Let a wound-down body clock (from travel, stress or the switch to daylight saving time) mess with YOU? No way! Keep your personal Big Ben ticking at a steady rhythm, and you’ll see immediate benefits. You’ll keep your appetite in check, stay sharply focused and get a great night’s sleep. And that’s not all. New discoveries show that an in-sync body clock also has these surprising benefits:
Younger skin: Resetting your body clock helps skin stem cells keep perfect time, protecting against sun damage by day and replacing damaged skin cells as you sleep. An off-kilter body clock interferes with the ability of skin stem cells to repair damage and protect against tumors, says a recent Ohio State University study.
Super immunity: There’s new evidence that daily body rhythms control a gene that determines how your immune system reacts to invading bacteria and viruses. Keeping your internal timepiece running smoothly rewards YOU with stronger defenses. Consistently sufficient sleep is the key to avoiding everything from minor head colds to major cancers.
Better blood sugar: Insulin (the body’s blood-sugar-control hormone) is normally higher during the day, lower at night. But messing with your body’s clock by skimping on sleep can throw your insulin levels — and your blood sugar — out of whack. That puts you at risk for everything from obesity to diabetes and heart disease.
More energy: Your muscle ?cells contain hundreds of tiny ?power stations called mitochondria; they keep YOU energized. A body clock in your brain is the foreman of these mini-factories, telling them when to release energy. Go off the timetable, and you might find yourself wide awake at 3 a.m. and weary at noon.
All the body’s systems that control hormones, brain waves and organ functions depend on a smoothly running body clock to keep on their schedule and keep you strong. So prepare to get your internal timekeeper back on track! The seasonal time change can take the brain up to eight weeks to adjust to — if you let it. Here are five simple steps to keep your body clock on the right schedule:
Step No. 1: Start with a solid and consistent sleep schedule. Aim for seven to eight hours a night, every night. And make them the same seven to eight hours! Your body clock runs best when you’re on a regular sleep schedule, just like a baby. Prep for sleep with a soothing routine that tells your brain and body, “We’re winding down now.” Instead of TV or the Internet, take a warm shower, and slide between the sheets with an entertaining book (or into your partner’s arms).
Step No. 2: Snap the shades up first thing in the morning. Bright, natural morning light resets your body clock so you’re full of energy all day and ready for sleep when evening comes.
Step No. 3: Aim for a regular meal schedule, which keep dozens of enzymes, hormones and processes in your body running on time.
Step No. 4: Nourish yourself — skip extremes. High-fat diets, overeating and crash diets all disrupt your body clock. Overdoing it throws off your internal timing in ways that lead to extra eating at night Undereating reduces levels of adiponectin, a hormone that protects arteries, helps insulin control blood sugar and guards against the development of metabolic syndrome (a risk for diabetes and heart problems).
Step No. 5: Pump some iron ... or stretch a band. Resistance exercises with weights, stretchy resistance bands or even using your own body weight (think crunches or Pilates) have the power to reset body clocks in muscle.
The YOU Docs, Mehmet Oz, host of “The Dr. Oz Show” and Mike Roizen of Cleveland Clinic, are authors of “YOU: Losing Weight.” For more information go to www.RealAge.com.