Are you familiar with the feeling that in the evening, and particularly late at night, the sensation of being sick from a cold or a flu becomes much more palpable? For decades we’ve been raised to believe that illnesses feel worse at night because our bodies are tired; because we’ve exhausted all our energy during the daytime and therefore our immune system weakens as the sun begins to set.
There have now been numerous studies into the ways in which the body’s circadian rhythms influence our immune system – because if there is a clock embedded in each and every single cell in our body, it only makes sense that the immune system is also ticking to that same dial.
The studies spanned across various viruses, bacteria and parasites, and consistently showed that the body’s reaction is considerably more severe when affected at the end of the day (late evening). Indeed our grandmothers were right – to some extent – when they exclaimed that the body is fatigued as the day comes to an end and therefore the immune mechanism drastically drops. Yet what they forget to mention (or didn’t quite know yet) is that our circadian rhythm is responsible for that low immune level.
Our immune system naturally slows down at night, as the body prepares for restorative sleep. And keeping with this natural cycle will also help boost your immune mechanism as much as an inconsistent light diet can confuse the system and make you feel weak, more susceptible to illness or make it harder to get over one.
As the harsh winter months approach with speed, January to March are both cold and dark – if you live in the northern hemisphere that is, if you’re a southern globe dweller then this relates to you during July and August. So keeping your circadian rhythm is sync with both nature’s 24 hour clock and your body needs is crucial to maintaining a strong immune system.
To avoid catching a cold this winter try syncing your daily routine with the light that surrounds you. That means, as much light as possible during the beginning of the day – try to spend at least 30 minutes in the first two hours of your day either outside or close to a window. Equally, avoiding bright light in the two hours before you go to bed could help boost your immune system. If the cells are allowed to rest, without disruption of blue light before bedtime, they won’t strain and become exhausted while trying to maintain energy.
This winter, listen to your body: how it works and feels at different times of the day – it might just spare you from that inevitable new year’s cold.