Jul 2, 2014
Trick Your Body Clock
An out-of-sync body clock can raise your risk of cancer, heart disease and type 2 diabetes, and lead to weight gain, according to new research. Many people don’t even realize they’re sleep-deprived,’ says Russel Foster, professor of circadian neuroscience at Oxford University. ‘But if you need an alarm clock to wake in the morning, you probably don’t get enough sleep — and are out of sync with your body clock.’
Whether you’re a lark or a night owl is known as your chronotype. It may be that in human society there was an advantage in having some people vigilant at night and others in the early hours,’ says Professor Foster. Outside cues such as daylight and eating and drinking keep us in time with the 24-hour day. However, our body clock has an ‘intrinsic rhythm’ it wants to run at, says Dr Archer. Larks — who prefer early to bed, early to rise — have a faster cycle, while owls, who like staying up and getting up late, are slower.
While there’s nothing you can do to change your genetic chronotype, there are ways to control your lark or owl tendencies, and keep your health on track if you’re working and social life demand it. ‘Bright light is the most powerful way of shifting the body clock,’ says Professor Foster. So, if you’re an owl who has to get up early, get as much light as possible in the morning. To give owls the best chance of winding down earlier, they should avoid being too active in the evening and keep lights dim — and don’t turn on a bright bathroom light to brush your teeth just before bed.‘Larks who need to work late should do the opposite — making their evenings active and stimulating, for instance by going to the gym, and keeping bright lights on.’
Deborah Wiancek, N.D. Deborah Wiancek