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Your Body is a Clock

April 24, 2016
Plain English Version

It is not only your wristwatch that keeps time; your body is a clock as well. The body clock is called circadian rhythm. These rhythms cycle through your body and your brain about every 24 hours.

The rhythms drive every system in your body. From circulation and cognition to metabolism, memory and mood.

Circadian rhythms play a big role in your health.

Genes in the system make our bodies relate to light and dark. Which means the time of day.

Heart attacks often happen in the morning. Epileptic seizures peak in the late afternoon. Asthma attacks get worse and more deadly between 11 p.m. and 3 a.m.

The melatonin hormone helps people sleep. Other chemicals in your body lower temperature and raise your blood pressure and heart rate at night.

Body Clock 2In the morning, light causes the melatonin to shut off. Cortisol is a stress hormone. It prepares the body for the day’s demands. Blood pressure and heart rate increase.

A person’s behavior affects the way the body behaves. But blood pressure, heart rate, blood clotting and adrenaline, rise and fall in circadian rhythms of their own.

Changing in circadian rhythm can take place. Different sleeping patterns over the weekend, for example. The bigger the difference between sleep time on weekdays and weekends, the more likely people are to be obese.

Scientists also know there is a better time to take medicine.

Taking pills at night that help prevent heart blockages may lower the risk of early morning heart attacks. Taking acid-blocking drugs at night might be more effective, given the overnight surge of stomach acid.

The field of study is called chronotherapy. It is about light and dark. It is learning how circadian rhythms affect your health.

Body clock


Source: The Wall Street Journal June 2, 2015

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