When you think about how to achieve optimal health, it’s most likely you think about what nutrients to eat and what foods you might avoid, how many hours of sleep to get each night, how much water to drink and how much exercise you should try to achieve in a week. All extremely important lifestyle factors to consider in our quest for a healthy body.
However, there is an emerging field of functional medicine research that specifically addresses, not the what or how much, but the when – the timing of when to sleep, when to eat and when to exercise, to name a few – on the impact of human disease to help inform and improve medical treatment.
Chronobiology is a study of biologic rhythms that follow a daily or ~24 hour cycle. Most of us are familiar with the circadian rhythm, our internal biological clock, responsible for sleeping at night and being awake during the day. These biological rhythms influence our sleep-wake cycles, eating habits and digestion, body temperature, and other metabolic processes.
Studies suggest that disruptions in the circadian-system (like watching a movie late at night, working late) have been linked to sleep disorders, seasonal affective disorder and various chronic health conditions like cardiovascular disease, neurodegenerative disorders, obesity, diabetes, and mood disorders.
Researchers are taking a closer look at other rhythms of the human body as it impacts health outcomes: timing of eating and meal schedules, when to exercise, and even when we should be taking our medications.
For example, “results from a 2019 study regarding eating times and mood disorders indicated that of the 1,304 study participants, those who reported skipped or delayed breakfasts were more likely to experience a mood disorder compared to those with a regular schedule of eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner.”
And “Human and animal-based studies suggest circadian rhythms influence cardiovascular function and diseases, and may also offer an avenue for disease prevention and treatment. In 2019, a study of over 19,000 patients with hypertension found that those who took their medication at bedtime rather than upon awakening had better ambulatory blood pressure and lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease (CVD).”
Considering the developing research of medical chronobiology and circadian rhythms, offer additional root cause reasons and tools to glean insights into achieving individualized optimal health and wellness. Understanding your own personal chronotype may help address the underlying causes of chronic conditions and assist in the optimization of treatments and lifestyle interventions. Considering the developing research of medical chronobiology and circadian rhythms, offer additional root cause reasons and tools to gleam insights into achieving individualized optimal health and wellness. Understanding your own personal chronotype may help address underlying causes of chronic conditions and assist in the optimization of treatments and lifestyle interventions.
Edits: Erin Assenza, Health Coach at Healthy, Wealthy & Wise Medical Practice