The 'Body Clock' Way to Better Health
Sept. 25, 2000 -- The professor's life was out of whack. A busy woman, she was bushed by 8 or 9 p.m., but pushed herself to stay up working most nights till 11:30. Then came the aggravating part: "I'd be lying there till maybe 1, maybe 1:30, before I could finally fall asleep. The whole next day would be screwed up, performance-wise," says Pauline Rosenau, PhD, who is a management and policy science professor at three Houston universities.
Today, Rosenau quotes passages from the book that has become her health bible, The Body Clock Way to Better Health. The book taught to unlock her own personal "sleep gates" -- those windows-of-opportunity for restful sleep that occur every 90 to 120 minutes each night. As it turns out she was showing up at the sleep gate at the wrong time: She is an "extreme lark," an early riser.
Rosenau was working against her body's own natural circadian rhythms. Now, she's taking her cues from them. She saves her early morning hours for intense mental work, and leaves newspaper reading for evening. Exercise has been shifted from mornings to evenings, and lunches are lighter, so she won't be sleepy in the afternoon -- and inclined to grab a cup of coffee. She goes to bed earlier than ever before, and wakes up early, too -- just as her circadian rhythms were directing her to do all along.
"It's the best I've felt in 10 years," she tells WebMD. "And it's not just feeling better ... it's productivity. I'm getting so much more done."
Most women grow up somewhat in sync with their biological clocks -- gaining a fine-tuned sense of when to expect monthly weight gain, moodiness, pimples. Get close to age 30, and that translates into the tick-tick-ticking of the biological clock.
The Body Clock takes a closer look at this internal clock, saying that a great body of research indicates that our biological rhythms -- both men's and women's -- are in a constant state of flux, adjusting every minute, every hour, says Michael Smolensky, PhD, the book's lead author.
It's based on a science called chronomedicine, which holds that this ebb and flow vastly affects your blood pressure, heart rate -- all manner of bodily processes and disease symptoms -- and can guide doctors to optimal treatment times, Smolensky tells WebMD.
"By paying attention to our body clocks, our body rhythms -- which includes 24-hour rhythms, women's menstrual cycle rhythms, and even annual rhythms -- we can achieve better health, we can understand the rhythm of alertness, we can better prevent and treat illness," Smolensky tells WebMD. "This biological clock controls when we're sleepy, when we're alert, when the symptoms of our diseases are going to be most and least intense. It will affect how we respond to medications in terms of their therapeutic efficiency and their side effects."