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Circadian Rhythms and Shift Work

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Circadian Rhythms and Shift Working The concept of circadian rhythms can be a complex matter, however, understanding the basic purpose is quite simple. Associated with all living creatures, from bacteria and insects to plants and animals, circadian rhythms are like metaphorical clocks within an organism's control center (brain) that are responsible for regulating biological functions including wakefulness, sleep, appetite, and temperature. These physiological aspects are absolutely necessary for a healthy life cycle, therefore, ensuring that these cells that control circadian rhythms are properly functioning is crucial to health. Maintaining a balanced lifestyle where we receive an adequate amount of physical activity and sleep as well as nutrients is something that many individuals are aware of, though, when we lead busy lives that disrupt our sleep or appetite patterns, circadian rhythms can become poorly affected and/or altered by negative impacts from daily activities. Shift work, for instance, can often be stressful on our circadian rhythms, which can later lead to avoidable illnesses and diseases. The purpose of this paper is to discuss the basis of circadian rhythms as well as how certain physiological processes can be affected by shift work. Circadian rhythms are regular fluctuations that occur in parts of the body, depending on physiological function; these fluctuations go from high to low points within a twenty-four hour time frame ("Circadian rhythm", n.d.). These patterns are important to note as having knowledge on "biological clocks" can assist in finding cures to issues such as "sleep disorders, jet lag and other health problems" (NIGMS, 2012, para. 11). According to the Polyphasic Society: "When we refer to a circadian rhythm in polyphasic sleep we refer to the rhythm with which the body keeps to detect day and night. The circadian rhythm is…...

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