Timing is Everything: Understanding Your Internal Clock
In our relentless quest to live healthier, happier, longer, more productive lives, we often overlook a powerful tool that’s right within us: the human body’s own internal sense of timing. When it comes to health and wellness, most of the literature focuses on the what, how, and how much, with little focus on the when. Have you ever noticed that there are certain times of day WHEN you do things better than others?
Our bodies are designed to coordinate the timing of virtually all the aspects of a waking and sleeping life. Our bio rhythms are governed by powerfully precise timekeeping cells found throughout the body. The body has a master biological clock, which keeps the body’s other clocks in sync.
The science behind chronotypes
Our biological clocks don’t function identically, they function genetically. From one person to another, clocks run slightly shorter or longer based on a newly discovered PER3 gene. People with shorter clocks prefer morning-centric activity, while those with longer clocks are skewed to later in the day. The preferences for “morningness,” “eveningness,” and “in betweenness” can be identified as chronotypes. Historically, most discussion of chronotypes has placed people in one of these three categories. My clinical experience has shown me an additional type—the troubled sleeper, or the insomniac. In my new book, The Power of When, I have created avatars, or archetypes, for four distinct chronotypes that everyone can identify with: Lions (the early risers), Bears (the in-betweeners) Wolves (the late-night people) and Dolphins (the troubled sleepers). To find our your chronotype, visit http://www.thepowerofwhenquiz.com/.
Based on your chronotype, there are bio rhythms (often based on hormone fluctuation throughout the day) attached to everything you do. Sex, communication, emotionality, work, even having fun: all physiological processes are designed to unfold, day after day, according to biological time.
Artificial light and bio rhythms
Our biological clocks are thrown off by excessive and poorly timed exposure to artificial light. Especially with the advent of digital technology, it is now possible to live in a kind of perpetual dusk, an environment for which our bodies are profoundly ill suited.
The result of this persistent neglect of bio time? Our internal clocks and bio rhythms are in chronic states of confusion, receiving mixed messages from our perpetual exposure to light and from the schedules we maintain in deference to social time.
The benefits of Montmorency tart cherry juice
This is where Montmorency tart cherries can come into play. We know that tart cherries are a natural source of melatonin, and that research has shown tart cherry juice may help improve sleep quality and duration, reduce the severity of insomnia and increase overall sleep efficiency. Thus, my Dolphins (the problem sleepers) should all be drinking this amazing elixir regularly, but not only that, everyone can benefit from Montmorency tart cherries.
Perhaps the best news about bio time is this: you don’t need to attempt to live like our pre-industrial ancestors to reap the benefits of a biological clock in sync. With awareness and attention, it’s possible to make simple changes to the when of living and a regular dose of tart cherry juice, that can have a transformative effect on health and well being.
Dr. Michael J. Breus, PhD, is a board-certified sleep specialist and the author of The Power of When: Discover Your Chronotype—and The Best Time to Eat Lunch, Ask for a Raise, Have Sex, Write a Novel, Take Your Meds, and More.