How Your Internal Clock Might Affect Your Health

Our biological clocks direct our circadian rhythms, which include sleep and wake cycles. Disruptions to these circadian rhythms have been associated with mood disorders such as depression, neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s disease, and metabolic disorders, including obesity and diabetes. Dr. Melissa St. Hilaire, an instructor in medicine at Harvard Medical School, tells Healthline, “Circadian rhythms play a complex role in just about every system in your body. Maintaining good circadian health seems to be a key factor in maintaining good overall health.” Dr. St. Hilaire emphasizes the importance of a consistent bedtime and mealtime schedule that aligns with your internal clock. Optimal windows for when to sleep, eat, and do other activities vary among people, which is why individuals need to know their personal internal time to form a healthy alignment.

A new test measures 40 different gene expression markers in the blood, which allows for insights into the time in your body compared to time in the external world. Co-author and chief of sleep medicine in neurology at Feinberg School of Medicine, Dr. Phyllis Lee states, “This is really an integral part of personalized medicine. So many drugs have optimal times for dosing. Knowing what time it is in your body is critical to getting the most effective benefits.” Awareness of your own internal clock can also help you optimize your time, take medication at the best time, and may even prevent disease. Dr. Ravi Allada, a professor of neurobiology at Northwestern University states, “Before, we didn’t have a clinically feasible method of assessing the clock in healthy people and people with diseases. Now we can see if a disrupted clock correlates with various diseases, and more importantly, if it can predict who is going to get sick.” This information can help scientists better understand how misaligned circadian clocks impact health conditions and diseases.

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