Time sleuths think understanding our body clock may help crack the code about chronic disease

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“Your schedule could be killing you”

Popular Science, September/October issue

Commute. Work. Commute. Sleep. Commute. Work. Commute. Sleep.

If you think your daily grind’s killing you, you may be right, according to an article by Leslie Kaufman in the September/October issue of Popular Science.


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Kaufman examines the work of chronobiologists – scientists who add the element of time to their research on topics such as the neurons that help awaken the human brain and the metabolic processes that occur after a midnight snack.

She spoke with leading researchers in chronobiology – still a niche discipline – to understand how the field uses time to broaden the work of biologists and other scientists.

Chronobiologists suspect that the body clock plays a role in health issues such as obesity and depression. Understanding that connection could help reduce the incidence of cancers and chronic diseases thought to be linked to lack of sleep and other factors related to time, they say.

The article also details the surprising bedtime rituals of one researcher, who wears orange sunglasses to block the TV’s blue rays that our bodies interpret as midday light. It introduces a scientist who is helping emergency responders prevent heart attacks thought to be caused by unpredictable schedules. And it may help readers tweak their own commute-work-sleep schedule to possibly live a longer, healthier life.

Meanwhile, the discipline got a boost on Oct. 2, when Jeffrey C. Hall, Michael Rosbash and Michael W. Young won the 2017 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine for their work on circadian responses to light and dark. Chronobiologists said that their research has benefited significantly from the Nobel winners’ studies.

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