women

Your Body Clock Hour By Hour (Part 1)

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Our body’s natural cycles mean we’re more likely to experience certain symptoms at certain times of the day or night.

Heart attacks are most likely to happen before lunch, while asthma-related wheezing is more common in the early hours of the morning – all because of our circadian rhythms. These affect when we wake and sleep and can also increase our risk of certain health problems. So how might your health suffer, day and night?

6AM – Allergies

Allergies can be triggered in the morning when you wake and stir up common allergens such as dust mites in bedclothes and carpets, animal dander, and moulds in the bathroom.

Description: The best treatment for allergies is to identify the allergic substances (allergens) that are causing problems through allergy testing and avoid these offending agents

The best treatment for allergies is to identify the allergic substances (allergens) that are causing problems through allergy testing and avoid these offending agents

“If you get an allergic reaction the same time every morning, take your medication as soon as you wake to get it under control,” says Dr Ronald McCoy, spokesperson for the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners.

“Find the cause of your allergy so you can try and eliminate it from your home and an allergist may give you a series of injections to help your immune system develop resistance.”

8AM – Heart attack

Heart attacks are more likely to occur in the morning, says Professor Simon Stewart, head of the Preventative Cardiology Unit at Baker IDI Heart & Diabetes Institute.

“The circadian rhythms see blood pressure and heart rates rise. So people with underlying risk factors for heart attack are particularly vulnerable,” he says.

Description: “The circadian rhythms see blood pressure and heart rates rise. So people with underlying risk factors for heart attack are particularly vulnerable,”

“The circadian rhythms see blood pressure and heart rates rise. So people with underlying risk factors for heart attack are particularly vulnerable,”

“Imagine you have a car and you drive your engine at full acceleration the whole time – it would quickly wear out. The circadian rhythm allows our body to go into a dormant state at night and blood pressure and heart rate go down.”

But when we wake our body is on heightened alert. Add to this the fact that people who take medication for heart problems last took their medication before they went to sleep – a fair time ago. “It’s a perfect storm situation,” says Stewart. “But we all have to wake up, so you need to get on top of any heart disease risk factors. Take your medication for high blood pressure or high cholesterol, lose weight if you need to, exercise regularly and you’ll reduce your risk.”

9AM – Migraine

Research at Cleveland Clinic Foundation in the US found migraines are also affected by circadian rhythms. A group of migraine sufferers were followed for 20 weeks and researchers found that most migraines struck between 8am and 10am. Researchers believe this may be due to blood vessels in our head expanding in the early morning as we wake, leading to migraine. Migraines were least likely to occur between 8pm and 4am. About two million Australians suffer from migraine.

Description: Research at Cleveland Clinic Foundation in the US found migraines are also affected by circadian rhythms

Research at Cleveland Clinic Foundation in the US found migraines are also affected by circadian rhythms

“Take preventative medication to help migraines, and remember that migraines are notorious for being triggered by lots of things in the environment,” says McCoy. These triggers can include caffeine withdrawal, chocolate, monosodium glutamate (MSG), dehydration, a lack of sleep or oversleeping.

3PM – Panic attacks

If you are going to have a panic attack, it’s most likely between 3pm and 7pm, according to a study at the University of Michigan. Typical symptoms include a racing heartbeat, feeling short of breath or dizziness. Up to 35 per cent of Australians have a panic attack during their lifetime.

“People may be getting a little tired and stressed at this time of day and that could help trigger a panic attack, too,” says McCoy.

Description: If you are going to have a panic attack, it’s most likely between 3pm and 7pm, according to a study at the University of Michigan

If you are going to have a panic attack, it’s most likely between 3pm and 7pm, according to a study at the University of Michigan

Researchers say circadian rhythms can also play a role in panic attacks as this natural cycle sees our nervous system become more active in the afternoon. This means our body’s defence mechanism is on high alert and chemical changes quickly occur if we feel the slightest bit under threat – known as the fight or flight response. If too much adrenalin is released at this time, we may feel over-anxious and panicky.

Medications, cognitive behavior therapy, stress management techniques, breathing and relaxation techniques, regular exercise and enough sleep each night can help anxiety.

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