• Elizabeth Adalian MCH

The Circadian Clock in Crisis During Lockdown

Updated: Nov 15

Since the onset of the pandemic and the introduction of lockdown (and subsequently quarantine), it has become increasingly evident that the circadian clock has become negatively impacted as a consequence. The circadian rhythm is based in the natural pattern of physiological and behavioural processes that are timed to a near 24-hour period. (1) These processes include sleep-wake cycles, body temperature, blood pressure and the release of hormones.

Any exposure to daylight, especially in the early morning, even if not on a sunny day, sets the compass for the approaching day with a directly enhancing effect on the immune system. It is a paradox that the very measures of lockdown and self-isolation which are deemed as protective for members of the population to adopt to fight against the virus may actually have the opposite effect. These very measures installed for protection actually act to wreak damage to the circadian rhythm just within a short time of them being put in place.

Parallel to these restrictions, insomnia has become an issue since the outbreak of the pandemic. This is partly based in anxiety as well as concern for the future. This is combined with a sense of lack of control. Also, it cannot be understated how much a more sedentary lifestyle imposed by the restrictions is taking its toll. This combination of symptoms increases depression and a sense of helplessness induced by the lack of autonomy in selecting the optimum lifestyle for good health. Weight gain is not only a by-product of lack of exercise but also a build-up of lack of sleep, both of which only add to the sense of pre-existing ill being which has taken effect.

It is the frontal cortex which is primarily related to cognition and especially vulnerable to trauma and the hippocampus which is primarily related to memory and sensitive to isolation - the latter of which is a significant feature of the pandemic - which are the two main brain structures  undermined through sleep disturbances. They are known to be closely interrelated. These brain structures have a strong link with the limbic system where the mood is regulated and bonding takes place. Recently, it has been discovered that new neurons which have become impaired through such damage, can re-generate. This is positive news for homeopaths as remedies can come into their own here. (2) 

High cortisol levels are induced by sleep loss, which can compromise the adrenals and lead to the following physical ailments further down the line:-

  • Allergies 

  • Arthritis

  • Asthma 

  • Auto-immune disease 

  • Cancer 

  • Diabetes 

  • Fibromyalgia 

  • Heart disease

  • Infections 

  • Obesity

  • Senile dementia 

  • Thyroid disease

Helleborus Niger is an example of a remedy where an all-pervasive depression means the patient finds it hard to function and falls into a coma-like state as a way of cutting out. This remedy is especially aligned with the limbic system. The patient reacts in this way because the burden has become too much to bear for that particular individual. Sepia is the main remedy which comes to mind for stagnation. However, when the pressures exceed a certain level, the Sepia patient can easily gravitate towards the more defeatist stance of Helleborus Niger. 

A stop gap remedy which can certainly act to reduce the level of stress which has been induced in the patient through sleep loss and act to prevent the future onset of physical pathology is the bowel nosode - Proteus Bacillus. As such, it can protect the microbiome alongside the mental picture.  In fact, the intensity of the reaction seen in this remedy is  extreme and uncontrollable -  the exact opposite of Helleborus Niger - where the patient survives by switching off their sensorium under the load being exerted on them.

Aurum Metallicum is a remedy which certainly comes to mind when considering the circadian clock - after all, patients needing this remedy are invariably worse in winter and this season can certainly increase any underlying depression which may have been instilled by the lockdown. High achieving students and careerists often comply with this remedy due to their resistance to the thwarted ambition placed on them due to the current restrictions.

A remedy very close to Aurum Metallicum which really comes into its own for altered circadian rhythms is Lithium Carbonicum. Three years ago, I wrote an article ‘Switching on the Lights’ where I set out to explain how this remedy acts by actually resetting the circadian clock. (3) 

In the current situation, with more students and workers operating from home, blue light emitted by cell phones, computers, and the greater environment is on the increase. Although modern screens release less blue light, I consider this to be another reason why this remedy is highly significant for the current times. Blue light may be an important contributing factor in why insomnia has reached almost epidemic proportions in society at this time. (4)

Both Aurum Metallicum and Lithium Carbonicum appear in the rubric for ‘isolation, feelings’. Lithium Carbonicum, however, is not well represented in the repertory generally. On top of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) which many people suffer from in the Northern Hemisphere, the Covid-19 lockdown restrictions only go to compound this effect.

Apparently, just one single night of sleep deprivation can produce significant mood disturbance and lower the immune defences. (5)  With this in mind, while reflecting on a very strong ‘maintaining cause’ in the effect of lockdown on the nation’s health status, it is a clear case for the recommendation of homeopathic treatment to the rescue.  

In conclusion, apart from recommending adherence to normal time-keeping and increasing daylight exposure as much as possible (especially in the early morning), homeopathic treatment can optimise circadian rhythms which have been so severely compromised since lockdown - especially as winter approaches.

References: -

1. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/circadian-rhythm

2. Adalian, E., Winter, 2011. The Circadian Clock: Restoring Natural Sleep Patterns, 

    Homeopathy in Practice, The Journal of the Alliance of Registered Homeopaths. 

3. Adalian, E., Autumn/Winter, 2017. Switching on the Lights with Lithium Carbonicum, 

    Homeopathy in Practice, The Journal of the Alliance of Registered Homeopaths.

4. Newsom, Rob, November, 2020. How Blue Light Affects Sleep, SleepFoundation.org. 

5. Morin, C.M., et al, July, 2020. Sleep and Circadian Rhythms in Response to the    

    COVID-19 Pandemic, ncbi.nih.gov.




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