5 Weird Facts About Biological Rhythms | What the Stuff?!

Author: HowStuffWorks

(funky music) - Much like your computer and your microwave or your standard model clock tower your body comes equipped with a time keeping device. Several actually. The most prominent of these time keeping devices are the circadian rhythms. Daily cycles that run through roughly 24 hour periods and effect things like hormone production, body temperature, and of course sleep and wake.

Here are five surprising things you might not have realized about the clocks in your body. There are many clocks operating at the same time distributed all throughout your cells but they're all controlled and synchronized by a single master clock inside the brain. This master clock is a group of about 20,000 neurons called the suprachiasmatic nucleus, or SCN, which lives inside the hypothalamus. Sort of in the center of your head right above the optic nerve. And this organ is important. If you suffer damage to your SCN it can cause all kinds of problems for your natural circadian rhythms such as the timing of sleep and wake.

When did organisms on Earth first evolve internal clocks like circadian rhythms? Many scientists think the biological clocks first showed up more than 3 billion years ago to track the day night cycle in an organism called siana bacteria, a single celled ocean dwelling creature that still exists today. We know it as blue green algae. But why would some bits of floating ocean slime need to know the time of day? It's not they have to get up and go to work. This actually isn't a totally settled question.

One interesting hypothesis is siana bacteria involved circadian rhythms to create time for two separate energy production jobs: photosynthesis and nitrogen fixation that would interfere with one another if they happened simultaneously. So we got photosynthesis during the day and nitrogen fixation at night. You know around two o'clock when you've just had a nice fried ice-cream calzone for lunch and you're trying to get through those spreadsheets and suddenly you just hit a great wall of sleepiness? You're not alone. In fact the early afternoon napping urge is extremely common. Circadian rhythms don't always fit our work schedules because of another internal clock known as sleep wake homeostasis which is basically our body's way of saying OK I realize you've been awake for a while now. It's normal for an adult human to feel a little drowsy after being awake for seven or eight hours. In fact according to the national sleep foundation the most common time for drowsiness in adults are between two and four in the morning and between one and three in the afternoon. Our natural circadian rhythms operate roughly on a 24 hour cycle but they're not above being corrected and are highly influenced by our surroundings.

5 Weird Facts About Biological Rhythms | What the Stuff?!

Especially light and dark. Simply put our bodies want to wake up when the sun's up and go to sleep when it's dark. But in electrified societies light and dark aren't always so predictable.

Artificial light whether that's a lamp in the living room or a tablet screen in front of your eyes in bed can trick our internal rhythms into thinking it's time to be wide awake and be watching YouTube videos in the middle of the night. If you ever wanna become acutely aware of the importance of your own body clocks just try traveling to a far off longitude and doing everything you would normally do at the local time of day. Not so easy, huh? This effect commonly known as jet lag happens when you're circadian rhythms aren't correctly synchronized with your new time zone. Your brain is trained to release melatonin, a hormone which induces sleep, at the wrong time of day.

It can be a traveler's nightmare for a day or two. Fortunately the body can usually adapt just fine to the new time zone and after a little bit of practice and a few cycles of light and darkness to re time the melatonin release schedule. On the other hand the body might not adapt nearly as well to daylight savings time since no one ever bothers to let the sun and Earth know we've moved seven am ahead an hour. What's your favorite fact about biological clocks and what do you do to make sure yours run on time? Let us know in the comments and if you like this video click on the thumbs up button and subscribe to our channel for more. And if you wanna learn more about body clocks and circadian rhythms check out ten weird facts about biological rhythms at howstuffworks.com. You'll be right now time. (laughs) (piano key).

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