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Our Bodies Have More Than One Clock

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Many of us are aware of our internal clock that influences when we are awake and alert versus tired or sleeping. This internal clock the circadian rhythm or sleep/wake cycle. It is basically a 24-hour internal clock that cycles between sleepiness and alertness at regular intervals. Larks (morning people) and owls (night people) have different circadian rhythms.

Our sleep/wake cycle isn’t the only clock in the body. Nearly every tissue and organ we have is governed by its own clock. These clocks control body temperature, blood pressure, hormones, medication metabolism, and much more. We know this courtesy of research done by  Jeffrey C. Hall, Michael Rosbash and Michael W. Young who won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

As a result, scientists have been studying the ways drugs are affected by our body’s circadian rhythm. This is known as chronotherapy. Chronotherapy  takes in to consideration the body’s natural rhythms and cycles when treating certain medical conditions.

Here are some examples in which chronotherapy may be used:

Hypertension: Blood pressure tends to be higher during the day and lower when we are sleeping. Unfortunately, many people over age 55 don’t experience this nighttime drop. This is called nondipping, and it can lead to stroke, heart attack and kidney disease. This risk is lowered if high blood pressure medicines are taken at night.

Statins: The liver has its own clock, and it produces more cholesterol after midnight. For this reason, statins (cholesterol-lowering drugs) may be more effective if they are taken at bedtime.

The Bottom line: Medication instructions saying, “Take once a day” may not be specific enough. Talk to your doctor and pharmacist about the best time to take your medicine.

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