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4 Overlooked Effects of a Disrupted Circadian Rhythm


From the time light was invented, we’ve become a 24 hour society. The boundaries separating night and day have blurred. Shift work got introduced and people are working at night and sleeping during the day. The exact opposite of normal. This modern lifestyle has caused our circadian rhythm or the body clock to go haywire.

Circadian rhythm is the sleep-wake cycle of our body which ensures that all our body functions occur in a synchronised manner. This body clock actually helps our body to function normally.

About 16% of the U.S. population are shift workers. That’s almost 51 million people exposed to the life-threatening effects of a disrupted circadian rhythm. We have found some worrying facts about how a disrupted circadian rhythm can cause fatal diseases.

Alora present’s 4 Overlooked Effects of a Disrupted Circadian Rhythm: A report

In this report, we have analysed various studies conducted to find out major health problems caused due to a disrupted circadian rhythm. And the results are pretty sad. A disrupted circadian rhythm can cause cancer.

The main objective of this report is to present those findings in a manner that’s easy to understand and to make everyone get more serious about their sleep-wake cycle. Because these health effects don’t get noticed in a day or two. They surface when it’s already too late to change anything.

Not just facts. At the end, you’ll know whether you can fix your circadian rhythm naturally or not. Plus, we also have a solution for you to help you in this journey!

What causes a disruption in Circadian Rhythm?

Night shift work is one of the most common reasons that throws off the body’s natural sleep-wake cycle, causing circadian misalignment. Frequent travel across different time zones causes jet lag, which causes temporary disruptions in circadian rhythms. Also, exposure to artificial light at night can cause this disruption as well.

Here’s how the stats look like in the U.S.:

  • About 99% of the people in the U.S. or Europe suffer from night time light pollution. Meaning artificial lights have caused the night sky to remain lightened up which is not an ideal situation.
  • Light at night affects 80% of the global population.
  • 20% of the people who do shift work are affected by night time light pollution.
  • According to the National Sleep Foundation, 36% of parents and 34% of children have at least one electronic device on while they’re sleeping.
  • Individuals with symptoms of insomnia and snoring are linked to living in areas with high light pollution.
  • Only 10% of children aged 2 to 16 years slept in complete darkness.
  • Do you find these facts worrisome?

    Yes. Very much



    4 effects of a disrupted Circadian Rhythm on health

    #1 Mental Health: Pay attention Night Owls!

    Various studies have found that a disrupted circadian rhythm is linked to mental health disorders like depression, anxiety, bipolar disorders and schizophrenia. Sometimes these conditions are responsible for causing havoc to your body’s clock. But irregular sleep-wake timing can further increase the severity of these conditions. Plus, it’s also proved that regularising circadian rhythm has improved mental health conditions. Key Findings:

  • Prolonged shift work for more than 20 years can result in a lifetime risk of major depression.
  • There’s a 40% greater chance of nighttime shift workers to develop depression than day workers.
  • Nurses who work in night shifts have displayed higher levels of anxiety.
  • Jet lag, one cause for circadian disruption, has increased Bipolar Disorder episodes.
  • Night owls have higher chances of psychological disorders because of their irregular circadian rhythm, as found in this 2020 study, Circadian typology is related to emotion regulation, metacognitive beliefs, and assertiveness in healthy adults.
  • “It’s interesting to examine the link between circadian rhythm disorders and mental health, particularly in persons with delayed circadian rhythm disorder — i.e., extreme night owls.” - Alicia Roth, Ph.D., of Cleveland Clinic’s Sleep Disorders Center.

    Are you a shift worker?




    #2 Heart: Shift workers and Night Owls are at greater risk

    Do you know that studies have found different heart structures in ‘early birds’ and ‘night owls’? Ample research is conducted around the world to understand the relation between heart function and impaired circadian rhythm. Turns out shift workers are at a higher risk of heart diseases.

