This is an interesting question, which is not all that straight forward to answer. Most people in the modern world feel the body’s metabolism reflects your state of mind. A current study suggests this is not always true. Our biological clocks actually opens and closes specific communication channel in our brains.
When you reflect back in your life, you probably have had some of these experiences. The most obvious one happens around 12 years old when all of the sudden the opposite sex takes on a completely different look, and the idea of play starts turning from sand boxes, trucks and dolls to playing doctor, romance and courtship. Menopause is another very distinct change for some people. These bigger changes can easily be seen; but throughout every day and night, an area of our brains known as the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) also is a center of change. This tiny region of the brain midline (directly above the optic chasm) is responsible for controlling circadian rhythms. It ‘listens in’ on our body’s chemical state and responds by tinkering with the sensitivity of the neural pathways.
Biologist Martha Gillette and team showed that: “changes in cellular metabolic state could be a cause, rather than a result, of neuronal activity.” Our biological clock seems to be controlled by enzymes within the cytoplasm of millions of cells throughout the body. They coordinate our daily rhythms from sleep to wakefulness and back again. They do this with what appears to be no guiding intelligence, but more on that later. This would mean that the body directs the brain/mind. Two simple examples of this are the enzyme system JARID1, which produces an internal alarm clock to wake us up, and another set of enzymes known as HDAC1 that lock down the production of the wakeful enzyme, helping us move into sleep mode.
This latest study shows that these biochemical shifts affect everything from muscle tone, to digestive alertness, to the very shape of our thoughts.
From the above image you can see that Melatonin starts secretion around 9:00pm (21:00) and ceases around 7:30am, with a theoretical deepest sleep at 2:00am. Interestingly this changes as you move through time zones, and can be one of the causes of jetlag, as the biological clock tries to synchronize with the new time zone.
We can also see that the lowest body temperature occurs at 4:30am, with the highest at 7:00pm (19:00). This natural temperature variation allows for many of the processes in our body to function properly. Unfortunately almost all of us live most of the time in temperature controlled environments, which can upset this natural rhythm and set off some areas like our immune system.
This biological or circadian clock might seem to be a modern thought of science, but similar rhythms were know to the ancients. The one I am most familiar with and use a lot in the clinic is the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) meridian clock. It is visualized in the following diagram.
The meridian clock can be used to help a practitioner determine health issues. If I have a person come in who always wakes at 2:00 am (time of the Liver, 1am – 3am), it indicates issues with the liver. These people wake when modern medicine says we should have our deepest sleep. This too has been shown to change with the time zones; meaning if the “Liver person” travels, once they get in sync with the new time zone, the waking at 2:00 am will be consistent with the new time zone. Another thing to take into consideration when using this system is daylight savings time, which can throw thing off by an hour. We even see that if a person lives deep into a time zone it starts to reflect closer to the next time zone.
This becomes very interesting as this shows the intelligence that creates these cycles is not really the brain/mind, or the cellular chemistry of the body, but a reflection of a much bigger field of intelligence — that of the Earth (Gaia, Pacha Mama). So it appears we are reflecting the rhythms of our Mother, the planet – if only we can learn to listen to it.
So the biggest question now is, if you get insomnia and wake up at the same time on a regular basis, or even almost every night, what can you do about it? Well I will have to leave the answer to that question for my next blog.