is sensitive to the habit of an individual and is also further altered by external cues such as light and temperature.

The condition of an altered circadian rhythm is called circadian rhythm sleep disorder (CRSD). This phenomenon disrupts the normal biological clock bringing irregularities in sleep cycle. Human beings’ increased proximity with the virtual world is seen as a common cause behind disrupted sleeping patterns. Any kind of digital screen emits a blue light. This blue light tricks the eyes and deceives the brain into believing that there is daylight remaining. It receives the light as a signal to remain awake and thus hinders with sleep cycle. Another common aspect of disrupted circadian rhythm can be spotted in travel. Travelling into a different time zone especially one that is a lot different than the native time zone disturbs the circadian rhythm. The phenomenon is known as jetlag whereby the body fails to match up with the lost or gained time in within a 24-hour cycle.         

So, the next time you wake up early on a holiday don’t blame fate! It’s just your biological clock who failed to recognise it as a holiday.  

Dr. Sharad Kulkarni

BAMS, M.S., (Ph. D.)

Consultant Surgeon (Ayurveda) | Best Selling Author | Vlogger

Chanakya Awardee | Influencer | Coach

CMO and Director – Jeevottama Health, Bengaluru 

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