BIORHYTHMUS Timing is everything

The human body is one big clockwork. Hormones, performance, mood - everything has its beat. Unfortunately, we too often work against this biorhythm instead of using it for our benefit.

Everyone is probably familiar with owls and larks, the two chronotypes that set our internal clock. At eight in the morning, larks are already mentally and physically at full speed. Owls are then still in their biological night and have their performance peak only in the afternoon or evening.

Which type we are - by the way, more than half of us are somewhere in the middle - does not necessarily depend on our habits, but is innate and can therefore be influenced only slightly. And of course, our biorhythm as a whole is much more than our preference for getting up early or late. Nevertheless, we are not at its mercy, because if we time our activities, tasks, or even medical treatments correctly, we make our lives easier (and less painful). This is how you learn to read your body clock:

The basics: the 24-hour clock 
In fact, every cell has genes that are controlled by the day-night rhythm. However, this also called the circadian rhythm, is not the same for all people. Some people may have a clock of 26 hours, others of only 19. On average, we are designed by nature to have 25 hours. This has been known since the 1960s when volunteers were locked in a bunker for long periods of time. Even without daylight, their bodies followed a fixed rhythm, but it was somewhat slower than that of the environment.

For our internal clock to keep up with the 24-hour change of day and night, it needs to be adjusted again and again. This is done by cells in the retina that transmit information about brightness to our central pacemaker, a small area of the brain behind the bridge of the nose. This then controls the formation of the dark hormone melatonin and thus the rhythms of sleeping and waking, but also of metabolism, hormone balance, body temperature, pulse rate, and many other bodily functions. In addition to the diurnal rhythm, there are even longer biological regulatory circuits. The female menstrual cycle with its monthly cycle, of course, but our body also follows an annual rhythm.

Many of our genes are not active all year round, but only at certain times of the year. Especially those that play a role in the function of the immune system and fat metabolism. Apparently, for example, the body upregulates its defense potential in time for the infection season in fall and winter.

A man's testosterone level also fluctuates throughout the year: it is lowest at the beginning of spring and highest in August. It probably made sense for our ancestors, as it still does for many animal species, to reproduce at certain times of the year.

Life in permanent jetlag
When we live in a time with our inner clock, our body works most smoothly. But who can do that today? The early start of work or school is made primarily for pronounced larks, forcing more than half of us out of our natural rhythms every day.

Also, more and more people are working shifts; in 2018, it was a good 15 percent, which often completely contradicts day and night. For the body to be able to adapt to this at all within its limits, shifts should at least not change too frequently. And biological late risers can get off to a good start in the morning with a large dose of light - and at least sleep in on weekends and follow their natural rhythm. Unfortunately, people who regularly disturb their biorhythms are more susceptible to numerous diseases such as diabetes, obesity, and depression.

Stress disrupts the hands 
Our bodies love regularity. Every time something disrupts our recurring routine, the stress system kicks in, which in turn affects our body rhythm. To start the day in the morning, the body releases cortisol, a hormone involved in many metabolic processes. It influences blood sugar, fat metabolism and has an anti-inflammatory effect. But when we are permanently under stress, this hormone is released excessively. It then disrupts, so to speak, certain genes that are also involved in our internal clock, and our body literally no longer knows what time it is. This can lead to poor performance and sleep disturbances, which in turn mess up our metabolism and weaken the immune system.

Vaccination in the morning, dentist in the afternoon  
Many diseases and their effects are related to the time of day. A heart attack or stroke is more dangerous in the morning hours. Then our immune system works harder and releases certain substances that cause an excessive inflammatory reaction. This also worsens the chances of recovery, as more scars form in the tissue and the heart muscle expands, which weakens the heart.

However, the rhythm of our immune system can also be used in a positive sense. For example, a study of British senior citizens found that antibody production is significantly higher when flu vaccinations are given in the morning between nine and eleven than in the afternoon. And if you take medicines according to your body rhythm, you can often improve their effect or at least reduce side effects. 

Timing also plays a role in wound healing. Injuries such as burns or cuts that occurred during the day heal on average eleven days earlier than those that occurred at night. The cells responsible for healing migrate to the injury faster during the day than when the body shuts down at night.

Asthma attacks are also more likely to occur at night. This is not only true for house dust allergy sufferers, who are then particularly close to the mites in their pillows. At night, the body's readiness for inflammation is increased and the airways are less dilated, which is why asthmatic complaints are perceived more strongly.

Even tumors live by the clock. Although cancer cells are said to grow in a chaotic and uninhibited manner, regulated patterns have also been discovered in them. For many cancer patients, pain does not begin until midday. Agony then peaks before bedtime and subsides overnight.

In general, the perception of pain is time-dependent. In the afternoon, we perceive pain only one-third as intensely as in the morning. It may therefore be worthwhile to schedule your dental appointment for the second half of the day. According to one study, 2 p.m. is ideal.

Take medication by the clock* 
Asthma medications:

Best taken in the evening to prevent shortness of breath at night.
Cortisone medications:

Should be taken in the morning, concurrent with the body's hormone high, to have fewer side effects.

Antihypertensives:

To be taken mainly in the morning, pulse and blood pressure drop towards evening anyway. However, blood pressure can also rise at night. The physician should therefore perform a 24-hour blood pressure measurement.

Rheumatism medication:

Usually taken in the evening to counteract morning joint stiffness.

Osteoarthritis medications:

More likely to be taken in the morning, as pain increases throughout the day.
*Of course, the exact dosage must always be discussed individually with the doctor.


 

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