The dog has a great body clock, he knows when it’s time to eat, 4 pm and he’s hassling us to feed him, 9 am he’s on cue too. Casper the dog next door when he comes over on a play date goes to the kitchen cupboard at 8 pm on the dot for his last biscuit of the day, his body clock without a watch right on time. Well until BST finishes and we move to GMT then it’s all shifted by one hour, they don’t know this has happened, but they keep to the change in time for the other half of the year. It’s fascinating for me to watch, but our bodies are no different in regards to their ability to keep time, well until our lifestyles start to disrupt them! One of the first things I do after waking is ensuring light comes into my life, I let the wafer-thin whippet out and stand with him in the garden for a few moments. I do this because setting the light-dark cycle in the body is important and now science is also starting to support what naturopaths have always known, that light is an incredibly important part of our lives.
Chronobiology is the study of biological rhythms, something many of you may know as the circadian rhythm of our body following the 24-hour clock cycle. The light and dark are cues for the body to create biological change to help it function fully and even impact on the expression of our genes. There is a lot more research now being carried out on this light and dark timing on the body, and I feel we are likely to understand how important light is in the next few years, which will hopefully influence how offices and buildings are built amongst other things such as the timing of medications.
It has been seen in research that changes in the biological clock can have a detrimental impact on the body leading to cardiovascular disease, changes in heart rate, and blood pressure. It’s even been found that the timing of taking hypertension medication is more effective if they took it in the evening at bedtime rather than earlier in the day for managing blood pressure.
How much of a routine do you have for your mealtimes? I like regular meal times because it helps the body to know that food will be arriving and it can start to get its digestive juices flowing. But how erratic is your eating pattern? Because research shows that those people with less organised eating patterns, who don’t optimise their mealtimes, or who skip meals can end up with an increased risk of chronic disease.
The circadian rhythm influences:
- sleep-wake cycle, do you tend to stay up late? Dr Satcha Panda called this social jetlag, where we end up staying up late, or just avoiding going to sleep when the body needs to be sleeping! I’m finding this is becoming a widening issue than previously particularly with children having their phones in their bedrooms with access to their friends via the internet. But also this isn’t about children, that movie we just don’t want to miss, or late night working are also causing a level of social jetlag that is knocking the timing of the body out with long term health consequences that are so subtle that we don’t notice them creeping up on us. It has been shown that those suffering from social jetlag had a higher intake of calories, total fat, cholesterol, and sweets and ate for longer, and ate later into the evening. Clearly, a recipe for long term weight disaster as the body tries to rebalance it’s energy needs.
- Biological functions across the whole body can be altered, leading in increased ageing of the body as well as the progression of disease states. Studies have shown that fragmented sleep-wake cycles and an irregular circadian rhythm could be a dashboard indicator for Alzheimer’s disease later on.
- Our eating habits, meal timing matters, and getting into a regular rhythm with when you eat can help you feel more balanced and productive. But also changes in the circadian rhythm can lead to increases in obesity and cardiovascular disease, diabetes, mood disorders as well as neurodegenerative diseases. Research shows that those who skipped or delayed breakfasts were more likely to experience a mood disorder compared to those who regularly ate breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
- The digestion, yes for those of you with digestive issues being aware of the rhythm of your body and what you are doing across the day could make all the difference.
- Body temperature.
So considering how you are sending your timing of the body out of balance could be something you work on changing.
- Manoogian ENC, Panda S. Circadian rhythms, time-restricted feeding, and healthy ageing Ageing Res Rev.2017;39:59-67. doi:10.1016/j.arr.2016.12.006
- Wittmann M, Dinich J, Merrow M, Roenneberg T. Social jetlag: misalignment of biological and social time.Chronobiol Int. 2006;23(1-2):497-509. doi:10.1080/07420520500545979
- Mota MC, Silva CM, Balieiro LCT, Gonçalves BF, Fahmy WM, Crispim CA. Association between social jetlag food consumption and meal times in patients with obesity-related chronic diseases.PLoS One. 2019;14(2):e0212126. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0212126
- Duffy JF, Zitting KM, Chinoy ED. Ageing and circadian rhythms. Sleep Med Clin. 2015;10(4):423-434. doi:10.1016/j.jsmc.2015.08.002