Everyone experiences different rhythms throughout the day, and these differences in our schedules can make it feel like we’re living on different planets. While our circadian rhythms determine when we feel sleepy and when we feel awake, a person’s infradian rhythm is a group of circadian rhythms that change throughout the day. These cycles go against the mainstream because they’re quite different from our usual daily rhythm. In fact, it’s so different that most people won’t experience it.
However, the effects of an infradian rhythm can be a bit more profound than most people realise. In this guide, we’ll be exploring what this is and how it can affect your health. We’ll also be taking a look at its potential benefits and risks.
What Is an Infradian Rhythm?
Simply put, an infradian rhythm is a variation in a person’s circadian rhythms. While circadian rhythms determine when we feel sleepy and when we feel awake, this happens when a person’s rhythms shift outside of the usual daily range.
An infradian rhythm can take many forms, but they all have one main thing in common: they’re all outside of our normal circadian rhythms.
What Are the Effects of an Infradian Rhythm?
Like any change to a person’s circadian rhythm, the effects of an infradian rhythm are largely determined by the individual. However, there are a few general effects that we can look at:
A change in a person’s routine: An infradian rhythm can cause a person’s body to experience a change in routine, which can impact mental and physical health. For example, someone with an infradian rhythm of eveningness might feel more alert during the day, but they’ll find it harder to sleep at night if their usual bedtime is at night. In this case, the shift in routine could lead to the person feeling stressed because they’re unable to relax.
An increased risk of health conditions: Since an infradian rhythm is outside of a person’s normal circadian rhythm, it can also lead to an increase in the risk of certain health conditions.
These effects are likely to be greater in people who experience a shift in their body clock. For example, someone who is young and hasn’t developed their circadian rhythms yet is likely to be more susceptible to changes in their routine and the effects of an infradian rhythm.
How Does an Infradian Rhythm Occur?
No one is entirely sure how or why an individual’s circadian rhythms shift, but there are a few things we do know. During a typical 24-hour period, a person’s circadian rhythm is in constant flux. As it’s influenced by environmental factors (time of day, light, meals, etc.) and a person’s unique biochemistry, this rhythm can change by up to +/- 15 minutes over the course of a day.
When this circadian rhythm shifts outside of the range of a typical day, it can cause an infradian rhythm. In fact, this is simply a shift in a person’s circadian rhythm beyond the range of a single normal day.
The Potential Benefits of an Infradian Rhythm
We already mentioned that this can be a bit more profound than most people realise, so it would be remiss if we didn’t take a look at its potential benefits.
While the effects of this type of rhythm are largely determined by the individual, there are some general benefits that can help to guide us.
Increased alertness: As we’ve seen, an infradian rhythm can make someone feel more alert during the day, but it can also make them drowsy at night. While this effect could be a result of an imbalance in the body’s hormones, it could also be a helpful mechanism.
Increased focus: An infradian rhythm might make someone feel more focused during the day, which could have numerous benefits. For example, someone with this type of rhythm of early morningness might feel more alert in the morning and experience less distractions throughout the day.
Greater metabolism: As someone’s circadian rhythm is in a state of flux, their body temperature and metabolic rate is likely to fluctuate. This rhythm can lead to an increased metabolic rate, which could result in better health and increased energy.
The Potential Risks of an Infradian Rhythm
Like any change to a person’s routine, the effects of an infradian rhythm are largely determined by the individual. However, there are a few general risks that we can look at.
Elevated heart rate: As someone’s circadian rhythm is in a state of flux, their heart rate is likely to be higher than normal. Although this effect is helpful for regulating blood pressure and body temperature, it can be problematic if it’s sustained for too long.
Depression: As with any change to a person’s routine, there’s also the potential for an increase in symptoms of depression. This risk is likely to be greater in people who are particularly sensitive to the effects of a shift in their routine (i.e. those who experience a change in their mental health the most).
In many ways, an infradian rhythm is a complex issue that can be difficult to understand. We’ve provided a basic guide to what an infradian rhythm is and how it affects your health, but it’s important to remember that each person is different and these effects might be different for you.
If you’re experiencing any issues with your circadian rhythm, speak to your doctor to see if there’s anything they can do to help. In the meantime, you can also try implementing some of the lifestyle changes we’ve discussed in this guide to help bring your rhythm back into sync.