It’s only 60 minutes, but after we fall back an hour as we just did in the Northern Hemisphere, your body might feel a little jolt of change. Are you waking up too early and hungry for lunch at 11 in the morning?
We asked CSL Behring Translational Scientist Anna Schnell to explain. Based in Bern, Switzerland, Schnell has researched circadian rhythm – a topic of deep interest for scientists. In 2017, three researchers received the Nobel Prize in Medicine after unraveling mysteries of circadian rhythms at a molecular level. Schnell studied disruptions in circadian rhythms in mice and looked for changes in their behavior, such as depression, and what worked to stabilize their mood.
“A huge variety of processes take place in every cell and organ throughout 24 hours. Circadian clocks coordinate an organism's daily physiology and behavior and synchronize it with the environment. Usually all processes run smoothly and the circadian rhythm is barely noticed,” said Schnell, whose daily work now involves biomarker discovery and characterizing the mode of action of potential treatments.
“A disruption of the complex circadian clockwork is implicated in many human diseases, such as depression, obesity and cancer,” Schnell said. “Scientists want to understand how metabolism, physiology and well-being are interconnected with the circadian clock. This knowledge may provide a better understanding of how to improve the treatment of a given disease or take preventive measures.”
But just falling back an hour or turning the clocks ahead in spring doesn’t bother most people, Schnell said.
“Usually the human organism adapts quickly to a one-hour time shift in daily routine,” she said.
But traveling far away to a different time zone isn’t so easy to shrug off. Who better to ask how to avoid jet lag? Here’s what Schnell recommends:
“I try to stick to the new meal times and do outdoor activities. Food and sunlight are powerful stimuli to reset the pace of the body clock. Simple means such as natural light, daily routine and a regular sleep-wake cycle help to stabilize circadian rhythms and contribute to well-being.”