Following an interesting conversation with a client on Monday, I thought it would be good to do a blog about a specific science related topic which is definitely applicable to those of us who keep ‘unusual’ hours in their lifestyle (frequent travellers anyone?). Hope you enjoy this one!

Do you prefer certain activities at specific times of the day? Do you notice level changes in your mental alertness, co-ordination and physical strength at different times of the day? Is it better to eat at certain times of the day? Here’s some science which may help answer some of these questions…

The body clock

A circadian rhythm is a 24 hour cycle in the physiological processes of living beings.

Circadian rhythms are tied to sunlight cues and are important in determining the sleeping and feeding patterns of all animals, including human beings.

body clock

The body clock patterns

There are clear patterns of brain wave activity, hormone production, cell regeneration and other biological activities linked to this daily cycle, and disrupting these patterns can lead to poor or difficult sleep, obesity, diabetes, hypertension and a host of other problems.

Circadian rhythms impact body temperature, pain sensitivity, mental alertness, physical strength & senses.

Timely prediction of seasonal periods of weather conditions, food availability or predator activity is crucial for survival of many species. Although not the only parameter, the changing length of the photoperiod (‘daylength’) is the most predictive environmental cue for the seasonal timing of physiology and other metabolic factors.

Lifestyle and body clock

Obesity and diabetes are associated with lifestyle and genetic factors. Among those factors, disruption of the circadian clockwork and/or misalignement of the circadian timing system with the external environment (e.g., light-dark cycle) play a role in the development of metabolic disorders.

Shift-work or chronic jet-lag have profound consequences on circadian and metabolic events in our body. Animals that are forced to eat during their resting period show increased body mass and altered expression of clock and metabolic genes. In humans, shift-work which favors irregular eating times, is associated with altered insulin sensitivity and higher body mass. Shift-work also leads to increased metabolic risks for cardio-metabolic syndrome, hypertension, inflammation.

So as you can see it is not only what and how much you eat, sleep, exercise and study, but also when, that will affect your metabolism and body state. (No late night snacks!) Some things to think about…

It is not only what and how much you eat, sleep, exercise and study, but also when.

See you in the gym (regular hours only lol)!

Michael