Most disorders that are unique to women are the result of an irregular or malfunctioning menstrual cycle. This is the case with PMS, Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder, pregnancy related depressions and some problems with menopause. Even chronic illnesses, such as acne, asthma, chronic fatigue, diabetes, depression, fibromyalgia, etc. fluctuate with the menstrual cycle.
Most people know that the body clock regulates our daily rhythms (known as circadian rhythms), but for women, the body clock regulates monthly cycles too. This fact is obvious to any woman who has traveled across time zones or who works the night shift. Changing the time your body gets light has a dramatic effect on the length and symptoms of your menstrual cycle.
In fact, it is the brain's Suprachiasmatic Nucleus (SCN), or body clock that tells your ovary to develop the egg. Again 14 days latter, the body clock begins the ovulation process. Estrogens, progesterone and other hormones are controlled by this center in the brain. Monthly mood disorders such as PMS or PMDD are ultimately the result of a malfunctioning body clock.
Circadian rhythms are inextricably tied to hormone levels and menstrual cycles. When your circadian rhythms are off, your menstrual cycle suffers, causing mood and pain problems. Menstrual problems are often simply remedied by resetting your body clock. "This is perhaps the reason that women suffer from depressive disorders at twice the rate of men. Men only have one cycle to contend with, women have two." -Susan Middleton, PhD.
Recognizing how dependent women are on circadian rhythms for their daily and monthly well-being, Apollo Health and our colleagues at Yale, Cornell, National Institute of Health, and UCSD have spent the last decade researching women's related circadian rhythm disorders and their treatment.
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