Why the Early Bird May Have an Advantage Over the Night Owl

Why the Early Bird May Have an Advantage Over the Night Owl

The inner workings of the body clock are just beginning to be known for how much they help our overall health. When we think about mental health and disease, it is good to know about circadian rhythms and the body’s natural way of living in rhythm with nature. The body keeps time in a certain way and it increases the number of areas of the genome known to influence other things like whether you like to rise early or stay up late.

Different Rhythms

Research has been done that looks at the number of genes in detail to see how different people have different body clocks. The large number of people in the study means there is evidence that night owls may be at  higher risk for mental health problems than those who get up in the morning. The study was conducted by participants in a study in the United States that surveyed whether people were ‘morning’ people or ‘evening’ people. Their genomes were analyzed to look at genes they had in common that may influence sleep patterns. Researchers confirmed the results that genetic variants identified a person’s natural waking time by up to 25 minutes.

Body Clocks

The genomic regions identified were referred to as circadian rhythms, as well as genes expressed in the brain and retinal tissue. The body clock cycle is slightly longer than the 24-hour daily cycle. The retinal connection may help explain how the brain detects light to ‘reset’ the body clock each day and align with the 24-hour cycle. Body clocks are influenced by genes and lifestyle factors including diet, exposure to artificial light, and activities. The body clock affects a wide range of molecular processes including hormone levels and core body temp.

Why it Matters

The discovery of the body-clock mechanism in the brain won the Nobel Prize for medicine in 2017. There is still very little known about whether or not the body clock influences risk of disease. The way the brain reacts to external light signals and normal functioning of the internal clocks really varies. Small differences may potentially have significant effects on the ability of our body clocks to keep time effectively, perhaps altering risk of both disease and mental health disorders. By understanding the genetics of sleep and activity timing in general population, we also gain insights into potential avenues of therapy for people with delayed circadian rhythm disorders and other serious sleep issues. Sleep overall is quite important in recovery to health and overall peace. It is important to address sleep issues as soon as possible that may impact recovery.

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