The 'Body Clock' Way to Better Health

From the WebMD Archives

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.