Chemical Clock-Stopping – Circadian Rhythms And Addiction
As most people who have reached this web page will be aware, balanced and healthy circadian rhythms are essential to good sleep and healthy eating patterns. When your circadian rhythms are disrupted, your body will swiftly fall out of sync, resulting in disturbed sleep and disordered eating habits. Circadian rhythms are in many ways self-perpetuating. Keeping good, rhythmic habits will ensure that your biological clock runs as it ought to. Conversely, things like shift work and irregular eating times cause the biological clock to run erratically – leading to sleepiness and hunger at odd times of the day, which further perpetuates the general disruption. Usually, this is not too difficult to get back in check once you return to a more normal pattern (jet lag, for example, does not last forever!). However, when something like substance abuse is thrown into the mix, it can be a lot harder to restore the circadian rhythms to normality – which has enormous implications for addiction recovery.
Drugs can suppress or disturb your body’s biological clock in many ways. They may keep you awake for unnatural periods of time, or cause you to feel sleepy when you’d otherwise be awake. They may suppress or enhance your appetite. They will almost certainly cause you to keep an erratic schedule, which will confuse your biological clock no end. Ultimately, this results in severe disruption to the circadian rhythms, which has a number of knock-on effects. Given that many of the hormones and neurotransmitters which aid the biological clock – serotonin, for example – are associated with mood regulation as well, this disruption can lead to mood swings and depression. As depression and poor mood is often a factor in the development of addictions in the first place, this added mood-based misery really does not help the situation at all.
With its natural clock disturbed, the body does not aid matters by beginning instead to rely upon substances to regulate itself. It learns to take its cues regarding waking, sleeping, and eating from the drugs the addict is using, rather than from more natural factors. This contributes towards the development of cravings, and can make it doubly hard for a recovering addict to get their life back on track. For this reason (and many others!), it can help addicts in rehabilitation to follow a circadian routine. For more on this, read this article.
by Mel Smith