Exploring biological rhythms: definition, types and implications for human health
Biological rhythms, also known as biorhythms, are the natural and periodic variations of our physiological activities and various biological phenomena. These oscillations in biological parameters are determined by internal clocks and are influenced by environmental factors, notably day-night cycles.
Biological rhythms in humans: a complex orchestration
In the human body, biological rhythms govern a wide range of bodily, mental and behavioral changes that take place in different cycles. The suprachiasmatic nuclei play a crucial role in regulating these rhythms. They function as a "master clock" in our brain, coordinating other internal clocks that control aspects such as the sleep-wake cycle, body temperature, blood pressure and heart rate.
Sleep disorders can occur when these rhythms are disrupted. For example, inadequate production of melatonin, a sleep-regulating hormone, can cause insomnia problems.
Chronobiology: the study of biological rhythms
Chronobiology is the discipline that studies these rhythms. Researchers in this field have discovered that our physiology and behavior are governed by cycles and regular periods. For example, circannual rhythms, which follow an annual cycle, can influence reproductive behaviors in certain species. On the other hand, infradian rhythms, which last more than 24 hours, can be observed in phenomena such as menstruation in women.
Biological rhythms versus circadian rhythms
It is essential to distinguish biological rhythms from circadian rhythms. Although both involve periodic natural changes, circadian rhythms refer specifically to changes that follow a 24-hour cycle. Both are governed by the hypothalamus in the brain and are influenced by environmental factors. However, their periodicity differs.
Understanding the different types of biological rhythms
Depending on their duration, we can distinguish various biological rhythms. We can cite the circannual (annual) rhythm, the circamonthly (monthly) rhythm, the septenary (weekly) rhythm, the infradian rhythm (longer than 24 hours), the circadian rhythm (24 hours) and the ultradian rhythm (several times per day).
Implications of biological rhythms in human health
Biological rhythms influence our ability to adapt to our environment. Additionally, they offer valuable insight into how our bodies function and can help treat conditions related to disrupted rhythms, such as seasonal affective disorder and various sleep disorders. For example, a better understanding of sleep stages and REM sleep can help improve sleep quality and overall health.