Over the last few months, studies surrounding the mystery of the body clock have been popping up more and more, leading researchers to draw conclusions that there’s more to our natural rhythms than previously thought.
One study has recently pointed out that eating when we’re supposed to be sleeping can increase our risk for diabetes and heart disease, while a second study has demonstrated that injuries caused at night during the “resting period” are slower to heal as daytime injuries.
Published in Experimental Physiology, the first study examined the effect of a meal eaten at the beginning of the rest period (at night) and during the active phase (during the day). Blood fat levels spiked much more drastically when fed at night, a known risk factor for diabetes and heart disease.
The researchers pointed to the biological clock as the cause of the spike, and suggested that having a lifestyle out of sync with our circadian rhythm may contribute to a greater risk of illness and disease.
“The fact that we can ignore our biological clock is important for survival; we can decide to sleep during the day when we are extremely tired or we run away from danger at night,” said study author Ruud Buijs. “However, doing this frequently – with shift work, jet lag, or staying up late at night – will harm our health in the long-term especially when we eat at times when we should sleep.”
The second study examined why bumps in the night, particularly ones that cause skin injuries, are so much slower to heal than scrapes that occur during the day.
They discovered that nighttime injuries heal 60% slower than daytime injuries, and it’s all due to the circadian rhythm of the skin cells. Like all other cells in your body, skin cells operate on a 24 hour cycle and go to “rest” at night, explaining why your skin was slower to heal depending on when you were injured.
“What we found is that how well you can heal depends on the time when you got injured,” said lead study author Ned Hoyle, a molecular biology researcher at Cambridge University. “The speed of the healing depends on how fast certain cells can get to the wounded area in order to repair it, and that depends on their micro-architecture, which is controlled by the biological clock.
The takeaway lesson here: sleep when you’re meant to sleep and your body will love you for it.