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What is a circadian rhythm?

A circadian rhythm is a 24-hour cycle dictated by the body’s internal clock, which is controlled by several physiological mechanisms. Most plants and animals have a circadian rhythm, and in humans it affects when people feel sleepy, wake up and want to eat. 

The National Institutes of Health (opens in new tab) found that the body’s master clock is controlled in an area of the brain called the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), located inside the hypothalamus (the human brain‘s control center). The SCN receives different signals from the body, which it then responds to to set the body’s clock. 

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