    Key Findings:

  • Shift work is one of the major causes for heart diseases, including high blood pressure and heart failure.
  • Women shift workers, typically Registered Nurses, are at an increase risk of Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) in which the arteries of the heart fail to supply sufficient blood to the heart.
  • Evening persons or night owls had a lower volume of blood in the heart chambers during a heart beat found by researchers in the British Heart Foundation.
  • Irregular circadian rhythm causes lower heart rate when awake and increased heart rate during sleep times found in a 2016 study, Circadian misalignment increases cardiovascular disease risk factors in humans.
  • So, are you still going to call yourself a night owl?

    Proudly yes.

    No. Think I’ll change.


    #3 Metabolism: Night owls have higher chances of obesity

    Circadian Rhythm is the key factor that controls the metabolic processes in the body. That means breaking the food into energy, using and storing that energy. Certain hormones which are linked to your body clock control all these processes. Messing up your body clock also messes up the way you eat.

  • Disrupted circadian rhythm has been found to increase insulin resistance in individuals. Meaning blood glucose level increases.
  • Night shift workers who have a disrupted body clock are at a great risk for obesity.
  • Sleep disturbances at least 3 nights in a week has caused an increase in weight and binge eating tendencies.
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    #4 Cancer: Night shift work is a probable carcinogen

    Did you know that the WHO, in 2007, labelled shift work as a “probable carcinogen” causing breast cancer in women? Carcinogens are those agents which induce the formation of cancer cells. Large number of studies are being conducted to find the association between a disrupted circadian rhythm and cancer. Turns out a disrupted circadian rhythm triggers the formation of cancer cells, as we found in these studies.

  • Disrupted circadian rhythm can trigger the growth of lung tumours.
  • According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a disturbed circadian rhythm increases the chances of lung cancer, breast cancer and intestinal cancer.
  • Night shift work and jet lag increases the chance of incidence of cancer.
  • Are you still going to work in night shifts?

    Yes. What choice do I have?

    No. Need to change my job.


    Can you fix your body clock naturally?

    You can absolutely fix and reset your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle. Eliminating all those reasons that mess up your body clock and adopting some healthy lifestyle changes can save you from the wrath of a disrupted circadian rhythm.ry right? Always get your required sleep!

    Exposure to natural light in the morning helps to regularise your internal clock. Jonathan Cedernaes , Ph.D., a sleep specialist at Uppsala Universitet says,

    “Ideally, one would, for example, wake up and go to bed at the same time every day, and also eat at the same time every day.”

    Limiting screen time and reducing exposure to artificial light can immensely help with fixing your body clock. Get to bed at the same time and try sleeping in complete darkness.

    Can’t Sleep? We have a solution for you.

    We all know that changing sleep timings won’t happen in a day, especially if you’re a night owl. So you’ll need help with falling asleep faster and sleeping in your desired time. The main part of fixing your natural sleep-wake cycle is going to bed on time.

    Fall asleep faster and experience a restful night's sleep with Alora, your sleeping companion. We have a curated collection of sleep sounds just for you to help you calm down and relax in just a few minutes.

    Not just sleep sounds, but there are bedtime stories for those who love to drift away in deep sleep listening to stories. There’s something for all!


    Quinn GE, Shin CH, Maguire MG, Stone RA . Myopia and ambient lighting at night. Nature 1999; 399: 113–114.

    Scott AJ, Monk TH, Brink LL . Shift work as a risk factor for depression: a pilot study. Int J Occup Environ Health 1997; 3: S2–S9.

    Lee, A. et al. Night shift work and risk of depression: meta-analysis of observational studies. J. Korean Med. Sci. 32, 1091–1096 (2017).

    Malkoff-Schwartz, S. et al. Social rhythm disruption and stressful life events in the onset of bipolar and unipolar episodes. Psychol. Med. 30, 1005–1016 (2000).

    Antúnez JM (2020) Circadian typology is related to emotion regulation, metacognitive beliefs and assertiveness in healthy adults. PLoS ONE 15(3): e0230169.

    Potter, G. D., Skene, D. J., Arendt, J., Cade, J. E., Grant, P. J., & Hardie, L. J. (2016). Circadian Rhythm and Sleep Disruption: Causes, Metabolic Consequences, and Countermeasures. Endocrine reviews, 37(6), 584–608.

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