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Monday, September 04, 2006

Three Types of Biological Rhythms

Three types of biological rhythms:
1. Ultradian: Short cycles lasting less than 24 hours.
2. Circadian: Approximately 24 hour cycles.
3. Infradian: Approximately 30 day cycles.

Ultradian rhythms are short cycles generally lasting less than 24 hours, for example; attention span, appetite, and sleep cycles like REM and NREM. Taking the example of sleep rhythms as related to the study of health/disease, it is apparent that the social and environmental stimuli in modern society are often found to be at odds with the human organism’s natural sleep cycles. As artificial lighting and around the clock shifts become more common, the average person in modern society has reduced their level of sleep and altered their natural patterns of sleep, resulting in stress for the body being unable to meet its need for sleep or the level and type of sleep. An example of this can be seen in the high use of sleeping pills, alcohol, and other inducers of sleep as people attempt to regulate their sleep schedules around artificially imposed schedules. Not only does performance drop and the body becomes constantly stressed, but the introduction of “sleep aides” further exacerbates the problem as these chemicals will induce sleep but not allow the body to reach the “deep sleep” it needs. Eventually the constant level of deep sleep deprivation puts the body under a constant state of stress and may result in disease. Psychologically, lack of deep sleep has been linked to mental illness such as increased risk of depression, and has even been used as a form of torture during times of war where a prisoner will be allowed to sleep but not to attain a level of deep sleep...often the result has been a weakening of mental faculties or even a nervous breakdown. Mentally and physically the body requires sleep not only in total amount slept, but also in quality of sleep. The psychological manifestations may result in poor social interaction with resulting stressful interventions. Likewise, the proper amount and degree of deep sleep allows the body to recuperate from high stress situations and has been correlated with longevity and health.
Circadian rhythms are approximately 24 hours cycles and may include general metabolism and breakdown of nutrients and waste, daily rhythm of sleep, immunity, etcetera. An example of the implication for using circadian rhythms in health or disease would be the timing of high energy activities according to the known high and lows encountered during the day. Since morning and early afternoon the levels of epinephrine, norepinephrine, ACTH and cortisol, and helper T cells/immunity responses are highest, there is generally a surge of energy in the early part of the day. The body is at its most active and strongest level of resistance, whereas in the evening the body is generally functioning at a slower pace and less resistant to stressors. By careful planning...like not taking a course in Holistic in the late afternoon when you have to skip lunch and don’t get to have dinner for three more hours, and have been in class for five hours before beginning class...a person may avoid stress and increase productivity. Likewise, the constant exposure to stress when the body is least able to resist it, increases the likelihood of disease. This same concept applies to medication in the treatment of disease; medication may be more effective during specific times of the day when the body is able to more fully aide the medication in fighting infection and ridding the body of bi-products and waste manufactured in the process, likewise, food intake, energy levels, and all metabolic and chemical processes may function at increased rates of effectiveness depending upon the timing of the body and the introduction of the substance.
Infradiam rhythms (biorhythms) approximate 30 day cycles and may be sub-divided into physical, emotional, and intellectual high and low periods. In much the same manner as the above two types of rhythms, the body also has high and low cycles of a longer time duration where increased productivity, energy, resistance to infection, mental functioning and strength wax and wane. Again, it is possible to regulate schedules and chart personal functioning levels in order to decrease the exposure to stress during times of reduced resistance.

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