Did you know there’s a best time for you to eat, think, do sport and even have a beer? We’re ruled by time: whether that’s the alarm clock or our own internal clock. In fact, our bodies are full of many clocks in most organs and cells, embedded in our DNA. They send signals at the right times to keep our bodies working at their best. For each of us, there’s a perfect time to get up, be productive at work, have sex, or even swim. All these mini-clocks are regulated by a master clock, a group of neurons in the brain called the… The master clock keeps the body in tune with the 24 hour cycle of light and dark outside. So many clocks! They can easily get disrupted, affecting our health, energy levels and mood. Here are three ways that body clocks affect your day-to-day life and how you can make the most of them. Each of us has an inbuilt time, a chronotype, when our bodies would naturally wake up and be productive, and go to sleep so we can recuperate. But there’s often a gap between when our body clock wants us to wake and when our alarm gets us out of bed. In fact, around 70% of us experience
a lag of at least an hour. This social jet lag is the difference in sleep
we get between weekdays and the weekend. So going back to work on Monday can feel like you’re living in another time zone. When we eat also matters because the body changes the way it handles food through the 24 hour cycle. Eating late could disrupt the harmony between the master clock and other internal clocks, like the liver. Eat a meal at 8am and your body will burn the sugar throughout the day. Eat the same meal at 8pm and the sugar will be more likely stored as fat. And if you fancy a drink at the end of the day, enzymes in the liver will break down the alcohol faster than in the morning or lunchtime. Our body clocks struggle to stay in tune during air travel, falling out of time with each other and with the light outside as we cross time zones. On a Manchester flight to Melbourne, your stomach may think it’s still in Amsterdam, the liver near Delhi, and the heart in Bangkok. So imagine how astronauts on the International Space Station feel with 16 dawns and dusks in just 24 hours. It’s no wonder they’re prepared for an extreme sleep routine. It’s not always easy to keep all our clocks synchronised in our modern lives. But don’t despair if you’re struggling on Earth. As we hope to reach Mars in the next 20 years, its longer day of almost 24 hours, 40 minutes might well be the perfect place for us to grab a little more sleep. Especially for those night owls like me.